The title should give a fairly good indication of where I’m coming from on this one, and with my politics such as they are I suspect it is little surprise that I may take such a stance. I’d like to start with a little context so that you, the reader God bless you, can have some information to understand my subjectivity.

When I were a lad, no Hovis ads please play some Sex Pistols or the Rocky Horror Show if you want atmospheric music for this time, I lived on the swinging King’s Road in Chelsea at the height of its pomp in the 1970s. The nearest tube station was South Ken which was a reasonable walk away especially when dragging a young child. We had busses no 11/19/22/31 & 45 and whilst I don’t have much direct recollection from the early days we seemed to get around ok, I went to school in Victoria and came by bus as did many of my classmates though there were some who came in cars but I don’t know for definite whether there were any geographical reasons as to why they may have done that. As I recall the car people were in the minority. Many families had a car for weekend stuff etc. we didn’t and in truth I think we were right not to have one. I was used to walking and used to changing to get from A to B via C, as a child your upbringing is the basis of normality it’s everyone else’s differences that are strange. Anyway we lived in London until 1987 never having a car and only when we moved out to Oxford did one become necessary for my Mother tho’ I used my bike to get to the nearest town 7 miles away and the bus to get into Oxford which went 4 times a day. Now I’m not trying to make out that either the 70s or the 80s were the golden age of steam or anything and I know for people who lived outside London it is a different picture, but by and large in my experience at the time a car was seen as something you used where public transport wasn’t available and public transport was definitely the desirable option where possible.

I went to the US in 1990 and lived out there for a bit, I tried cycling but since I was unable to legally drink in Ohio at the time I gave it up as too stressful. So I decided to take the bus to work. This entailed ringing up the bus company 48 hours in advance to book the bus, the only difference between that and a taxi was that the bus could plan its route to pick other people up if it had calls. The place I lived in was about 15 miles out of Cleveland and there was no way of getting to Cleveland by public transport, the nearest bus stop for a scheduled bus service anywhere was nearly 8 miles away. Even the local shopping centre did not have a bus service. This made for a very isolated lifestyle, the nearest shop to where I was living (which was a large residential area) was 3 miles, the shopping mall about 5 miles. You could go for days without actually seeing anybody. Is it any wonder people go mad there?

In contrast I have lived in Munich in 1992 and Rostock 95-96 where experience is rather different. Most people in Munich own a car and a fair proportion own a BMW but it is (or at least was) not the norm to commute into central Munich to work. The underground system in fact laid on extra trains for the BMW works shift pattern. Trains were tightly scheduled, invariably on time as were the buses and a large-scale Park and Ride system operated for most suburban train and tram stops. Suburban rail and bus connections ran smoothly, though I must stress this is all before the selective privatisation of the Deutsch Bundesbahn so I don’t know how things may have changed since then. Rostock was a shithole but even there they were expanding the tram network and updating the rolling stock, the plans for the next 5 years integrated transport policy and what it would mean were on display at bus stops and such like so you did get the impression that things were moving. Furthermore you can assume that it will get done because of course failure is not tolerated in Germany, “Get it done or you will be shot!”

To cut a long story short I got a car in 2000 as part of a job and have had to drive around 50000 miles a year ever since. I hate driving, I hate the motorways, I hate other drivers. I dislike being dependent on a piece of kit that if it goes wrong only I am in the shit (at least on a train I might have someone else to talk to) I also dislike being dependent on everybody else not wishing to get killed or to take me with them on there personal death quest. I do feel that this country is increasingly taking on the characteristics of the American way of life choosing the dogma that ‘it’s my right to drive my car’ and I don’t see this as exactly adding to the already eroded social cohesion.

In the UK currently there is something of an empasse between the road users led by reactionary forces behind the haulage industry etc. who are the same forces as those behind the countryside alliance and such like and the government who want to tow the line on climate change measures but don’t really want to upset anyone and if they do have to upset somebody then better upset Joe Public because he doesn’t really have a lot of power and isn’t giving the government very much money. Progressive governments have broken up transport policy so that one section of it appears to have no relation or relevance to the other, thus they appear to miss the fact that if you balls up the railways you will increase car useage and thus the emissions etc.

