Tag Archives: transport

A Voter’s Manifesto (part 2 of 5)

Link to part 1

Environment

I note that David Cameron pledged to make this government the greenest ever. I also note that he has wholly failed to keep his promises. What is needed is not empty promises, but statutes which take seriously the fact that positive action for the preservation of the environment is not a hippy ambition but is necessary for the safeguarding of all people, now and in the future, with profound impacts on a great many other areas, not least the economy.

All legislation shall be subject to environmental review. If such reviews find that proposed legislation is not environmentally sustainable or does not mitigate to the maximum extent any potential harm, then it shall be rejected.

There will be no more investment into building new power stations that rely on fossil fuels. The only expenditure on them will be on safety.

Instead, investment will be made into renewable energies including, but not limited to, wind and wave power.

Such renewables may plug a gap left by the winding down of fossil fuels, but are not an answer to all our energy needs. So there should be funding into a new nuclear fission powered station, at a location yet to be determined.

Further to this, though, there should be additional funds made available to research into nuclear fusion as this is the cleanest, most fruitful potential source of energy available, but whose long-term feasibility remains a task that engineering has not yet conquered.

Recent years have seen annual floods in many parts of the country. This has partly been brought about by environmental change, but has been exacerbated by poor flood planning. I would propose a moratorium on building on flood plains. While there is a great need for new homes, not least in the form of social housing, these need to be built in areas where risks from flooding are minimal. There should also be additional funds directed to improving the flood defences in the areas that are routinely and severely hit.

Employment

Full employment is an ideal that should be aimed for but which should be acknowledged as unrealistic. Instead, there should be a recognition that there will likely be friction in the job market, but that the more realistic aim should be to keep unemployment to under 2 months per person.

Aiming for a total unemployment rate has less meaning than actually trying to get people into employment. So any unemployment statistics should be tiered to show the number who have been unemployed for less than 2 months, between 2 and 6 months, 6-12 months and over 12 months.

I have laid out before a measure to encourage companies to take on unemployed people before, so I would reiterate that policy.

No person should work for nothing. So work experience will have to become a form of paid employment. Zero-hours contracts should be outlawed as will the current Workfare programme.

Some additional measures are outlined in the Company Law section later in this manifesto.

Inflation measures

At present, the inflation measures that we use, RPI and CPI are artificially low. The reason is that they omit the very important factor of house price inflation. The RPI contains the increase in mortgage repayments, but if the interest rates are kept low (as a result of the current flawed inflation measures) then the RPI records a low inflation rate.

Instead, we should either amend the current measures or introduce a third which incorporates the rate of house price inflation. This would ensure the issue is taken more seriously than it currently is. There are currently some who are advocates of not increasing interest rates. When such people are put in charge of interest rates, then we get the divide that results in in house price inflation being up to 10 times what the RPI is in some locations.

It is my opinion that this is not good for long term economics and that it has fuelled the current housing bubble. Once we get a more realistic figure to use for inflation, then interest rates are almost certain to rise. While this will increase the cost of borrowing, this is necessary adjustment to correct some inequalities in our economy. Any further references to inflation should be taken to mean this improved measure which takes into account house price inflation.

Transport

Public transport is currently among the most expensive in Europe.

Train fares may be increased annually at a rate no more than inflation. This will not only apply in aggregate but will also apply to any given railfare anywhere in the country. So train companies will be prevented from increasing some fares by a little and some by extortionate amounts.

Rural bus services are also in need of improvement, so I would propose additional funding after a wholesale review has taken place, which should last no more than 2 years.

One of the major issues that is discussed in the construction of HS2, the high speed railway line. As yet, I am undecided on this issue, so offer no proposal either for or against it.

To reiterate a point made earlier, all legislation should be subject to an environmental review. Transport is one area that will be highly affected by this, not least when discussing airport capacity.

For any airline that operates at any UK airport, they will be required to engage in a carbon-offsetting programme to counteract the carbon dioxide emissions they make on all flights into and out of the UK, as well as internal flights. Airlines will be prohibited from passing on the cost of such an offset onto their passenger airfairs.

