I have never exactly shied away from my critique of the fiasco that is current transport policy in this country, and I am fully aware that this country is not on it’s own in that regard. The government’s current stance on the 4%-9% increase in rail fares is a prime example of how the present strategy is simply going nowhere. According to the government’s transport secretary Alastair Darling “It has all got to be paid for and we’ve got to strike a balance between the amount of money that the taxpayer puts in and the amount that the fare-payer puts in as well.” Which is interesting because of course that would appear to suggest that the profit-making company doesn’t put any in at all.

Regulated fares, which cover season tickets and saver tickets, are going up by an average of 3.9%, whilst unregulated fares, including cheap day returns, are rising by an average of 4.5% but with this being a mean figure obviously some rises are much higher, anything up to 9% on some lines and these particularly effect tickets bought on the day rather than in advance. The organisation which speaks for the train operators Atoc said all railways on long-distance routes were winning business back from the airlines. I’m sorry but I don’t see it. Last year I costed up my trip to the G8 Summit in Edinburgh. I wanted to travel by train because I find it the most conducive way to travel both for my conscience and my comfort. The price of a return to Edinburgh would have been well over £100 (luckily I was not planning to travel through London or in the rush hour or on a Friday!) and I would have had to change trains at least twice, the journey taking around 5-6 hours approximately. This compares very poorly to travel by air. I was able to obtain a return ticket from an airport half an hour away from me direct to Edinburgh for £45 including taxes and the journey took 45 minutes. How was I able to justify being a climate criminal in this regard? Simple really, had I had to go by train I would not have been able to afford to go at all. It is rather ironic really. The situation now after the fare increases cannot be any better. For example a standard return ticket bought from Edinburgh to London will now cost £220, that’s hardly a very tempting prospect since I suspect most of the people who could afford to spend £220 for such a journey can easily afford a more luxurious and probably quicker method of transport so I fail to see what demographic is likely to be enticed by such a pricing policy.

Likewise cash fares on the London Underground have gone up to £3 for a single journey. This whole situation is not integrated and it makes a mockery of the government’s claim to Kyoto quotas and luring people out of their cars. For instance in Central London the congestion charge is now £5 but that covers the car for the day and whilst you would not buy a succession of single tickets on the Underground a Travelcard which would provide unlimited travel on trains and buses costs between £4.30 for off-peak not including the Central London zone to a staggering £12.40 for all zones that include travel in the rush hour. How does this compare with other cities? Let’s see:

  • New York: $2 (£1.16)
  • Paris: €1.40 (96p)
  • Russia: 13 roubles (26p)
  • Madrid: €1.15 (79p)
  • Tokyo: 160-300 yen (78p to £1.48)

Is London worth it? Well, for those of you who can come as tourists and enjoy for a finite period of time perhaps, but for those of us who had to live there, no, definitely not, salaries in London are not so appreciably higher to allow for all the excess amount that one has to spend on the cost of living.

On the other hand I have travelled on the very German-like Park and Ride system in Nottingham which involved free parking just off the M1 and a £2.20 ticket which entitled me to tram travel for the whole day. The journey to the city centre was effortless and efficient and took around 15-20 minutes. The journey back was in the rush hour but I still got on the tram, when I used to commute in London I was often not so fortunate. The Nottingham system is a relatively new one that has been in place less than 5 years as part of a limited resurgence in trams in English cities. Most cities here have not operated trams since the 1960s and there are still plenty that do not operate an efficinet park and ride system using the bus services.

In my view there are 2 specific reasons why the transport system here does not and cannot work if things continue the way the currently are. The first is that ownership is currently often in private hands meaning that investment must come second to profit, and the second reason is that there is no significant sign of genuine concerted investment from the Government, in fact quite the contrary if one considers quotes like that of Mr Darling above which suggest that the incumbant administration is as inclined to allow the public transportation system to fall into disrepair as the Conservative administrations of the 1980-90s were. This usually preceeds a move toward privatisation, although New Labour are well-aware of the negative significance of such a word and prefer the term PPP or Public-Private-Partnership. The end result is much the same.

My idea is that all public transport, which should be primarily electric-based and therefore low emission at source such as trams, electric buses/trolley buses and electric trains, should be in public hands. This way it can be run as a service rather than for profit, this means there may be instances where a service is run at a loss because of the necessity of its continuation as a facility. To this end I would advocate the entire renationalision of the entire rail network, tram systems, bus companies etc. This would require a large financial outlay which should be done on a government compulsory purchase order. The less money outlayed at this point the more can be plunged into direct immediate investment into service provision. It is no use having a transport card type system where the transport infrastructure is not already in place to cope with a massive increase in demand.

