A bridge too far for Allied Domecq's shareholders

Allied Domecq shareholders who attend today's annual

meeting may care to ask the board about one asset which seems anything but liquid and somewhat unproductive. It is a little known fact that the drinks giant owns the Shepton Mallet railway viaduct in Somerset, an imposing Victorian structure that fell victim to the Beeching cuts of the early 1960s.

The viaduct backs on to the garden behind the old head office of Hiram Walker, formerly the spirits division of Allied Domecq. The garden and the head office itself have long since been sold off, but the group could never find a buyer for the viaduct, a listed structure.

The viaduct is currently undergoing repairs to stop it falling down. English Heritage is contributing 40 per cent of the estimated pounds 350,000 bill, and Allied Domecq the rest. No doubt shareholders will be congratulating the board on this public spirited gesture.

Officials within British Rail knew last Tuesday of the alleged ticket frauds on the London to Southend line, yet the Transport Secretary, Sir George Young, was only told of the problem on Thursday afternoon. The fact that the story broke so late ruined the privatisation handover, and according to sources Sir George is "hopping mad".

A spokesman for BR said yesterday: "Exactly how long this has been under investigation is unclear." He said it appeared that on Wednesday the Rail Settlement Plan, which administers the division of fare receipts, passed on the allegations to the Association of Train Operating Companies. On Thursday the association passed on the news to the group managing director of the British Rail Board (South and East), John Nelson.

Mr Nelson duly notified the Department of Transport, and hence Sir George Young. Perhaps the news was delayed by leaves on the track.

Last week the Diary drew the attention of investment bankers to Eddie George's imminent skiing holiday, and the spooky fact that almost exactly a year ago the Bank of England Governor's last ski trip was cut short by the collapse of Barings.

This prompted a Bank watcher yesterday to recount a similar incident concerning his predecessor, Sir Robin Leigh-Pemberton, now Lord Kingsdown. In October 1987 he had just reached the airport before flying off to a business jaunt around China when he got news of a huge stock market sell-off. This turned into Black Monday, but too late for Sir Robin, who flew off to China regardless.

As the days passed and the mood of panic heightened, Sir Robin could not be reached as he travelled deeper into China. When the recall did get through he was told it would take at least a week to get out of such a remote place and back to the UK.

Step forward the "Flying Biscuit", the private jet run by Sir Hector Laing, then chairman of United Biscuits and a member of the Court of the Bank of England. The Biscuit, which duly whisked the Governor home, has sadly since been withdrawn. Apparently it cost a packet.

Are you one of those sad, pathetic nicotine addicts who couldn't keep that new year resolution to kick the demon weed? Have you been ejected from your office by a smoking ban, and do you huddle with fellow addicts around the lobby, puffing away come rain or shine? Relax. Introducing an all-weather shelter for smokers made of aluminium tubing and clear acrylic screens, which can be erected outside any office block to keep workers dry while they puff. And it's British! Yes, the Smoke Screen from the No Butts Bin Company of Poole, Dorset, starts at a mere pounds 800 a go, compared with around pounds 5,000 for the average bus shelter. A product to fire the imagination.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map