The National Policy Forum has made the strange decision to group culture with the environment and energy. Meanwhile, transport is placed, not completely without justification, with local government and housing. However, as transport is a major consumer of energy and a transport policy will be essential to fighting climate change, I decided to address it along with energy and the environment, in place of culture.
Southern’s Brighton to London service
117 years ago, my great-great grandad, president of the Amalgamated Society of railway servants (ASRS), sat down in a meeting between the executives of ASRS and the Associated Society of locomotive engineers and firemen (ASLEF) to discuss federation. Had they succeeded in establishing unity between the rail unions back then, I might not be writing this article now. The TUC and rail management have used Victorian-era sectional craft differences to divide railway workers. I hope to explain what has happened in relation to the dispute on Southern Rail and the role of the TUC and ASLEF. I am aware that the railway runs on a level of jargon and acronym that approaches another language so please forgive the mini railway rules refresher! Continue reading
I like Andy Burnham: he clearly has been on a political journey and he has played a good role on the NHS, but in my view his position on rail policy today not only doesn’t go far enough – it indicates the disconnect between voters and Westminster politics that we must repair.
In the National Policy Forum process last year, Labour agreed a new deal for the railways. This included a commitment to allow a public sector operator to take on franchises and challenge the train operators on a level playing field in the public interest. This was the basis of our position at the election. Continue reading
Business in this age of market fundamentalism is cock-a-hoop with the Davies report decision to recommend Heathrow. They would be, wouldn’t they, since the report has focused largely on the supposed economic benefits while claiming that all the toxic underside of the decision can be ‘managed’. However the feasibility of the latter needs to be subject to a realistic appraisal, not just assumed. It is said that night flights will be banned between 11.30pm and 6am, but ‘respite periods’ when some areas don’t suffer overhead noise will be reduced from half the working day to just a third. The report allows for a huge 54% increase in passenger numbers (more than a quarter of a million a year), but claims this is compatible with a cap on aviation emissions just above current levels – in fact a wing and a prayer that is dependent on big increases in cleaner engines which may or may not be delivered. Continue reading
Northern powerhouse deflates into Northern power-cut. It was so hurriedly propagated by Osborne before the election as portraying the government as dynamic innovators of English devolution, but none of the details had been properly worked through, including the required transport infrastructure as we now know. So the election gimmick, if not evaporated, has dimmed at least to the long haul. Just 7 weeks after the election when the Tories boasted of the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times, the grand 5-year £38.5bn plan has collapsed, with the government trying to dump the blame on Network Rail. The Tories are all the more culpable since they still vaunted their grandiose plans in their election manifesto though Network Rail admitted “very early on last year” that the 5-year plan would be ‘incredibly difficult to deliver’. Continue reading