The DfT finally gets the message – as we all knew passengers in the west of England have had enough with the the poor performance of First Great Western. Well the vocal ones , including the blogs “I hate First Great Western” and “More Train, Less Strain” have been pretty good at generating mainstream media interest. A more balanced view from Christian Wolmar at the end of January got my attention, as he sees clearly the DfT role in the chaos, born out of the railway structures …
While other bloggers will go to great lengths to stick the knife in one more time I have thought more about the speed of the Remedial Plan process, which doesn’t generate confidence. This should be the guarantee that if things go wrong then they are put right pretty quick, but in this case the problems are fundamental – lack of rolling stock, demotivated staff and not enough of them, a complex mix of very local and very long distance services. I have a lot of sympathy with FGW on this, but managing the key messages in the public domain has not been their strength.
Compensation is going to be complex to payout fairly (and takes much needed cash away from the system) and discounting tickets may benefit off peak travellers who haven’t taken the commuting chaos. Better communication technology is fine, but if it isn’t used because your staff don’t know or can’t say the real reasons for delays/cancellations, then the money is wasted.
Still lets see how it all looks in 6 months time, but don’t hold your breath waiting.
From the DfT press release the draft bill from May comes back to Parliament relatively unchanged and slightly underwhelming – not enough in it to annoy the bus industry or PTEG. Needs further detailed review, but the possibility of creating new Integrated Transport Authorities may raise some interest in the long term – maybe we will finally see a south Hampshire PTE (long an ambition of my erstwhile colleagues there).
A “Bus Champion” is also being sought to represent users, which will be interesting if real authority is given. Perhaps best not mention the problems of concessionary travel in England, then…
This is how the government threw the new rail plan into the public domain, just minutes before MPs and the media went off for their holidays in Tuscany…
The Railways Act 2005 places a statutory duty on the Government to set out every five years how much public expenditure it wishes to devote to rail and specify what it wants the railway to deliver, notably in relation to safety, reliability and capacity. The formal statement, including the High Level Output Specification and Statement of funds available, is contained within the White Paper. It covers the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2014.
The White Paper looks at the potential future challenges for the railway over a 30-year horizon. It identifies three long-term agendas for Government and the rail industry working in partnership: increasing the capacity of the railway, delivering a quality service for passengers, and fulfilling rail’s environmental potential.
There is no such thing as a simple statement of intent on the railways anymore – the summary document is a glossy 12 pager, but the detailed appendices and HLOS will need some proper analysis – ideal reading material on the beach, no doubt.
It’s finally here and first impressions suggest that it will equally please and upset both sides of the regulation/deregulation debate. Will do a more detailed review and see what the press makes of it over the next few days…
With the Planning White Paper out for consultation over the same period (summer holidays, not that I am paranoid) we will be busy working out what it will mean for us if it gets enacted unchanged.
24 hours after the Climate Change Bill consultation gets published and it’s business as usual – the “rejectionists” are blogging, commenting on blogs, putting out their own videos and speaking on Radio 5. The green voices are welcoming but saying it doesn’t go far enough.
No doubt climate change will be the key topic over the dinner table and in the saloon bar for a few days… well perhaps not, but David Milliband has done a video on Youtube – surely the first time major policy change is announced alongside singing Chinese kids and car crash footage (oh the irony).
(the government is also responsible for some really scary stuff – not the content, but the overwrought style)
Initial reactions from where I sit (based on a quick read and press comment) are that:
- Setting legally binding limits to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 26% to 32% by 2020 and 60% by 2050 certainly is a world first, but difficult to see how it can be enforced
- There is still high reliance on new technology to convince individuals they won’t have to change
- Companies may not like the small print
- Carbon trading – a business opportunity or a bureaucratic dead end?
- What about the rest of the world, setting a good example may not be enough
The first statutory Quality Bus Partnership is now signed off for North Sheffield and the PTE is ecstatic. Well pleased to be first anyway, to my mind they are putting in a lot of infrastructure and the operators are bringing forward the bus purchases they already had lined up – who is getting the most out of the deal? Good to see that they will be getting a “Real Time Intelligent Detection system” – I know what they mean but doesn’t sound quite right, just suitably “techy”.
Obviously the eyes of the world, well PTEG and CPT, will be on the this trial – whether there will be lessons for smaller towns and cities remains to be seen, but it perhaps spikes the re-regulation argument for a little longer.
Manchester is one of the first cities to break cover with a version of London congestion charge, albeit on corridors, not areas and with all the usual well informed commentary locally. With only 1 in 10 of the Manchester Evening News readers supporting it are we seeing an early Edinburgh style nobbling?
In fact the reference is to the Transport Innovation Fund bid, which the DfT announced ages ago and is now thinking about allocating the money. The first round cities were Cambridge, Durham, Greater Manchester, Shrewsbury, Tyne & Wear (Newcastle?) and the West Midlands. 3 new areas were added in November:
- Notttingham, Derby and Leicester
- Norfolk (for Norwich)
[Disclosure – my company is working on the Reading TIF bid]
Other bloggers are commenting, a few positively.
Eddington report finally released and initial reporting mixed – politicians generally supportive, the business community perhaps more positive than they expected to be, Roadblock was far from enraged – worth reprinting their comments:
The implications for those campaigning for less roadbuilding and more traffic reduction are great. This report will shape future transport policy for many years. The media spin on the report was that Eddington was recommending a national road pricing scheme, and not recommending a major roadbuilding programme. This is unfortunately only partially true.
What Eddington actually said was that the current roads programme is justified in the meantime (up to 2015), in the absence of road pricing. He also strongly said that without road pricing there was an economic case for roadbuilding even when the environmental impacts are costed, and specifically recommended another 2,900 – 3,500 lane kilometres of extra roadbuilding between 2015 and 2025. Only when road pricing is brought in, might the need for roadbuilding fall to around 500 – 850 lane kilometres (an 80 per cent reduction). However the report was very helpful in some respects as it also strongly supports and recognises the economic benefits of cycling and walking schemes.
However soon “experts” were being wheeled out to say that the detailed forecasting was flawed, etc. etc. (just like with the Stern report) While the academics will argue the Government is keen to build this and the Barker report (and of course Stern) into new legislation on planning and transport in spring 2007.
On the way to Liverpool, Virgin Trains works like clockwork – yes I know its supposed to be a nightmare of delays and overcrowding, but at least this time it wasn’t. There’s always the return journey to survive though…
The Queens Speech offers us a new Road Traffic Act, but not enough detail yet. Hopefully we will get the details of the Bill before Christmas, I expect moves towards bus reregulation to keep the PTEs sweet, as well as more attention on road pricing – cue the Daily Mail readers poll!
Today the Concessionary Fares legislation is spelt out, after a Tony Blair press launch and its the usual mix of compromise and confusion – can be run locally, with add-ons if your council is feeling generous, but central government powers (surprise, surprise) to intervene – how come the Welsh and Scottish models couldn’t be copied?