“There used to be a bus every hour. Now we hardly leave the house”

From The Guardian: When Jill White, 53, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she had three years of treatment, including operations and chemotherapy. It was a stressful enough experience to go through, but White, who is single and doesn’t drive, also faced a four-hour round trip, on a good day, to get to a hospital that was only 13 miles away, because buses from her village of Tatworth, Somerset only run on average every two hours.

“My appointments were often at 9am, so to get to Taunton hospital I would have to leave by 7am,” she says. “And then, even though I would be really tired after treatment, I faced another two-hour trip to get home again. Four hours was a good journey. It could have quite easily been a lot longer.”

White says the service used to be quite good. “When I first moved here 20 years ago, there was a bus every hour, evening, weekend and bank holiday – and they were reasonably punctual. Now they are often 30 minutes late, there are no buses on Sundays or bank holidays – and nothing after 6pm.” White’s situation is far from unique. A report last week by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) found that local authority funding for bus routes in England and Wales has been cut by 45% since 2010 and more than 3,000 routes reduced or scrapped. This prompted the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to raise the bus issue in parliament during last week’s prime minister’s questions, where he promised to “save” the bus industry and give all those aged under 26 free bus travel.

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Tories slammed by Labour over axed bus routes in northern England and the Midlands

From Morning Star: Bus passenger numbers have plummeted by millions in northern England and the Midlands as a result of routes being axed because of Tory austerity, Labour has said.

The party revealed its analysis of government figures as shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and shadow minister for buses Matt Rodda visited Northampton.

Since 2010 bus passenger numbers have fallen by seven million a year in both England’s north-west and in the east Midlands, by five million in Yorkshire & Humber, by four million in the north-east and by three million in the west Midlands.

The figures show that the number of routes is projected to be cut by nearly 5,250 nationally by 2022.

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Bus services in ‘crisis’ as cash-starved councils cut funding, campaigners warn

From The Guardian: Campaigners have called for the government to act to help dwindling bus services, as a report showed council funding had almost halved since 2010.

Budgets to subsidise routes were reduced by another £20m last year and 188 services were cut, according to the Campaign for Better Transport.

Its Buses in Crisis report found that squeezed local authorities across England and Wales had taken £182m away from supported bus services over the decade, affecting more than 3,000 bus routes.

Council funding has preserved funding for services, particularly in rural areas, that private firms have deemed unviable, and where no alternative public transport exists, accounting for more than one in five journeys. But most either cut funding – or spent nothing – last year.

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Chris Grayling ‘passing the buck’ for trains chaos

From The Times: Industry sources have accused the Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling of “scapegoating” train firms and Network Rail, while failing to acknowledge his own department’s shortcomings may have contributed to the cancellation of thousands of trains.

[Read full article on The Times website…] [paywalled, but free registration allows access to two articles per month]

Theresa May told to ‘get a grip’ on rail crisis by regional news titles

From The Guardian: Theresa May is coming under pressure over the rail chaos in northern England as some of the area’s largest newspapers join together to demand that she “get a grip” on the government’s response.

The news came after the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, faced calls to resign as he was questioned by MPs and announced an inquiry into the botched timetabling changes that have caused delays and cancellations for hundreds of thousands of people.

As he came under increasing pressure in the Commons, titles that collectively sell an average of more than 300,000 copies per edition said Grayling “should take accountability”, while the prime minister should “should take a personal grip of resolving the crisis”.

The 25 titles, which are owned by various groups and include the Manchester Evening News, the Liverpool Echo and the Yorkshire Post, called on May to lead an emergency summit in Downing Street this week to find a solution to the crisis, and urged a review of rail franchising. They also urged Northern Rail to clarify its plans for a compensation scheme for passengers who have been hit by crippling disruption.

[Read full story on the Guardian website…]

Chris Grayling criticised for blaming rail delays on ‘militant unions’

From The Guardian: Chris Grayling, the Tory transport secretary, has been accused of passing the buck over severe rail disruption on Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern trains, for which he blamed staff shortages caused by “militant unions”.

A report from the National Audit Office criticises the government’s management of the UK’s largest #rail franchise, held by Govia Thameslink, and concludes that policy decisions have had a negative impact on millions of passengers.

The report says Department for Transport officials failed to grasp the potential impact on passengers of combining an increase in capacity, targets to improve services and the increase in driver-only operated trains, which led to strikes by union members.

However, Chris Grayling said blame for the disruption should primarily be shouldered by the unions for their decision to take industrial action.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

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…]

Rail fares have ‘increased twice as much as wages since 2010’

From London Evening Standard: An analysis by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) showed that rail fares have risen by around 32 per cent in eight years, while average weekly earnings have only grown by 16 per cent.

[Read full article on London Evening Standard 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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Privatisation ‘has added £50 billion to the cost of running Britain’s railways’

From Metro: The cost of running Britain’s railways has increased by £50 billion due to the ‘ill-judged’ break-up of British Rail. Researchers from the University of Essex said that the new system is highly fragmented and inefficient – leading to losses, and higher fares for customers.

[Read full article on Metro website…]

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…]