Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

Campaign Issues for 2013

April 15, 2013

DSCF2820THE GREEN Party are proud to announce that they are standing over 1000 candidates are standing in May’s County Elections, with 14 candidates standing across Northamptonshire.

The Green Party’s key campaign issues for 2013 include:

No to Welfare Cuts — The Green Party believes that cuts to essential welfare programs like jobseekers’ assistance benefits, NHS services, and disability living allowances will only harm the economy further. The Government’s failed austerity measures have done nothing to bring Britain out of the recession and only served to line the pockets of banks and big business, leaving those who are most in need of assistance helpless. Green led Brighton and Hove Council has paved the way in declaring “No evictions for the Bedroom Tax”.

Yes to a Living Wage — The Green Party believes that all people deserve a living wage, rather than a minimum wage. This means earnings should be no less than 60% of net national average earnings (approximately £8.10 per hour). The institution of a living wage will help ensure low paid workers earn enough to provide for themselves and their families and eradicate poverty in Britain for good. Green Councillors are leading the way in making their councils Living Wage employers.

Transport —The Green Party is committed to introducing 20mph speed limits across the UK, improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. Cycle lanes where possible and genuine improvements in local public transport (increased buses to rural areas and improved local train service). We oppose the HS2 rail system, which is at its core a deeply flawed project that will not deliver the benefits it promises. The rail project is economically unsound, as the train as planned will cost each parliamentary constituency an average of £51 million—money which could be better spent on improving existing essential services. Furthermore, the proposed train will burn nearly 50% more energy per mile than the Eurostar, making the HS2 project both a financial and environmental disaster.

No to Incinerators — The Green Party firmly opposes the construction of new incinerators anywhere in the U.K. Incinerators are costly, dangerous to public health, and can be easily replaced by greener forms of waste diversion. Not only are incinerators dangerous to both the environment and the population, releasing harmful gasses and particulate matter directly into the atmosphere, but building new incinerators is also completely unnecessary. Encouraging the reduced production of waste and encouraging growth of recycling programs has proven to be one of the most effective forms of reducing overall waste, which would eliminate the need for more incinerators entirely

WEST COAST FIASCO ‘TO COST £50M’

