Planes, Trains and Automobiles (not forgetting the buses)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles was a 1987 film starring John Candy and Steve Martin. Twenty five years later we could be in for a remake set in Sussex called Trains, Buses and Automobiles. These are issues that could influence the 2015 general and local elections.

The Government has announced that rail fares are going up by more than the rate of inflation for the tenth year in a row. Why is Mike Weatherley not press releasing his support for his government? He knows that this is a source of increasing anger for commuters. Caroline Lucas was quick off the mark, along with one of the Green’s European Parliament candidates, Alex Phillips, leafleting at Brighton Station and appearing on the local news.

Public transport, and trains in particular, is the remit of Norman Baker, the Lib Dem/Conservative Coalition MP for Lewes. The good news for Stormin’ Norman is that rail fare increases will have little impact on his chances of re-election because he is already toast. We haven’t forgotten his written pledge to oppose increases in tuition fees, and then voted to support such increases. (Old joke: what is smaller than the Higgs Bossom god particle? A Lib Dem’s backbone).

Labour has done well on the buses, scoring a couple of direct hits on the Greens. That should serve them well in a couple of wards, although these wards are already Labour held or in the case of Rottingdean Coastal solid Tory. It is fortunate that come 2015 the octogenarian Brian Fitch will step up his campaigns to save the threatened numbers 5, 49, 27, 81, 26 and 50. What would help Labour is if the party at a national level came out with a bold policy saying that it will increase subsidies for local bus and train routes in order to get people out of their cars and onto public transport.

Automobiles, and in particular parking of such, will be an issue in the locals in 2015. Tories and Labour continue to make hay about the downturn in visitor numbers and blaming the increase in parking charges. I am not so sure if that is the whole picture. The Olympics, the ‘summer’ and the economic downturn are likely to have been more significant factors.

The People’s Mike hasn’t been completely quiet, writing to the City Council’s outgoing Chief Executive, John Barradell, urging greater provision for bikers. Is this a huge vote winner in Hove Park where Labour is campaigning energetically? I am told that Labour had an “amazing day in Hove Park. No exaggeration, we were really surprised how many Labour votes there were – and disaffected Tories”. Mike will certainly be relying on the Hell’s Angels Chapter of this parish for his re-election. He certainly can’t rely on the commuters.

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3 Responses

  1. i was at Hove Station early yesterday for an hour and then cycled with Alex Phillips to Brighton station for more Fairs campaign with Caroline Lucas. I did not sense any torrent of bile against the Greens that the other parties allege.

    There is a distinct difference in pace of commuters at the two stations: Brighton ones look more under the lash. Perhaps that is the difference in the areas? But we are working to improve the Brighton vicinity.

    A pleasingly vigorous couple of hours’ start to the day, many snatched comments.

    i have made a dozen rail journeys (three beyond Sussex) in the past twenty months. It’s the bicycle for me. Good for ideas (if scarcely suitable for reading).

  2. Since this post was written, I have repeatedly asked for Mike Weatherley’s office to make a comment about the train fares. Instead we get another press release about squatters.

    A train ticket to London zone 1-2 currently costs £4,020. The rise in fares will add another £200 to that. This will have considerable impact on commuters in his constituency – far greater than squatters will.

    In January, Labour proposed a motion in parliament calling for a cap on train fare rises. Both Simon Kirby and Mike Weatherley voted against it. We will be making sure commuters know that and remember it next time they vote!

  3. Apart from the huge fare rises, there is another large matter of concern re trains, and that is the government’s plan to merge the Southern and FCC franchises from July 2015.

    At the moment the Brighton line is one of the few on the system on which there is some competition. This has acted as something of a brake on fares, and if you are prepared to put up with FCC’s clackety-clack trains and poor punctuality commuting to London is considerably more affordable. For example, to choose a similar commuting distance, an Oxford to London season ticket comes in at over £5000, while I believe an FCC season to a London terminal is around £3600.

    I’ve been told that the main driver for this is the congestion at London Bridge, which is to become more problematic in the next stage of the Thameslink upgrade. That makes some sense, though there must surely be other ways of managing this problem, and it does not explain why FCC’s Great Northern franchise is also included in this mega-franchise.

    So what is being created is a large private monopoly, lasting for seven years. When has a private monopoly ever acted for the benefit of the customer? And it will kick any notions of re-nationalisation further into the long grass, of course.

    The government is holding a consultation on this at the moment: please respond by 23 August if you share my concerns. You may also suggest that certain conditions be attached to the franchise – for example, toilets on all trains, or on all trains travelling a certain distance.

    http://assets.dft.gov.uk/consultations/dft-2012-23/consultation-thameslink.pdf

    I may beg the blogger’s forbearance and post again on this once I have read the consultation document more closely.

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