The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 13 June 2016

Image: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/Getty Images

Poll position

Spanish voters return to the polling booth at the end of this month after December’s inconclusive election. Opinion polls suggest that the result may be just as split as last time, with no party winning more than 30 per cent of the vote. But there is a small though not insignificant difference: left-wing insurgents Podemos (pictured) are in second place, polling ahead of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE). Podemos, which was only founded in 2014, has tried to claim the mantle of social democracy from the PSOE, joining forces with the left-wing United Left in a broader coalition. Keeping this motley crew together will not be easy – Podemos itself was already a coalition of different strains of left-wing ideology before it added the Greens, Communists and Republicans of the United Left (prompting the party to rebrand as Unidos Podemos). But if it holds strong between now and 26 June it will be well-placed to propose an alternative government to the conservative People’s Party.

Image: Kamil Bialous

Wood treatment

University dormitories may evoke unsavoury images of late nights and poor hygiene but at the University of British Columbia (pictured) in Vancouver, work on its latest residential building promises to breathe new life into student accommodation. The Brock Commons building will house more than 400 students by September 2017 and is expected to cost CA$52m (€36m). Once completed it will be the tallest mass-timber building anywhere in the world. Its design, which is being assembled by timber manufacturer Structurlam Products, has sparked excitement in the construction and logging sectors. Brock Commons is intended to stand as a showpiece not only for the sustainability of wood but also for its cost competitiveness compared to more traditional concrete and steel construction.

Image: Alamy

Look mum, no hands

Germany’s transport and logistics provider the Deutsche Bahn, the largest railway operator in Europe, has announced that it is hoping to launch driverless trains in as little as five years, claiming the spotlight that has thus far been reserved for the car industry, which has been making similar advancements. “We don’t want to drive autonomously after the automobile industry but earlier,” says DB CEO Rüdiger Grube. “By 2021, 2022 or 2023 we will have come so far that we’ll be able to drive completely autonomously in parts of our train network.” While autonomous rail systems exist to a certain extent in various forms across the globe – such as London’s Docklands Light Railway (pictured) and Vancouver’s SkyTrain – none are currently capable of traversing a comparably complex network.

Image: Li-Han Lin

In the pipeline

Despite being one of the world’s shipbuilding powerhouses, in the past few years Kaohsiung has suffered with the highest debt per capita of Taiwan’s six major cities – but the game has now changed. The city has delivered an ultimatum to more than a dozen petroleum firms, including state-run CPC, demanding that they relocate their headquarters to Kaohsiung this year or they will be denied access to the city’s industrial pipelines. If the companies relocate, city officials expect an additional NT$2bn (€55m) in tax revenue, which will go a long way to helping Kaohsiung achieve its ambitious but stalled urban development plans. Those plans include rebuilding the city’s industrial strength, rebranding its image and redeveloping its centre. (For more on Kaohsiung’s shipyards, pick up the latest issue of Monocle, on newsstands now.)

From Monocle 24

Image: Ester Keate

Timothy Everest

In the inaugural episode of ‘Eureka’ influential tailor, menswear designer and entrepreneur Timothy Everest recalls the early inspirations, formative experiences, colourful characters and well-heeled advice that led him to launch his business. Presented by Monocle’s Daniel Giacopelli, ‘Eureka’ is a weekly feature brought to you by the team behind ‘The Entrepreneurs’.

From Monocle Films

Tokyu Hands


We visit the description-defying Tokyo institution that sells just about everything you could ever need and is loved by everyone who visits.

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