Healthcare

The current coalition government has embarked upon a dangerous crusade, based on a flawed ideology that market forces are the best way to ensure effective healthcare. As such, it should be the priority of an incoming government to repeal the Health and Social Care Bill.

The highest priority in the provision of front line services must be the wellbeing of the patient. Any would-be provider of such services should not be compromised by concerns over profitability, as this detracts from the highest priority. Therefore no provider of front line services may operate on a for-profit service. Any measures taken to privatise the NHS must be repealed and any care currently in private hands must be phased back into public hands over the course of the next parliament.

For any company that provides goods or services to the NHS (i.e. not front line service), the taxation on their profits should be ringfenced and directed straight back into the NHS. The reason for this is that healthcare should be prioritised over profits. So while it may be necessary for a company to generate profits to allow future investment, they should not be excessive, at the expense of the NHS.

Let’s give an example. Let’s say a company generates revenue of £30m, of which £20m is derived from the NHS. They make sufficient profits to warrant paying £3m of tax. While this tax would normally go into a central pot from the NHS would take part, 2/3rds of it should be directed straight into the NHS, with the other £1m going to the general pot.

One way road systems to be renamed “One Direction systems”

Used by creative commons. Picture by Elliott Brown

Used by creative commons. Picture by Elliott Brown

If ever there was any doubt of the pervasiveness of our shallow pop culture, it comes in the form of a new proposal that is set to be announced in the coming days from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in conjunction with the Department for Transport. A friend of mine who is a civil servant in the former (who shall remain nameless) has been authorised to ‘leak’ the news that in recognition of the commercial success of the boy band, One Direction, all road systems in England and Wales (and Scotland too, if the ‘no’ campaign is successful this September) that are currently designated as “one way systems” are to be renamed as “One Direction systems”.

Initially to be piloted in the home towns of the 4 English members of the band (Bradford, Wolverhampton, Holmes Chapel and Doncaster), the plan is for a 2 year trial period followed by a roll-out across the rest of the country.

The transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, was said to have been up all night trying to think of an appropriate way to honour the success of the boy band. There had been half a heart towards merely honouring Harry Styles, by far the most famous member of the band, but to leave out the others might have given their mothers a heart attack. As one of those little things a government can do, it seemed irresistible, given the band’s widespread appeal.

Some could see it as a way to reach out to younger voters, though I am not convinced that many of their fans are old enough to vote. If it does prove to be a magic ticket for the Tories to appeal to a demographic which is not normally very pro-Conservative, then it may be a master stroke.

This blogger is not convinced by the proposals, but who knows what might change my mind. I’m not a fan of the band and I hardly think they will ever come up with the best song ever, though I think that of just about anything to come out of a talent show.

A suicide on the rails

I apologise for any typos or lack of coherent thought in this post. I am typing this in a short space of time as I try to gather my thoughts. Last night all the trains on the line I use to get home were heavily disrupted. The reason was because a person was hit by a train; in all likelihood, a suicide. This is a reasonably common occurrence on this line. I delayed leaving work and stayed a few hours late (having arrived a couple of hours early in the morning), but managed to get home in a reasonable time. As usual, I buried my head in a book on my commute. Only this time, what I was reading was resonating with my surroundings. The section of the book I got to was a long suicide note. I haven’t yet finished it, but I couldn’t help but overhear the chatter on the train.

There were phrases used like “inconsiderate behaviour” or “thoughtless act” and all I could think was this: which is more inconsiderate: to end one’s life or to not care as to the reasons and circumstances why someone might do it. I don’t know the person’s identity, so I don’t know if I ever knew them. But I have had friends attempt suicide before, some unsuccessful, some successful. Today there is most probably a family grieving and friends wondering what signs they missed, digging through their memories in search of a reason.

When we have no direct connection with another human being it becomes far easier to be judgemental (not that it’s particularly hard, otherwise) and to treat them as something other than a valued individual. This is something J. B. Priestley in his play, An Inspector Calls. There may 1, 2, a dozen or hundreds of people I pass by every day who may be in a very dark place yet managing to mask it, while inwardly crying out for someone to understand them, to accept them, to love them.

