Category Archives: Transport
Despite constant interruptions or simultaneous talking which have become a recent feature of John Humphrys’ technique when interviewing Corbynieres, Andrew Gwynne met all criticisms and challenges perfectly today and this moved the writer to learn more about this politician
In February 2017, Gwynne was promoted to Elections and Campaign Chair whilst retaining some of his Cabinet Office duties and spokesperson role. Two admirable features of his work noted here are the campaign for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal and his introduction of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act.
He became one of the leading voices in the campaign for justice for the victims and families of the Tainted Blood Scandal, reaffirming his commitment to the cause on World AIDS Day 2016. He said in 2016 “This scandal saw thousands of people die, and thousands of families destroyed through the negligence of public bodies”.
In 2010, Gwynne introduced the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act to restrict the activities of vulture funds which buy the debts of poor countries, usually at a significant discount, and sue for the full debt – plus costs and interest – in courts around the world. The UK government estimates the Act will save £145 million over six years. Similar legislation has now been passed in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Comments on BBC Radio 4 Today Verified account @BBCr4today added:
- On rail nationalisation, Andrew Gwynne says the way the East Coast line was publicly-run for a time in recent years shows it can be done.
- .@GwynneMP says manifesto “is not about government knows best, it’s about actually empowering people”.
- Labour manifesto leak is “not ideal” but at least people are talking about the party’s vision, says elections chair @GwynneMP
An admirable politician.
An admirable MEP (Molly Scott Cato)
An admirable MP (John Hemming)
In Ireland’s Parliament: Senator David Norris, incandescent on Israeli government action
One superb politician inadvertently omitted – perhaps because universally recognised as such – Caroline Lucas, No 11?
In April, Peter Hitchens eloquently described the way this country is being sold to foreign governments and companies:
“I don’t think any other nation would put up with this. Why do we? The most ridiculous is the way our trains – devastated by John Major’s mad privatisation scheme – are falling into the hands of foreign state railways. So, while the Government cannot bear to have railways run by the British state, it is happy to have them run by the German, Dutch, French or even Hong Kong state systems . . . in this country that invented the railway and once exported equipment and skills around the world.”(Right: Private profit from public loss: NIPSA 2013)
- Privatised railways’ jaws are clamped firmly to the public teat; when they fail they can just stroll away from the mess they have made.
- British Rail’s trains were faster and more comfortable. It looked after its track far better and – given the money – it would never have made the mess its successors are now making of electrifying the Great Western line, which is years behind schedule, partly abandoned and vastly over budget.
- In the 20 years to 2013, state subsidies to the rail sector roughly tripled in real terms, while fares continued to rise.
- My trains are almost always late, frequently very badly so.
- But they get more expensive all the time.
- those responsible are protected from us by call centres and unresponsive websites, which only talk to us when they want to.
Finally Hitchens adds: “Last week it emerged that SNCF is bidding to operate HS2, a pointless vanity line that should have been cancelled long ago but which the Government is too weak to abandon. So we might be hiring a foreign state railway to run a service we don’t even need, while Britain is full of sizeable towns with no railway station, which could be linked to the national system for a tiny part of the cost of HS2 . . . The idea that our rulers have any idea what they are doing, or can be trusted with our national future, is a joke. They’re just hoping the bailiffs don’t turn up before the Election. But if they do, what have we got left to sell, to pay our bills?”
Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear
Rupert Read has described Colin Hines’ ‘feisty clarion call’ for a change of direction away from acquiescence in the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis and towards protection of nature, workers, localities and sovereignty, resisting rootless international capital.
As Read says, Hines’ policy of Progressive Protectionism will surely be part of a socially and environmentally viable future: crucial thought-leadership away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy.
Read’s review (text here) will be published in the Ecologist, May/June issue, see Contents https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/55993/spread/5
Broken Britain 3: ‘strong and stable government’: by the rich, for the rich, at the expense of the rest
Those who are ‘just about managing’ live in the only ‘big advanced economy’ in which wages contracted (2007-2015) while the economy expanded, the cost of living rose and multinational profits rocketed.
Pett lists the end goals which would benefit the 99% and the wreckers
As Eisenhower said, we need a humane government which would focus on the well-being of all, not the profits of the few and stop being complicit in slaughter . . .
and we should strengthen local/regional economies.
Close the global casino and the revolving door between big business and government
and offer all, especially superfluous managers and young commodity traders, socially beneficial work
In 2016, though the price of oil was low, average bus fares rose three times faster than the consumer prices index. The statistics report presented by government for 2015/6 was precise: “Between March 2011 and March 2016, the average annual percentage change in bus fares was 3.8% higher than the average annual rate of inflation (2.3%)”. Families who can’t afford a car can find travelling by bus costs more than taking a taxi.
Theresa May: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives” (first speech as leader).
But reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people actually have less control:
- Without accessible or affordable transport, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families will be less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
- Some feel compelled to go into debt to buy cars they wouldn’t need if bus services were reliable and affordable..
Due to government funding cuts, town hall chiefs have announced that councils have been forced to reduce bus services by more than 12% in the past year.