There should be a levy raised from gross income in percentage form which should be for the transport card. This should be a sum equivalent to basic costs of transportation for necessary purposes based on travel by public transportation. This should be paid by everyone with no exceptions and should be a percentage of income. There should be no charge for public transport at the point of usage tho’ people should be required to have their card read when using public transport. The lack of charge should make public transport an attractive option and have the advantage of providing a fixed defined income for the transportation network and a way of assessing the usage by means of the card.

Everybody’s needs for transport should be evaluated and that amount be put on their transport card. Needs mean just that, for work, school and shopping etc. There should be an ex gratia amount over for use for trips out at weekends and for holiday purposes. There should only be a restriction on private transport methods not on public methods.

Private transport should be thus heartily discouraged, that there may be the need for certain people to have certain access is unquestionable and such allowances can be made on the transport card, enabling the purchase of fuel at a low rate. Other fuel purchases should be heavily taxed so as to make it financially imprudent to have cars that are fuel inefficient. Fuel should only be sold on production and processing of the transport card. Of course fraud in terms of the card and selling of illicit fuel would have to be addressed. To my mind the state must control supply of the fuel in the first place. This is not going to happen with convention oil-based products as the current oil companies have too much lobbying power. Thus less traditional means of fuel need to be used, and this is concurrent with the fact that the oil will run out anyway. I don’t know what would be the best method in this instance, my knowledge of the market is not sufficient but the Brazilian use of alcohol, or electricity, gas, biomass, bio-diesel or some such, should be explored.

People who live in areas not covered by public transport should be given the necessary dispensation on their transport card to allow them enough fuel to get to the nearest park and ride point whence they can continue their journey. The system of park and ride works well in Germany where it is rare for most people to commute all the way to work by public transport. Of course ideally the public transportation system should be expanded to include as many remote areas as possible and if there means of transportation is in public hands there should be no reason why the services cannot be provided.

Transportation of goods should be carried out by train and lorries should only be used when necessary for short haul trips from rail depot to final destination. This would have a catastrophic effect on the haulage industry and I’m sorry for those that would be affected by this but I’m afraid the catastrophic effect that will occur on a pan-global scale if we do not drastically change things far outweighs the needs of the lorry drivers and haulage company workers, they can be retrained, the Earth cannot.

This may sound all very draconian and nanny state but I’m afraid there has to be a paradigm shift in how we look at the energy we consume and we are not simply going to do all the work ourselves, we will have to be prodded to do so. At least if the state is in control and governing properly it should be doing so for the good of the people rather than for profit purposes as if in private hands. Naturally for that a different form of government and perhaps completely different form of governmental system needs to be in place, and we’d have to tackle that in another post.

Song Of The Day ~ Bloc Party – Helicopter

Original Comments:

Jimmy Sunshine made this comment,
leyton orient?
-Redbaron responds – La la la I can’t hear you!-

comment added :: 8th January 2006, 17:09 GMT+01

David S made this comment,
So how do you feel about George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green using his time for shameless self-promotion instead of working for his constinuents like 95% of other MPs. He is a crook, a joke and a disgrace.
comment added :: 10th January 2006, 11:37 GMT+01

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Years ago an editor of a motorcycle magazine suggested that all long distance freight should travel by train (we’re talking 1970s). He was castigated by… the road haulage lobby (quelle surprise). I agreed with him then and I agree with him now. Rail is a sensible method of long distance haulage and there are still miles of usable paths on the system.
As for the underground in London – even with my preferential rates (being a rail worker) I decided shanks’ pony was the better option between Paddington and Euston.

As for restrictions on private transport, I’d rather see a concerted effort on alternative energy sources. Now, an alcohol burning motorcycle – I’d be interested…

comment added :: 10th January 2006, 20:19 GMT+01 :: http://longrider.blog-city.com

jimmy sunshine made this comment,
RB what the fuck is George doing? I’m embarrassed and disillusioned. How do you feel about all this?
-Redbaron responds – you’ve just beaten me to it mate I’m finishing off an entry on it.-

comment added :: 11th January 2006, 22:56 GMT+01