February 26, 2013

thCAI5HETCCivil servant failures over the West Coast rail contract will cost taxpayers “at least £50 million”, a report by MPs said today.
There was a lack of leadership at the Department for Transport (DfT) and a failure to “get basic processes right” over the West Coast fiasco, the report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said.
MPs said they were concerned that these basic mistakes could be repeated in future projects such as the London to Birmingham high-speed HS2 scheme and the London Thameslink project.
The report said the department failed to learn from mistakes made in previous projects and senior managers failed to apply common sense during the West Coast bidding process.
They also said senior managers had “missed clear warning signs, including from the (rail) industry, that there were serious problems with the (bidding) competition”.
The committee said: “We are astonished that there was no senior civil servant in the team despite the critical importance of this multibillion-pound franchise”.
The MPs added that they were also “astonished that the (DfT) Permanent Secretary (Philip Rutnam) did not have a detailed understanding and oversight of the (franchise) competition”.
After DfT errors in the process had been identified, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin scrapped the bidding which had seen Virgin Trains lose out to rival transport company FirstGroup in the battle for a new, 13-year West Coast franchise.
Instead, Virgin is carrying on running the West Coast service until November 2014, with a new bidding process starting after that.
In today’s report, the committee said it was concerned that the department “could yet again fail to apply basic processes, which could affect its future projects, including HS2 and Thameslink”.
The MPs said the DfT made a number of mistakes when identifying the amount of risk capital it required from bidders to balance the riskiness of their bid.
The report said the department’s “blinkered and rushed approach meant the competition was not run properly” and that it had been a mistake “not to have a single person responsible for the project from beginning to end”.
Launching the report today, the committee’s chairman Margaret Hodge (Lab: Barking) said: “The DfT’s complete lack of common sense in the way it ran the West Coast franchise competition has landed the taxpayer with a bill of £50 million at the very least.
“If you factor in the cost of delays to investment on the line, and the potential knock-on effect on other franchise competitions, then the final cost to the taxpayer will be very much larger.”
She went on: “The franchising process was littered with basic errors. Senior management did not have proper oversight of the project. Cuts in staffing and in consultancy budgets contributed to a lack of key skills.
“We are astonished that the Permanent Secretary did not oversee the project because he was told he could not see all the information which might have enabled him to challenge the processes, although it was one of the most important tasks for which the department is responsible.
“Given that the department got it so wrong over this competition, we must feel concern over how properly it will handle future projects, including HS2 and Thameslink.”
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT transport union, said: “The stench from the fall-out of the West Coast franchise continues to hang over Britain’s transport industry as it becomes clearer with every examination that the ministers responsible for this shambles could not be trusted to run a whelk stall let alone multi-billion Government contracts.
“No wonder the Thameslink/Siemens fleet contract remains unsigned nearly two years on with these jokers at the helm, and the case for that work to go to Derby and not Germany remains rock solid.
“Underpinning all this is the fact that privatisation is a corrosive and expensive political project doomed to repeated and costly failure, twice on the East Coast and now on the West.
“Fiddling with processes won’t work. It’s the whole, rotten policy that needs dumping with a return to public ownership.”
Today’s report follows a Whitehall-commissioned independent inquiry into the West Coast bidding led by Centrica boss Sam Laidlaw. The inquiry report was extremely critical of the DfT.
Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report today, a DfT spokesman said: “The independent Laidlaw inquiry published in December identified the unique and exceptional circumstances which led to failures in the West Coast franchising programme and crucially what steps the department should take to prevent this from happening again.
“The department has accepted all the recommendations and has taken immediate steps by bringing together all rail activity under a single director general and recruiting a senior director to lead the franchising programme, as well as improving internal governance and strengthening oversight and accountability.
“Not only will these reinforce the franchising process but will also protect rail infrastructure projects such as HS2 and the biggest programme of rail electrification.”
The decision to award the franchise, initially, to FirstGroup, was made when Justine Greening was Transport Secretary and Theresa Villiers was Rail Minister.
Ms Greening became International Development Secretary in last autumn’s Government reshuffle, while Mrs Villiers was appointed Northern Ireland Secretary.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said today: “It’s time that David Cameron took responsibility for the rail franchising fiasco, instead of allowing ministers to hide behind their civil servants.
“The Government must accept the committee’s finding that it was the short-sighted decision by ministers to axe external audits of multi-billion pound contracts that ended up with at least £50 million of taxpayers’ money going down the drain.
“It is a disgrace that every politician responsible for the bungled franchise deal has either remained in the Cabinet or been promoted to it.”
Richard Hebditch, campaigns director of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The mistakes with the West Coast are clear for everyone to see. But the biggest problem is a franchise system where the only deciding factor is who promises the biggest payment back to government. What the Public Accounts Committee report shows is that we can’t even rely on the figures for that decision.
“Franchising needs to be completely reformed so that what counts are improvements to the service on offer, rather than complex calculations of profit and loss that don’t stack up.”