They are calling on the Government to fully fund the Concessionary Fares scheme, and for the devolution of the £250m Bus Service Operators Grant scheme that refunds some of the fuel duty incurred by operators of registered local bus services. The grant was kept at 81% until April 2012, when it was reduced by 20%. The current payment rate is the lowest ever percentage since the rebate’s inception in the 1960s.
Theresa May: “When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody”.
But government actions belied these fine words; her chancellor announced a fuel duty freeze which – he said – will cost taxpayers a predicted £850m in the first year alone and really help the ‘fortunate few’ running the largest cars, not the JAM families.
RMT report: “Only a fool would suggest that drivers can drive a train while sorting out drunken and/or antisocial behaviour in the carriages behind them”
The Department for Transport wants a significant expansion of Driver Only Operation (DOO), introducing it on the Northern and Great Western franchises, with a target of around 50%.
Laura Kuenssberg (impartial BBC) reports that the ambition is to bring down the cost of rail travel for the tax payer and the train passenger, whereas most will agree that the ambition is to increase shareholder dividends. Fares will continue to rise.
She asks “Why all this fuss over doors on the packed commuter lines between London and the South Coast, when agreements on the same issue have been reached in other parts of the country?”
This is about safety, Laura. The RMT report: ‘The safety-critical role of the guard: a dossier on driver-only operation’ delivers a strong argument.
Laura again: “But hang on, driver-only trains have been used on different services around the country for three decades”.
Yes, and the unions hope to make all these services safer.
Paul Prentice, in his thoughtful Rail Magazine article, debates the pros and (considerable) cons of the argument, ending, “there remain (even in the eyes of the most ardent DOO supporters) security risks for the train’s passengers without another member of staff present, be they called guards, conductors or train managers”.
Read about this example of an incident on a DOO train.
Since January 2011 there have been 10 serious incidents at the Passenger/Train Interface [PTI] that have been or are being subjected to investigation by the UK’s National Investigation Body the Rail Accident Investigation Branch
80% of these incidents have involved services being operated in Driver Only Operation [DOO] without a second on-board safety critical worker, a guard or train manager.
The list of RAIB investigations in the Southern Region is as follows (a detailed description of each is also given):
Later in the report there are many accounts of serious incidents in different parts of the country.
Thousands of passengers have already opposed the government and the rail operator plans to de-skill and scrap guards. The campaign has been backed by numerous local councillors, transport bodies, passenger groups, disability groups and MPs.
At a time of increasing security threats and growing anti-social behaviour, which is reflected in growing levels of racially motivated abuse, violence and sexual assault, the presence of the guard is of growing importance not less. Some police and crime commissioners have also expressed concern about plans that could leave passengers on trains on their own – apart from the person actually driving the train.
Guards fill that important role in helping to moderate behaviour on trains. Many services, particularly during evenings and weekend have become little more than ‘bars on wheels’ and have seen a dramatic increase in drunken behaviour. British Transport Police (BTP) resources are being increasingly focused around major stations and many stations. This leads, in an emergency, to the police being called upon and they too are facing real pressure and the threat of further cuts. If there is a guard aboard they can often manage the situation without further assistance. But when operating in DOO mode this cannot happen. Without seeking either a positive or a negative view.
Andy McDonald, the shadow transport minister recalls a recent incident involving a freight train driver who died: “He went into one signal section between two towns, but never came out the other end. Found slumped alone over the controls in his cab, it took 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive. There was nobody to assist him on the train.”
RAIL asked drivers to anonymously express their feelings about DOO.
One response: “train drivers are only human and just as susceptible to sudden ill health as everyone else. And things can go wrong in the cab, in remote spots away from any other human contact”.
Another speculated on what might happen if a driver was killed or incapacitated on a busy main line service, perhaps by an object coming through the windscreen and impaling him before he has the chance to hit the all-important emergency red button in the cab: “It won’t take long before somebody pulls an emergency door release and people spill out onto the track, only to be mown down by passing trains that haven’t been alerted because all the signaller has deduced is that a service has been a long time in section”.
As Paul Prentice says, for a range of reasons: ”There are security risks for the train’s passengers without another member of staff present, be they called guards, conductors or train managers”. Is this acceptable?
As Glasgow’s Daily Record put it: “Cameron had no good answers and looked like a PM finally being held to account for the all damage his policies are doing. It really was an absolutely terrible day at the office for David Cameron. And quite possibly the day when Tories started taking Jeremy Corbyn seriously”.
As even the right-wing press salutes Jeremy Corbyn’s questions in Wednesday’s PMQs, two of the Telegraph’s journalists – hopefully their worst – pounce.
- One is Dan Hodges, who describes himself as a ‘tribal neo-Blairite’.
Dan has been a parliamentary researcher, a Labour Party official, GMB official, and as director of communications for Transport for London under Ken Livingstone. He left the party in 2013 after the government lost a crucial vote in the House of Commons which was designed to pave the way for a military intervention in Syria. Nice guy.
