The Guardian view on rail privatisation: going off the tracks

Editorial from The Guardian: There are few more annoying issues for the great British public than their railways. While some cities and towns have seen stations spruced up, the public suffer from often late, expensive and frequently overcrowded train services. While the cack-handed rollout of infrastructure improvements has led to cancellations and delays on the network, commuters saw ticket prices rise at twice the rate of their wages between 2010 and 2016. Tuesday’s news that rail passengers will be hit by the largest fare hikes in five years next month will do nothing but confirm the view that the public are being taken for a ride. The situation, it seems, is one where private companies reap the benefits, while passengers bear the costs.

There is a good case to return more train operating companies to state hands. Three in four voters, disillusioned by high prices and poor service, back renationalising the railways. Many train lines in Britain are run by state-backed European rail firms. So why not in Britain?

[Read full editorial on Guardian website…]

Tory councillors ridiculed as they are drowned out by traffic noise while arguing against cycle path

From Cycling Weekly: An attempt by Conservative activists to promote their campaign against a new Cycle Superhighway in south-west London has somewhat backfired after a video posted online showed three men struggling to be heard above the noise of passing traffic.

While the three men talk about how they think the segregated cycle path will “destroy the character” of the “village high street”, they are drowned out by the sound of passing cars, vans and lorries, with Cllr McGregor’s introduction also interrupted by what sounds to be a truck reversing just off camera.

The video was picked up by Guardian writer Peter Walker, who said that you “genuinely couldn’t make it up”, before other Twitter users, including a certain Ned Boulting, weighed in with their thoughts on the video, also pointing out that getting more people on bikes would reduce pollution in the area and, as shown by studies elsewhere in London, provide increased trade for local businesses.

[Read full article on Cycling Weekly…]

UK Government slammed after handing Scotland’s railways a massive ‘real-terms cut’

From The National: Scottish ministers have demanded a “fair funding deal” for Scotland’s railways after the UK Government announced a “real terms cut” in investment over future years.

The Treasury said the Scottish Government will receive more than £3.6 billion over five years from 2019/20, an increase of £600 million on the previous period. But the Scottish Government said this is a “real terms cut” that will lead to a £600 million shortfall as it needs £4.2 billion over that period.

But the Scottish Government said that changes due to be introduced by the UK Government in 2019 will lead to a shortfall that will have a “massive impact” on the country’s railways.

[Read full article on The National website…]

Tory Government sparks fury by scrapping rail electrification plans

From The Guardian: Plans to make the railway network faster, greener and cleaner by electrifying lines have been scrapped by the government after massive budget overruns, prompting fury at “years of broken promises”.

The plans to modernise the line from Cardiff to Swansea, the Midland mainline and tracks in the Lake District were dropped on Thursday after Network Rail spent huge sums on engineering works, with costs in the Great Western region alone going as much as £1.9bn over budget.

Network Rail’s electrification works around the country, most notably on the Great Western mainline from London to Swansea, which started in 2014, were described as a vital upgrade that would bring cleaner, faster and more reliable services for passengers.

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Cyclists don’t count as road users, argues transport secretary

From The Guardian: The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has been accused of showing “an astonishing lack of knowledge” of his brief after arguing in the House of Commons that cyclists do not count as road users.

Grayling, shown in a video last month knocking a rider off his bike by suddenly opening the door to his ministerial car outside Westminster, made the comment on Thursday morning.

Grayling was questioned by the Labour MP Daniel Zeichner about an interview he gave late last year warning that London’s new protected cycle lanes “perhaps cause too much of a problem for road users”. Were cyclists not also road users, Zeichner asked.

“What I would say to him, of course, is where you have cycle lanes, cyclists are the users of cycle lanes,” Grayling responded. “And there’s a road alongside – motorists are the road users, the users of the roads. It’s fairly straightforward, to be honest.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“The Tory rail privatisation rip-off”

From Another Angry Voice: “When the Tories were introducing their ideologically driven and hopelessly botched plan to privatise the UK rail network the Tory Transport Secretary John MacGregor claimed that passengers would benefit from reduced fares.