Minister Braced for HS2 Backlash

January 27, 2013
Eurostar200x110Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin admitted he was braced for a backlash when the proposed route of a controversial new high-speed rail line is revealed next week.
He told critics the Government would do “as much as we can to alleviate the damage” but urged them to recognise new stations would be “great engines for regeneration”.
Details are due to be published on Monday of exactly where twin extensions of the planned London to Birmingham HS2 line will pass through on their way to Manchester and Leeds.
The 225mph passenger train – expected to cut journey times from the capital to Manchester to just 80 minutes – is one of the coalition’s priority projects as it seeks to kick-start economic growth.
The announcement will come after figures showed on Friday that the economy shrank 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012 and may be headed for an unprecedented triple-dip recession.
Costing £32.7 billion in total, the project is expected to be finished by 2033.
Around two-thirds (64%) of business leaders surveyed last August said the proposed London to Birmingham HS2 line would help their ability to grow their companies.
But the first tranche of the scheme has also proved controversial, especially in picturesque Tory heartlands which will be affected, such as the Chilterns, infuriating MPs and countryside campaigners.
Residents there will not enjoy the economic or personal benefits of a station and some have opposed the project on environmental grounds.
The new line is expected to pass through the Tatton constituency of Chancellor George Osborne in Cheshire.
Mr McLoughlin told the Telegraph: “I’m afraid we will upset some people, but I appreciate that and we’ve got to try and do as much as we can to alleviate the damage wherever we can.
“You can’t build a brand new line and not have problems. There will be some areas where you are going to have to negotiate.
“But we will be announcing several new stations which I think will be great engines for regeneration, and I think by us announcing it now, the local authorities on the route can plan and get the best advantage out of High Speed 2.”
The Department for Transport had improved efforts at “mitigating environmental disaster”, he said – such as ensuring trackside trees were planted early enough that they were mature when the trains began running.
Experts have speculated that the northern extension of the line will see trains stop at Toton, between Derby and Nottingham, as it heads up to the eastern side of the Pennines before arriving through a tunnel in Leeds city centre via the Meadowhall shopping centre outside Sheffield.
On the western side of the Y-shape, the trains are expected to go straight up to Manchester Piccadilly and airport stations, although a stop in Cheshire has been suggested as a possibility.
Railways expert Dr John Disney, of Nottingham Trent University, said: “This is the first major development of the railway system since Victorian times, so it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It is a great shame we cannot build it faster as countries like China are creating high-speed lines at a much faster rate.
“In Victorian times these lines would have been built in four or five years as there was a huge pool of cheap labour without the kind of planning regulations we have today.
“The new trains will bring the Midlands and the northern economy closer to London and the south-eastern economic heartlands – although whether it will generate investment in the Midlands and the north is debatable.”
Lord Astor, a Conservative peer and stepfather of the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron, joined Tory opposition to the network when it was unveiled by then transport secretary Justine Greening.
The then Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan faced criticism for selling a home close to the planned rail route two months before the Government approved it.
Construction of HS2’s £16.4 billion first phase was given the go-ahead in January last year, with 2026 earmarked as that part of the line’s opening date.
The line will see 400 metre-long trains capable of holding 1,100 passengers get from London to Birmingham in just 45 minutes.
Penny Gaines, chair of the Stop HS2 campaign, said: “We will be looking at the new proposals very closely over the next few days.
“The basic principles for the first phase of HS2 were wrong.
“Tweaks in the second phase do not change this and cannot make up for the environmental damage and destruction from HS2 between London and Birmingham.
“We are firmly of the opinion that the whole HS2 project is fundamentally flawed.
“It should be cancelled as soon as possible so that we can concentrate on developing the transport infrastructure that will bring more benefits to more people than a fast train for fat cats.”

GREEN EURO-MP CALLS ON COUNCIL TO RAISE COSTS FOR LIVE ANIMAL EXPORTERS AT RAMSGATE PORT

February 1, 2012

Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for Kent and the South East, has called on Thanet Council to raise the fee for boats using Ramsgate port to export live animals. Keith has written to the local authority asking them to increase the fee for exporting animals so that it reflects the additional costs arising from the extra police, staff and security required for this controversial trade.

Keith said, “At the moment these export costs are being covered by the public purse, despite widespread opposition locally and nationally to the practice of exporting live animals. This means that the public are effectively subsidising an activity that’s inhumane, unnecessary and unjustifiable. I hope that Thanet council will endorse a levy that reflects the true costs of this horrific industry”.

Keith recently detailed his concerns about live exports at a public meeting in Broadstairs, along with local MPs and campaigners. He has previously visited Ramsgate to meet with campaigners who are demanding an end to live animal exports from the port. Keith has written to James Paice MP, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, to ask whether DEFRA is adequately monitoring EU transportation standards and whether these standards are being met at Ramsgate port.

