If our MP, John Hayes, thinks that privatisation has brought about the best of all worlds on our railways (Hayes in the House, Free Press, August 1), then he obviously doesn’t use the line which passes through his constituency.
Even Network Rail officials I’ve spoken to accept that the Peterborough to Lincoln service is not fit for purpose. Each time the franchise comes up for renewal, we hear rumours of improvements in the timetable, and each time they come to nothing.
In other parts of the country, long-overdue electrification schemes have been cancelled. Our fragmented rail network is an international laughing stock; rail users in other European countries can’t believe their luck knowing we’re paying through the nose so that subsidiaries of their national operators, who run many of our franchises, can use the profits to keep fares down in their own country.
Apparently the Tories believe it’s fine for our railways to be run by state-owned operators as long as they’re owned by foreign states.
If our MP and our local councillors are lobbying hard to improve our rail services, they’re keeping very quiet about it. Yet a magic money tree grows overnight to allow South Holland District Council, after many years of swingeing service cuts, to plough £100k into the Road to Nowhere, alias the Western Relief Road (Green light for relief road cash, Free Press, August 1), though to whom it will provide relief from what seems less than clear.
At one of the earlier consultation events I asked a planner how it makes sense to dump thousands of extra cars a day onto the existing road network between Spalding and Pinchbeck when this is already subject to very long tailbacks.
Cars have to go somewhere, I was told. I then asked what measures were included when planning the new developments to make it easier and safer for residents to walk or cycle into town rather than using their car. You can guess the answer.
It’s all very well for Mr Hayes to bemoan the loss of restaurant cars (they still exist for some first-class inter-city passengers, of course), but this country’s chronic transport problems won’t be solved by nostalgia.
We’re approaching a crisis point, not just because of overcrowded trains and gridlocked roads, but also because of dangerous levels of air pollution in our towns and cities. Our Government’s response? They’ll start phasing out petrol and diesel cars in 23 years, and put the responsibility for dealing with air pollution onto local authorities they’ve systematically starved of cash.
We desperately need radical and far-sighted thinking, but I don’t see any sign of it coming from the Tories.