“Anyone who understood the basics of monopolies (captive markets) knew that MacGregor’s promises were fantastical nonsense. Once a monopoly service is handed to a private profit-seeking entity, prices are certain to rise because there’s no price competition in a captive market.

“Two decades after rail privatisation the average train fare has increased by 117% (24% adjusted for inflation). On some journeys fares have increased by well over 200%.

“Aside from the direct hit to passengers’ wallets, there’s also the fact that the private rail operators are being showered with £billions in direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies.

“Annual direct subsidies to the private rail franchises far exceed the entire cost of running the entire UK rail network back when it was run as a not-for-profit public service.”

[Read full blog article on Another Angry Voice…]

UK plan to boost cycling and walking ‘worthless without more funding’

From The Guardian: The government’s cycling and walking investment strategy “won’t be worth the paper it’s written on” unless backed by sustained funding, cycling campaigners claim.

The British Cycling policy adviser and 1992 individual pursuit Olympic champion Chris Boardman believes far more ambition is needed if Britain is to create a cycling and walking culture to rival countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands.

His comments come as the government launched its blueprint to encourage more walking and cycling with the aim of boosting the number of people who get around by bike or on foot by 2040. Yet the ambition is backed by just £316m over the next five years, barely half the cost of upgrading Bank tube station in London. “Frankly it’s embarrassing,” said Boardman.

The funds available for both walking and cycling work out at just £1.38 per person in England outside London, according to the CTC, a national cycling charity. The CTC notes that the Department for Transport has set aside £15bn to upgrade motorways and trunk roads.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“You’ll notice bus cuts when your neighbours lose their independence”

Mary O’Hara writes in The Guardian: For five years colossal cuts to local bus services have decimated provision across much of Britain yet, despite the impact on people’s lives, the losses have failed to register in the same ways as cuts to other public services.

At a time when almost nothing in local government has been left unscathed by the budget-slashing scythe you may wonder if cash being shaved from bus services matters. It does – immensely.

Every day millions of people rely on local buses to get to work, school, their GPs, supermarkets, and even to stave off isolation and loneliness. Research shows that for older and poorer people, as well as for those with disabilities, buses can be the difference between being able to get around and feeling trapped, especially in rural areas with few other options. Buses are critical to the economy of local communities too, ensuring people can get to or find employment, and can spend their money with local businesses.

But here we are with cuts to services already running into millions of pounds and another tranche on the horizon. The Campaign for Better Transport has published some alarming new research on cuts to supported bus services in England and Wales – those that receive funding from local authorities and often cover non-metropolitan or isolated routes.

Massive cuts of more than £27m are on the cards, and many isolated and rural areas will be left “with little or no bus services”.

[Read full column on Guardian website…]

New research shows rural bus services are being wiped out

Campaign for Better Transport has revealed the shocking state of local subsidised bus services across England and Wales with millions of pounds being cut from essential everyday services.

New research shows people living in Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Somerset, Dorset, West Berkshire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, North Yorkshire and Lancashire will be hit particularly badly with local authorities proposing massive cuts from local bus budgets over the next few years totalling more than £27 million, leaving many rural and isolated communities with little or no bus services at all.

Campaign for Better Transport’s Buses in Crisis report shows that since 2010 £78 million has been axed from local authority bus funding in England and Wales resulting in over 2,400 bus services being reduced, altered or withdrawn from service. 63 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales have cut funding for bus services in 2015/16, with 44 per cent reducing or withdrawing services entirely.

[Read full press release on Campaign for Better Transport website…]

Britain’s only publicly owned railway delivered record performance for passengers before Tory sell-off

From Daily Mirror: Britain’s only publicly owned railway was delivering all-time record levels of punctuality before it was flogged off by the Tory Government last year. Passenger satisfaction was also at an “all-time record” for any long-distance line, and the railway also made more than £1 billion for the Treasury before the line was privatised in May 2015.

[Read full article on Daily Mirror website…]