As regards the railways I’m afraid I have to reiterate a point I’m sure I’ve made at some stage before (if I haven’t trust me you’ll hear it again!) you currently have a privatised rail system where companies controlling the trains themselves and charging passengers money do so for profit. the fact that they have to offer a service for this is incidental, it is the means to the end and not the end itself. Therefore the principal operation is to ensure that costs are kept low enough to siphon money into shareholder dividends. It is not actually the case to say that these companies have it in their best interests to provide the best service for the most passengers, actually it is better for them to gain their money from investment and government subsidies and charge as few passengers as much as possible as this means comparatively low operating costs. You only have to read some of bobred’s rants to see that this is the case. Furthermore this means that any actions that are not seen as leading to short-term profit, or perhaps if you have enlightened investors at least long-term profit, must fall by the wayside. A private company cannot function at a loss the market will not allow it to do so. Thus services that may be vital to communities will only survive if they are financially expedient. This is not a public service and cannot be described as one. As for the notion of competition, what bloody competition – From Milton Keynes to London what a choice, you can take a Silverlink train which stops at all stations that might have a platform longer than 2 feet, or wait for a Virgin Express which will be 2 hours late, rammed like a cattle truck with some obsequious hoary old bint carting a trolley load of stuff that looks like it came out of a UN food parcel some years ago. Which will arrive first, no that’s not your primary concern, which will arrive at all?

[As for Railtrack, don’t get me started on them, as if I’m not pissed off enough that the government, the tossers, failed to take the initiative and say ‘look the tories tried it, it fucked up, now we’ll have it back’ we have to endure the bellyaching of the middle-classes who thought they could make a killing based around the assumption that the government wouldn’t let Railtrack fail and would keep pumping public money into it. So in fact we should be asking them for all the dividends they did get to be paid back to us, but no they say, they must be compensated, my answer to this is FUCK OFF, don’t you read the small print -shares can go up as well as down, yours just went down to nothing, investment in the stock market is a risk, you made enough money in the 80s now piss off, if you weren’t prepared to take the risk put your money under your bed or in the bank if you really must. This lunatic suggestion that the public who have paid out in subsidies for the dividends of these shareholders must now also subsidise the buyout at what these people deem an appropriate rate, it isn’t even standard capitalist economics that’s not the way it works, sometimes you win sometimes you don’t, deal with it. “We don’t like this we’ll take our money elsewhere” Oh boo hoo hoo like loads of other general publics are going to welcome you with open arms to sponge off their state subsidies until you decide to pull out regardless of whether it might harm their infrastructure or not. As a matter of interest how much state subsidy was paid to Railtrack and how much was paid at the same time in benefits to asylum seekers? You can see where I’m going with this…Who are the real drain on resources eh?]

Other methods of public transport, well, talk about the postcode lottery if you’re in Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Croydon you’ve now got Trams which is a start. If you’re elsewhere you have buses run by companies that have the same operating principle as the train operators and in many instances ARE the fecking train operators so you’re stuffed. When I lived in Oxon the village started out having 1 bus a day that went into Oxford in the morning and 1 bus that came back in the evening. It wasn’t the busiest because it had to go round a number of outlying villages so you’d only catch it if you lived there but it was the only link to nearly all of these villages, the fuckers axed it because it didn’t most sense from a cost-effective point of view. Interestingly enough when it was run by the council-funded pre-deregulation Oxford bus company it was a double decker and quite full, after de-reg it was palmed to a private carrier who reduced it to a hoppa bus and it barely filled that. It was fortunate that a retired bus driver in the area bought himself a bus a did the rounds 4 times a day after that but had it not been for him that would have been it. For such a situation to be allowed to happen in the 20th/21st centuries is an absolute scandal and those in regional and national government ought to be thoroughly ashamed. After all they always have transport -you don’t hear of a council jolly abroad getting stuck because a couple of people missed the bus. It’s hypocrisy, double-standards and makes a mockery of democratic accountability.

