Neil Collins

For whom the tolls mean tax-free profits

The M6 Toll is a moneyspinner for its offshore owners but unloved by motorists, says Neil Collins. Is it really the best model for road-building without taxpayers’ money? Drive south down the M6 towards the Midlands and you pass an illuminated sign at junction 15. If you’re lucky, it will display the following message: ‘To

Why own a car when you can borrow one?

I do hope you enjoyed that new Ferrari 612 you bought a year ago. After all, it’s cost you more than £1,000 a week. That’s not what it cost to run, it’s what it cost in depreciation before you filled up, taxed and insured the beast. Still, it could have been worse — had you

Banks too risky? Try flying saucers

Kim Schlunke would like you to buy a flying saucer. No, honestly, he’s got a video of it on his mobile, showing one buzzing round his lab in Perth, Australia. See it fly! See it hover! See it land delicately on its little legs! It looks, in other words, like a special effect of the

Farewell to the bank that did Dull

This is getting serious — so serious that I’ve done something I may have cause to regret terribly a year or two hence. I have sold my shares in Lloyds TSB. I did so with a heavy heart, and an even heavier loss, since they were bought when the shares were yielding 7 per cent,

Hand over your cash: how banks are mugging investors

Neil Collins says the rights issues recently announced by RBS, Bradford & Bingley and HBOS are a sign of desperation — and their terms are an insult to loyal shareholders Within the next few days, half a million savers with the former Halifax Building Society will receive a fat, bewildering and highly complex document. It

Lessons for less: affordable excellence

Scroll through the Multimap website to Bosworth Road, London W10, and it reveals that this sad corner of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea boasts three primary schools, two more schools and a college, all within a couple of hundred yards of each other. No need for any other seats of learning, you might

My daily fix of Markets Live

Neil Collins has become addicted to alphaville’s interactive forum for stock-market watchers There are thousands of websites for anyone interested in markets. You can spend whole days shunting from one to another, blitzed by irritating ads, looking at share prices anywhere in the world, reading opinions expert and stupid, blud-geoned by analysis. Where on earth

Why it’s raining dividends in Wales

Neil Collins meets Nigel Annett, who runs Welsh Water — a unique utility company which operates without shareholders and distributes profits back to its customers It does sometimes stop raining in Wales. When the sun comes out, it’s pretty stunning, thanks to the green all that rain produces, but much of the time the residents

Here’s an oxymoron: green private jets

This year’s must-have Christmas present is a small rectangle of plastic, the size of a credit card. It costs E129,000, or a little short of £100,000 at current rates of exchange. Well, actually, it was last year’s must-have for those who consider themselves really up with the zeitgeist, but a NetJets card is still a

The new senior partner sets out his stall

The trade could only gasp at the figures Charlie Mayfield revealed a fortnight ago. Next week, the new chairman of John Lewis Partnership hopes they’ll be gasping again as he opens 17,000 square feet of food hall at John Lewis in Oxford Street. No, not quite a Waitrose, but something that he claims will be

Who’s the mug at the table?

Once upon a time there was an investment banker. He was hardly today’s stereotypical WASP smoothie, but an overweight, sweaty trader from the Bronx who shouted a lot, ate pizza at his desk when he wasn’t standing on it, and treated colleagues as imbeciles. Once upon a time there was an investment banker. He was

A dull business made great by allowing workers to think

Ah, the terrible persistence of the irritating jingle. It’s nearly 30 years since ‘Thousands of parts for millions of cars’ last assaulted our ears, but I’ll bet millions of middle-aged Britons, motorists or not, can render it pretty faithfully. The company behind the jingle was a leaky lifeboat from the sinking British Leyland. It was

French trains: faster, cheaper, greener, sexier

Guillaume Pepy doesn’t look like a man in a hurry. An elegant 47-year-old Frenchman with impeccable manners, he doesn’t look like an archetypal railwayman either, which may be because he isn’t. It’s true that he’s an énarque, a graduate of France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration, but he’s also been both a judge and a market-research

The long haul for Britain’s last industrial world leader

Mark Benton is quite clear why he followed his father into working for Rolls-Royce; after three years toiling away as a roofer, he discovered that ‘it’s nice and warm in here…. Oops, perhaps I shouldn’t have said that.’ Benton, 28, born and bred in Derby, rushes to add that he’s better paid, has had five

I’ve seen the future of food retailing — and it works

It’s simple, this internet grocery shopping. Log on, pick what you want, pay with your credit card and get on with your life while you wait for the doorbell to ring. No need to schlep to the supermarket, fight your way to the checkout, lug all those overloaded plastic bags into the car and out