A brief update

I had not forgotten Lewis S’ comments and am still replying to that. Unfortunately, the computer I use at home has broken down so I am having to write up in a nearby internet cafe, which is less than ideal. I am also considering breaking down the response into 4 separate posts as it is getting quite long as it is, and would not want to bore you.

In the mean-time, I shall let you have a brief window on my world; in particular, my world of train travel. Last week, I was sat on the First Crapital Connect train from Bedford to Brighton when it stopped about 300-400 yards outside a station. Nothing particularly unusual about this, we often get held up for a minute or two at a red signal. After 15 minutes of being totally stationary, the driver (who was the only staff member on the train) came wandering down through the carriages, informing each of them in turn that someone at the rear of the train had forced a door open and was having a cigarette. A few minutes later, he came wandering back again, towards the front of the train and said that it wasn’t someone having a smoke, it was in fact an electrical fire. The train would not be terminated at the next stop (which we could have comfortably walked to and from several times by now, had we been inclined to take a turn down the railway line), which prompted a number of people to stop him and make further enquiries. Now, I am not usually a fan of judging people on appearances, though it did seem that given the attire and tone of voice, that the majority of those who were holding up the driver, and consequently, the whole train and everyone on board, were stereotypical Telegraph readers. When we did eventually pull into the next station the exodus from the train was somewhat chaotic and it took a full 5 minutes to cross from one platform, under the underpass and up on the next one. So having left work shortly after 6pm, I was not able to get home until after 8pm – a delay of around 40 minutes.

On Monday of this week, we had the wrong time of sunshine. In Essex, the overhead power lines were drooping in the heat and so the “high speed” trains (I use the term very loosely here) were being slowed down so as to minimise the risk of the power lines being ripped off by the trains passing underneath. Somehow, but I know not how, this had a knock-on effect for the Sussex lines. Everything from central/north London passing through London Bridge was cancelled or delayed indefinitely. So I had to brave the underground. In spite of new air conditioning, the overcrowded nature of the line I was on meant that the temperature was 45 degrees centigrade (113 degrees Fahrenheit). My shirt was stuck onto my body and the sweat was not only dripping off my chin, but also the ceiling of the carriage. It was truly grim. I eventually made it to London Victoria, where the main concourse did not so much have be traversed as waded through, as there were hundreds of people milling about like the cast of Dawn of the Dead, wondering how they were going to get out of this ghastly city. I did manage to get on a Littlehampton-bound train where I was joined by a very peculiar pair of people. It seemed like a middle-aged man and his elderly mother. She had an Italian accent, and wanted to ensure that she could get to Bexhill, while he was very loud, tried to strike up a conversation with a very unfortunate passenger, where he claimed to be an Iranian nuclear scientist. I kept my head firmly in my book and tried to avoid eye contact with him, lest he try and engage me in conversation. I get uncomfortable enough having conversations with friends, let alone strangers who seem a sandwich short of a picnic.

Tuesday of this week saw the wrong type of lightning. There were massive thunderstorms all over the south-east. One lightning bolt even hit the control tower of Gatwick airport, disrupting flights. Another bolt hit a moving train, which backed up all the south-coast trains for several hours. I managed to get the last seat on the last train out of London, and even while we were still north of London Bridge, we had to leave people on the platform, as every carriage was rammed. At every stop, the atmosphere was close and it seemed like a fight was imminent, but where from, I could not tell. The driver of the train was encouraging people to breathe in, in order to allow the doors to shut. Once again, I tucked my head in my book, only looking up to see if there was someone elderly, pregnant or disabled who needed my seat. When it came time to get off to catch my connection (my trains do not take me directly home) it took a good 2 minutes to fight my off, while those on the platform, having seen how crowded the train was, were all the more eager to get on before those of us disembarking had finished doing so. I crossed platforms and saw that the next train I needed was half an hour away, having already been delayed for half an hour. So I thought “**** it, I’m getting a taxi the rest of the way.” Fortunately, just as I got to the taxi rank a bus pulled up which was going my way. So rather than spend £5 on a taxi, I only had to fork out £1.30. But all in all, I still would rather we hadn’t had to leave people in London when they were clearly desperate to leave.

/rant