At an EU level Keith has written to European Commissioner Dalli to raise his concerns over live animal exports and to ask him to support an eight hour limit on animal transport times, as a step to banning all live exports.

Keith is urging his constituents in the South East to support a Compassion in World Farming campaign (1) which encourages people to write to Thanet Council requesting an increase in the export levy and an end to the inhumane live animal export trade. The charity has recently worked with actress Joanna Lumley to launch a campaign to end live animal exports in 2012.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. To support the Compassion in World Farming campaign, visit http://action.ciwf.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=119&ea.campaign.id=13152

For more information on the work of Keith Taylor MEP, please contact Alice Taylor on 0207 250 8418 or keithpress@greenmeps.org.uk

Follow Keith at @GreenKeithMEP

http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk

High-speed rail project will boost economy, say MPs

November 8, 2011

A £32bn high-speed rail network linking London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with 250mph services will radically improve the quality of train journeys between major cities, according to MPs.

The government’s support for an ultra-fast rail line has generated considerable dissent within the home counties and on Conservative backbenches, amid warnings that it will tarnish the countryside and waste vast sums of public money.

The House of Commons transport committee is giving the project cross-party support ahead of a critical juncture for the plans, with the government set to approve High Speed Two (HS2) when it publishes its response to a public consultation before Christmas.

Louise Ellman, the Labour chair of the committee, embraced the pro-camp’s argument that a new line will eliminate concerns over a capacity squeeze on the west coast main line – one of the UK’s main transport arteries. “A high speed rail network, beginning with a line between London and the West Midlands, would provide a step change in the capacity, quality, reliability and frequency of rail services between our major cities,” she said.

“A high-speed line offers potential economic and strategic benefits which a conventional line does not, including a dramatic improvement in connectivity between our major cities, Heathrow and other airports, and the rest of Europe.”

The Countryside Alliance criticised the committee for failing to consider an upgrade of the west coast line as an alternative to building a new route through the Chiltern Hills, a protected area of outstanding natural beauty, while the TaxPayers’ Alliance accused MPs of failing to subject the case for a “dismal white elephant” to serious examination. “Taxpayers will be disappointed the transport select committee haven’t done more to hold the government to account, and scrutinise this vanity project,” said Matthew Sinclair, a director at the lobby group.

The Association of Train Operating Companies, which supports the line, urged the government to listen to concerns that investment in the existing rail network might lose out to the project. “The committee is right to point out that high speed should not come at the expense of investment in the existing network,” said Michael Roberts, Atoc chief executive.

The Department for Transport welcomed the report as it prepares to publish the findings of a two-pronged consultation on high-speed rail, which is scrutinising the route for the first phase between London and Birmingham and asking whether Britain needs a high-speed rail network.

Despite opposition to the plans from Tory MPs and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, the government is expected to give the project the green light.

A DfT spokesman indicated that the response to the consultation has been largely positive. “The report provides a useful contribution to the debate on high speed rail, and echoes a number of the messages coming out from the responses to the public consultation.”

Dan Milmo

FAST TRAIN

March 3, 2011

This is a hot potato, where do we, as a local party that will have this line running through our patch, stand on this. At first glance it’s easy to shout yes or no, but with many of our transport networks grinding to a halt, this could help. The rest of Europe has these high speed railways and many of us have wanted improvements to our own networks for years, so why not? Also the line mainly follows an old disused line and argueably we need more of these old lines reinstated to take the burden (and the resulting polution) off of the roads.

Below is a very negative view of the HS2, but it seems to be forming into Green Party policy. What do you think?

In his regular column, BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin looks at the environmental issues surrounding the proposed high-speed rail project in the UK.

Rail campaigners said money for the channel tunnel link could be better spent on the existing network

Question: What is the link between the UK’s proposed HS2 high-speed rail line from London to Birnimgham and the Narmada Dam project in western India?

