On 1st March, 2015, The East Coast rail line returned to private hands.
Was there an overwhelming financial reason for this? Hardly! Over the last five years, under public ownership, over a billion pounds has been paid into treasury coffers as profit. Now, with privatisation, it is the shareholders of new joint owners, Stagecoach and Virgin, who will have juicy dividend payouts - monies which could have been used for reducing rail fares and improving services.
Someone who has long argued against this ideologically motivated sell-off is Peter Pinkney, the President of the RMT (Rail and Maritime Transport Union). To further this cause, Peter has joined the only political party arguing for an unequivocal return to public ownership of the rail franchises - and not only joined the party: he has become the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Redcar and Cleveland.
Peter's reasons for standing for the party expresses the sentiment of many recent converts. “I spoke at the Green Party Conference in 2013, and I was impressed with the ideas that were being put forward. The ideas of the Greens resonated with a lot of my beliefs. Obviously the Greens commitment to bring railways back into public hands struck a chord, but also policies to invest in the NHS, build social housing, institute higher taxes for those who can afford it, and put forward progressive policies on immigration informed my decision to stand.”
“If Ed Miliband is [more supportive of unions] then he is doing a strange impression of it. A minimum of 75% of people want to see the railways renationalised. He has never once said he would take the railways back into public hands - not even East Coast.”
Pinkney and Lucas
This last weekend, also saw Green Party members renew their campaign for public ownership of rail franchises. On the day that, Brighton Green MP, Caroline Lucas’s private member’s bill was being brought to the House, council candidates, Carla Denyer (Bristol, Clifton East) and Deb Joffe (Bristol, Windmill Hill), and others, leafletted outside Temple Meads station, as part of a national Day of Action across 48 railway stations over the UK.
Darren Hall, prospective parliamentary candidate for Bristol, West, said: “ Some of the UK’s most successful businesses are run as ‘not-for-profit' organisations, including the provision of public transport. However, the Government seems to have a blank spot when it comes to social enterprise and is doing everything it can do to tilt the playing field towards those with vested interests in the profit motive. Public transport should be just that: run for the public! Not for profit!”
Tony Dyer, PPC for Bristol, South: "If just a fraction of the billions of pounds of profits that have been stripped out of the industry under privatisation had been re-invested into a truly public serving railway, we would have the basis for a transport system that actually worked for those who rely on it."
Protester, and Clifton East, council candidate, Carla Denyer, said: "We have a huge problem with road congestion in Bristol. But all over the city we have a rail infrastructure that is underused due to lack of investment. The Severn Beach line from Avonmouth to Temple Meads is an amazing asset for the city, but we need it to run more reliably, more frequently, and later into the evening for it to be a viable option for hard-working commuters."
From East Coast, to Severn Beach, the call is for an integrated, intelligent approach to a planet-friendly transport system. In a recent Guardian poll, admittedly from a pre-selected group, barely 3% of those who voted wanted to maintain the current privatisation.
As Lucas has said: "Britain was once a world leader in transport thanks to our hugely successful railways. But today’s privatised system – characterised by poor services and some of the most expensive fares in Europe – is ripping off passengers, harming the economy and failing the environment."
Recently, the Bristol Green Party, along with other concerned groups, held a protest outside Temple Meads train station against the New Year train fare increases, and the establishment's ideological preference for privatisation. Our, newly appointed, Trade Union Liaison Officer, Will Quick, has written a blog article on his own site to describe the day, and here is a sample of that, and a link.
"After a long day’s work, as the light faded and the January cold set in you would think most people would be in too much of a hurry to pay much attention to a group of activists banging on about the relative strengths and weaknesses of different models of rail ownership – another obstacle between them and their home. However, such is the strength of feeling against the current state of affairs on our railways that we were very well received. We actually ran out of leaflets after an hour and a half – giving out around a thousand. Only one person verbally refused me, explaining that she was ‘a conservative’. Quite a few people even stopped to have fairly lengthy and engaging conversation with us – before rushing off for their train, or house. Almost everyone seemed to regard us and our interruption of their commute positively...”
Full article here:
The Bristol Green Party are committed to an affordable low-carbon transport network that unites the city, leaving no citizen isolated or unable to easily access decent work and leisure activities. As part of our long term vision, we have been staunch advocates for a tram and light rail solution with links to a central multi-modal transport hub at Temple Meads.
Of course, it is important that Bristol City Council makes desperately needed short term improvements to the bus system, and in broad terms we welcome any investment that will offer residents greater choice, better value for money and improved access. This is particularly true of the need for a south-to-north option that will link people to jobs. However, this investment should not be at the expense of other important public realm, and the Green Party remains committed to finding the right solutions rather than just agreeing to the latest compromise. For example, this includes growing land at the side of the M32 and pedestrian walkways in Bedminster.
Gus Hoyt, Green councillor for Ashley and Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhoods said:
"I am disappointed that the Metrobus decision seems to have been rushed through Cabinet without discussion. This is a project which many people are concerned about and it does deserve an open debate."
The government in recent years has blocked the proposal for a tram. We believe this is to the detriment of the residents of Bristol. The Bristol Green Party will continue to fight for this option, as part of our support for an Integrated Transport Authority. Cllr Gus Hoyt has lobbied hard on residents' behalf, often under difficult circumstances, and it is a testament to his determination that he continues to try to influence decisions that are being made by Bristol City Council Transport Department.
This response comes from Bristol Green Party
Support for other submissions
We give our full support to three other submissions, namely
1. South West Green Party submission
2. Transport for Greater Bristol/Friends of Suburban Bristol railway submission
3. Bristol Sport submission re Ashton Gate station
Ownership of railways
In particular we support the South West Green Party's contention that the current private franchise model does not provide the most cost-effective and efficient way to deliver rail services.