He writes: “The Lords are in open revolt. Caesar has been brought low. Or George Osborne, who has a haircut remarkably similar to Caesar’s, has been brought low. The barbarians are at the gates. Jeremy Corbyn has finally had a decent PMQs, using the tax credits issue to back David Cameron into a corner”.
He later refers to “Jeremy Corbyn’s besting of David Cameron at PMQs”
Reading around one gathers his attempted ‘downing’ of Osborne and Cameron is due to his support for Boris Johnson, first shown when he voted for him in the London Mayoral elections.
- The other is Angela Epstein, a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle and some right-wing British publications
Under the title, ‘Jeremy Corbyn is too thick to be Prime Minister’, she focusses on his exam results and lack of what she calls ‘natural talent’. It appears that she is a person whose disapproval amounts to an accolade. Read this devastating analysis of her mindset by Kate Smurthwaite, comedian.
Attacks by such people only highlight Corbyn’s decency and the popular welcome for the Labour Party’s policies for building a fairer society and redeeming Britain’s besmirched international reputation.
Compare Jeremy Corbyn’s record with that of the many ‘highly educated’ psychopaths in and out of power. They have successfully connived at the deaths and destruction in so many countries of late – whilst increasing their fortunes by their alliance with subsidised arms traders, multinationals who have taken over most of Britain’s energy, health, water, financial, communications and transport services and those who periodically attempt to make the struggling taxpayer accept mass medication (fluoride, statins, the polypill) GM technology, nuclear power stations, polluting incinerators and fracking – totally disregarding the welfare of the 99%.
We are indebted to investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot for this link to a refreshingly lighthearted article in the Los Angeles Times by Henry Chu, born in Indianapolis, raised in Southern California, served as bureau chief in Beijing from 1998 to 2003, Rio de Janeiro from 2004 to 2005 and New Delhi from 2006 to 2008 before locating to London in 2009.
His subject is Jeremy Corbyn, an ‘unabashed’ left-winger, not quite sure why he could have needed to be ‘embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed’ of his eminently sensible and public-spirited policy proposals, but there it is.
Chu opens: “Jeremy Corbyn says ordinary workers didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis but are paying for it through austerity cuts” but nevertheless finds that support for him “is surprisingly on the rise in British politics “ – surely cause and effect?
22-year old Aisling Gallagher, speaking at the Robin Hood demonstration pictured below, values the Islington North MP’s position against austerity – something other leadership candidates lack. “Governmental economic policies (ie cuts and “reforms”) have a hugely devastating impact on women and even more so on black women, migrant women, disabled women and so on”, she says.
To those who once revelled in Robin Hood films, the comparison of this newly emerging hero with a legendary one is quite pleasing, and indeed Nottingham, where lives one of many gifted Corbyn allies – former Labour MP and environmentalist, Alan Simpson – already has much to be proud of, including:
- its exemplary public transport system,
- its coalfield regeneration,
- and now its Robin Hood Energy Company, first council-taxpayer owned energy firm to operate on that basis since market was nationalised in 1948
Corbyn, for the common good
Jeremy Corbyn tells ‘hundreds of merry men and women’ – actually well over a thousand and merry/happy indeed – at the North Circus Street venue and the overflow in the courtyard behind Nottingham Playhouse , that the government needs to stop concentrating wealth in the hands of the have-a-lots and start investing in public services and welfare benefits for the have-nots. After all, he continues, single parents, nurses and other ordinary workers didn’t cause the 2008 financial crisis; bankers bent on “grotesque” profits did. Yet the rest of society is paying the price as the state slashes spending after doling out billions to rescue the banks.
Unelectable: scruffy, rumpled and non-telegenic?
That’s debatable, one could instead describe his appearance as casual, relaxed and confident – decide for yourself. Chu describes Corbyn’s three rivals: “younger, slicker and, so far, fairly hopeless at firing up the public imagination” and their well-groomed youth is not of interest to Corbyn’s newly hopeful support base.
And if so moved he will spruce up, wearing the totally pointless necktie and suit. See – and hear – the 2013 Oxford Union debate.
“He steps outside of the paradigm,” says Nottingham cafe owner Tres Gretton-Roche. “There’s something that feels very different. The whole thing that surrounded Blair was spin; there was something unreal about it. But what Jeremy Corbyn has is a real rhetoric, a real connection.”
Corbyn ‘clings to’ (Chu’s expression) – or rather is faithful to – causes such as nuclear disarmament. Would Chu value him more if he trimmed with the wind like most other politicians? I suspect not. He is also said to cling to a proposal to re-nationalise the country’s energy sector – for obvious reasons as the 99% are exploited and profits fly abroad.
Chu notes that Corbyn favours Britain’s withdrawal from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – no so outlandish: several eminent commentators have said that NATO has outlived its purpose and exceeded its original mandate – see US army Lt. Col. Robert L. Bateman, Nick Witney, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, formerly the European Defence Agency’s first Chief Executive and others. The thousands who protested at the NATO summit in Cardiff last year obviously agree.
Chu’s reference to Margaret Thatcher is a great cue for tomorrow’s post – a comparison of the two politicians, also lighthearted, which would indeed encourage Corbyn if he ever finds time to read it.