Answer: They are both controversial, both claim huge and questionable benefits, both aspire to the sort of finance that would be denied to small schemes collectively offering equivalent outcomes, both are a gleam in the eye of politicians, both in some way claim to represent “progress”.

I visited the Narmada River several years ago – before the rising waters swamped the ancient riverside temple which attracted thousands of people from aross India for an extraordinary religious festival every year.

Perhaps the dam will fulfil its objectives one day – it’s too soon to say. But I remember the tales of corruption and kickbacks surrounding the dam’s construction, the heroically improbable claims of benefit to far-flung farmers, and – especially this – that a report at the time revealed that India had 100 big dams in need of repair… but couldn’t fund the work.

In the case of the high-speed line from St Pancras to the channel tunnel. Rail campaigners complained that money would be better spent on expanding the existing rail network. But the HS1 was won on the Agincourt Principle – the French have got one, so if we don’t get one they’ll laugh at us.

Reaping rewards

The proposal also adduced huge re-generation benefits to Stratford and East London. And, the Stratford Station did indeed fortuitously prove significant for the UK’s Olympic bid.

But critics complain that the broader benefit to the community has not materialised, and say rich weekenders have reaped most benefit from the line. Paris trains race through Stratford without stopping and Stratford International Station has been tauntingly re-named Stratford Regional. Even Greengauge, the pro high-speed-rail group refer to Stratford station as a white elephant.

So now to HS2 – proposed as part of the coalition’s airports strategy to divert people away from inter-city flying in the UK after they had scrapped plans for a third runway at Heathrow. The response from green groups to this proposal ranges from sceptical to hostile.

The Green Party says HS2 trains would burn 50% more energy than a Eurostar train and twice as much as an inter city train. It supports high speed rail in principle but says the case here has not been made.

The Campaign for Better Transport said it would be preferable to cut fares for all passengers than build a line to benefit the rich few. It fears that the scheme will divert funds from more cost-effective schemes to upgrade the general rail network to the benefit of many more passengers.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the lack of consultation over carving a line through the Chilterns – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – may breach the Aarhus Convention on public participation. The scheme, it said, was a train wreck.

A government spokesman told BBC News that this first proposed leg of a UK high-speed network to Birmingham was not being “badged” as an environmental scheme.

The main aims were to “spread connectivity and prosperity and reduce journey times in a broadly carbon-neutral way” (the local environmental objections would be dealt with by using existing transport corridors and by putting the HS2 in tunnels or cutting for most of the journey through the Chilterns).

Job creation

But the broad principle here reminds me of the old debate about job creation through road-building. “Build a road and the jobs will come,” was an adage from local councils in the 80s and 90s.

Detailed analysis of that axiom by the government’s advisory committee Sactra called its logic into question. Certainly, my own home city of Coventry enjoys excellent “connectivity” at the centre of England.

The lines running across any road or rail map intersect at the spot where Lady Godiva used equine transport to make a protest about government, and since improvements to the West Coast main line Coventry is just an hour away from London. Has prosperity spread to Coventry from London thanks to all this connectivity? It has not.

Yet HS2 has backing from all the major parties (although Labour’s support has appeared a little more wobbly over the past few weeks).

The lobby group Greengauge distils the arguments. It says the travel market is continuing to expand thanks to population growth driven by increasing life expectancy and immigration. This will necessitate more capacity than can be delivered by an improved network without HS2.

It says analysis of existing high-speed (300km/h) trains shows energy consumption levels similar or just 10% higher than the best performing of today‟s 200km/h intercity trains. And it maintains that the carbon advantage of rail over air and private car travel will continue as high-speed rail is introduced.

The arguments will continue. But two factors are likely to prove decisive. First is whether the line will attract funding, especially at a time when cash is so very short. The second is political vanity. When the catcalls of the electorate eventually hound you out of political office it must be nice if you’ve left something behind to show the grandchildren.