We believe that the attempt to artificially create market competition in an environment such as the railways where a natural monopoly exists have created the worse case scenario - monopolistic practices by private profit-driven companies often with little regulatory oversight.
The division of rail and track companies into artificially competitive companies rather than a cooperative organisation, coupled with the fragmentation of the rail industry into multiple companies by privatisation, has been disastrous for safety and reliability and the provision of an integrated service.
The Green Party therefore believes that the rail system, including track and operators, needs to be publicly owned, and would seek to bring the service back into public ownership but would also make the rail service more democratically accountable at local and regional levels.
The principles on which a local train service should be run are
1. Maximise the use of the existing local rail network
2. Making the service sufficiently frequent - at least in peak times - that timetables are not required
3. Make stations accessible, staffed and into transport hubs ie encourage other forms of sustainable transport
Portishead line and Ashton Gate station
We also strongly support the calls in all three submissions for the reopening of passenger services on the Portishead line.
We note that the reopening of the Portishead line is included in the MetroWest Phase 1 programme however we are concerned that a station at Ashton Gate is not included in the options studied in the MetroWest Interim Report published in November 2013.
We believe this to be a significant error of omission.
As identified in the submission by Bristol Sport Ltd, a major multi-million pound investment programme is already in progress to transform the Ashton Gate stadium into a multi-event, seven day a week, conference, exhibition, concert and sports complex. By 2018-19, this facility is expected to attract over a million visitors, divided almost equally between sports and non-sports visitors. The vast majority of these visitors will be from beyond south Bristol, and in the case of conference and exhibition delegates almost certainly from beyond the Bristol area itself.
We are concerned that the opportunity to deliver a station in the Ashton area, serving not just the stadium development but also the communities of Ashton Gate, Ashton Vale, Bedminster and Southville, as well as the expanding commercial premises along the Winterstoke Road area, should not be overlooked.
We would go so far as to recommend that not only should a station at Ashton Gate be considered an absolute necessity on the Portishead line but that the opening of the line for passenger services should commence from the Parson Street junction end of the line allowing a station at Ashton Gate to be brought into operation as soon as possible after the proposed 2016 opening of the redeveloped Ashton Gate stadium.
To do otherwise, would, in our view, create massive congestion problems for the residents, leading to drastic reductions in air quality especially along the Winterstoke Road and Parson Street gyratory area which already has low air quality, and would also have a negative impact on businesses in the area, and will undermine the positive economic impact of the stadium and its conference and exhibition facilities, thus deterring future business investment in south Bristol.
Ashley Hill and Lockleaze stations and the Henbury loop
Cllr Gus Hoyt, assistant mayor for Neighbourhoods and Green Party councillor for Ashley also believes it is vital to re-open a variety of stations, including those at Lockleaze and Ashley Hill and to introduce the Henbury Loop line believing among other things that accessible and affordable public transport is a Public Health priority.
Bristol Green Party councillor for Bishopston Daniella Radice believes that a reopened station at Ashley Hill would greatly increase public transport options for residents of Ashley Down, St Andrews and St Werburghs. It wouild also help give students at the college and visitors to the Cricket ground improved public transport options.
I note that Tory councillor Richard Eddy describes cyclists as 'afflicted with a sense of self-righteousness, superiority and entitlement' (the Post letters, 'Cyclists behave badly in Amsterdam as well', 11/2/14). I was surprised, because I thought the Tories had cornered the market in those particular attributes.
He further describes a friend whose visit to Amsterdam was a 'confusing mix of users ( tram lanes, buses, cars and bikes)'. Well, I can only recall my own experience of visiting Amsterdam. The trams were fun, the cycling pleasurable, the infrastructure good to see, the cyclists - there were lots of them. Overall I had a great time.
As far as I'm concerned, having an extensive cycle network in Bristol, combined with policies to maximise levels of cycling is exactly what Bristol needs to do. But more pertinently, I would point out that we could introduce an entire cycle network for the whole of Bristol for less than the price of the a couple of the proposed bus rapid transit schemes - and to do so would have far greater benefits for the city as a whole.
Green Party candidate
The mayor has made a firm decision to impose residents parking schemes and we consider that it is appropriate to make this work as well as possible for the local area. We have no doubt that there are a number of issues to do with parking which need to be addressed.
We have both lived in Southville for over 20 years, and in that time, seen the area fill up with cars. When Charlie Bolton was councillor the last time RPS was an issue locally, he found from the council that there has been growth in ownership of cars locally of around 2% per year. Growth in the number of vehicles seems certain to continue. The area is either at or close to its capacity.
The problems as we see them include commuters parking in the local area, the sheer volume of cars owned by residents, matchday parking, pavement parking on some streets, and ensuring our great local shopping streets continue to thrive.
Residents parking as currently proposed is far from a perfect solution but starts to address some of the issues - particularly commuter parking. The limits in permits issued per household may make some small difference to the numbers of vehicles in the area. We hope the scheme will address blocking of street ends and pavement parking. We think there is a case to be looked at for extending the hours of operation to the evening and to include Saturdays. We also think it appropriate to liaise with local traders associations over impact on local business.
We have concerns over the price of residents parking - we would prefer to see the cost being less for those on low incomes or for carers. We don't expect anyone to be pleased at the prospect of paying an extra tax. However, we do not want to allow the problems of parking in the area to fester, and consider that an 'implement and improve' approach is the way to go.