So what do the government do. Do they tax private transportation to get people off the roads, yes supposedly, but have they made sure there is a viable alternative to the roads, ah……no…..shit…..sorry….knew there was something we forgot. Fucking space cadets I mean how long can you debate about reforming private transport before thinking about the public transport alternatives? You have the congestion charge in London, in my view a good idea, provided it is used entirely to fund the public transport alternative. The car road tax should be used for the same purpose, then you can invest in the expansion and modernisation of the public transportation system. There should be lower road tax for people who need to use cars like Doctors etc. But there should be higher taxes for people who drive distances of less than 3 miles and for those driving alone and finally tax the fucking 4X4 users off the road ‘cos they have a fucking off road vehicle anyway, serve the bastards right! Of course the whole public transport infrastructure has to be in the public hands because that way it can be run as a service rather than a business. The advantages to this are: the safeguarding of ‘non-profit-making’ services. Lack of dividend payouts means surplus money can be used to substitute unprofitable services and ploughed back into the R&D, maintenance, upgrades etc.

See – it’s not hard THAT’S AN INTEGRATED TRANSPORT POLICY it took me a couple of hours and I’m no genius so who are the tossers running the country-I submit my transport manifesto for open scrutiny and discourse from the blog community. Come on bobred this one’s got to illicit a comment from you, what do you reckon?

Original Comments:

john made this comment,
“Veree interestink” as our Kraut cousins would say.It’s strange that trams have recently been pronounced a failure in this country when they seem to work so well elsewhere in Europe. I have worked in Cologne and never found it so easy to get about a city, the same goes for Amsterdam where I never seemed to wait longer than two minutes for a tram.
comment added :: {ts ‘2004-05-01 14:55:55’} GMT+01

Bob Red made this comment,
In no politician, but I recon that with it being the year 2004 and all, we should be having colonies on mars and shit like that… Failing that, at least we should have a decent public transport infa structure, where you shouldnt have to wait any longer than 2mins for a tube off peak, 5mins for a bus, and 10 mins for a train. But if you take this to anyone incharge, they will laugh at you and ask how the hell are we supposed to do that! Well, thats not my concern… its the year two thousand and bastard four.. cant we get away from all the snide and underhandedness of a privatised rail company and actually do something in the interest of the customers for once? Why dont they just rub it in by changing their slogan to “you need us more than we need you” and be done with it. As for driving, i am also like you, I dont like driving very much, and when i do its usually early in the morning or late at night when not many cars are around and only when there is no other realistic altenative for the round trip. Im agree in principal about taxing the 4x4s but taxing people who drive for short distances would be tricky… what if there was no other way for them to get there? It would be ok for me, walking has been my primary way of getting around as we didnt have a car until i was 20. Another thing that i would add would be to get cyclists off the roads. And onto specially made cycle lanes, with kerb separators to stop shit taxi drivers from cutting into their lanes and vice versa thus reducing the number of cycling accidents whilst doing something for the envioronment.
Hope these comments made sense from one transport user to another, this had been a bobred mini rant
until next time…

red

comment added :: {ts ‘2004-05-01 15:03:07’} GMT+01

Red Baron made this comment,
I agree entirely John, in Europe trams are de rigeur and are an effiecient way of traffic calming as well.
Bob -good rant enjoyed that, as for the short distance tax thing -I ought to clarify the infrastructure must be in place to provide the choice, where no choice is provided it would be wrong to do it. Equally where a legitimate reason exists such as medical or such like this also should be excempt. What I’m trying to do is cut the school run of the Mothers taking their kids round the corner in hubby’s gas guzzling BMW 4x4s!

Visit me @ http://redbaron.blog-city.com

comment added :: {ts ‘2004-05-01 15:30:28’} GMT+01

Bob Red made this comment,
Cheers mate, glad you enjoyed it! Yeah if the infra structure and medical excemtions were in place then i totally agree as those BMW 4×4 are really annoying moving roadblocks!!!
Anyway, youll be pleased to know that the armed police didnt take me down during my airsoft match! but i am seriously cream-crackered! anyway, ill try to add a blog entry about it tomorrow!
comment added :: {ts ‘2004-05-02 23:12:33’} GMT+01

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