Category Archives: Public Transport

Happy Holidays, ASLEF

Christmas and New Year are a holiday season. For two days, the 25th and 26th of December, we enjoy an extra weekend, always granted on those days no matter where it falls in the week, so secure that even when those days fall on Saturday and Sunday, you get an extra two days off Monday and Tuesday.

But then, there are essential services, where people have to work – medical staff, care staff, other less visible services. We’d agree – right? – that someone who works on Christmas Day to provide essential services ought be compensated for it, that someone who works on Boxing Day should be earning a bit extra, that even if they’re getting an extra day’s leave to make up for the day they’re working, they ought also to get more pay for working a day when there’s a reduced shift, when most people are getting to relax with their families and friends.

And we’d agree – right? – that short of emergency, there ought to be an element of choice. If someone’s got to work on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, it ought to be because they’ve chosen to give up their holiday in favour of the extra pay. Everyone’s got a right to work, to be treated as a free worker, not as a machine.
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For Science!

I was on the train last night from Helensburgh to Waverley. By the time I got on, the train was more or less empty: I picked the nearest empty group of seats so that I could take the giant Eskimo coat of warmth off and was about to settle down to reading Darwin’s Watch and texting Kreetch, when I noticed something weird on the window for the seats opposite.

Chocolates on window

Chocolates window on train Taking a closer look, I realised that they didn’t just look like chocolates stuck to the window, they were chocolates that had been stuck on the window. Someone had taken five little moulded chocolates and fixed them on the window glass.

Weird.
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Conservative Transport

With 70 million people ­passing through every year, Heathrow Airport is full up. How we solve the problems facing the UK’s most vital gateway is an issue for the whole country, Scotland included.Ruth Davidson, Best solution to Scotland’s air dilemma is third runway at Heathrow

Conservative politicians disregard global warming and climate change in much the same way as the Judas goat ignores the slaughterhouse employees with stun guns and knives. They know where their money comes from. The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate change denialist body, is chaired by Nigel Lawson, Thatcher’s Chancellor: they can’t be questioned directly about the sources of their funding, but some freedom of information requests about these anti-scientists interaction with government bodies can be found at WhatDoTheyKnow.

So it’s not surprising that Ruth Davidson, new leader of the Scottish Conservatives, should publicly favour a third runway at Heathrow. When Tim Yeo is demanding David Cameron prove he’s a man and not a mouse (mice don’t build runways), it’s turned into what Simon Jenkins inelegantly describes as “big willy politics” – will David Cameron prove he’s man enough to thrust the third runway into Heathrow despite a cross-party consensus against it? In circumstances like that, what’s surprising is not that Ruth Davidson wrote an article about her support for the third runway: it’s just odd she aimed for Scotland on Sunday instead of the Telegraph.
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Alan White: taken for a ride

Why we’re still being taken for a ride by our train companies:

The great irony is that somehow all this mess hasn’t created that terrible a service. Anyone who thinks renationalisation is a silver bullet hasn’t spent six hours in the waiting room at a provincial station on the Continent with no air conditioning and nothing but the town lunatic’s thousand-yard-stare to keep you company; pretty much my summer of Interrailing in microcosm.

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We pay more

If you live in Edinburgh and get a job paid at minimum wage, you would need to work for four hours to buy your return rail ticket to Glasgow.

Actually, you would have to work for five hours, because you probably wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a £3000+ annual season ticket.

Travelling by bus will take at least half an hour more either way (an additional hour’s commute time) but cost about 75% less.

A petition to renationalise the railways got 12,194 signatures before it closed on 4th August this year.

Research by the Scottish Greens [Yes, they looked it up on the Internet and everything] has found that the current cost of a 12-month season ticket between Edinburgh and Glasgow (£3380) is more than the cost of a 12-month ticket that gives you unlimited travel across the whole of Germany’s 21,000 mile network (£3252/€3990). After today’s announcement, the cost of this season ticket is expected to rise by £142 in January.

Edinburgh Fringe: A Beginner’s Diary:

I fly. I know; so bourgeois. I don’t feel good about it, but it was half as expensive as the train, and I am very poor. It isn’t me that needs to change, you guys. IT’S THE SYSTEM. It takes 50 minutes, and is ludicrously easy. I feel like I can begin to understand why rich people are always such thoughtless dicks about things.

Theresa Villiers, who seems to be getting referred to as “Rail Minister” a lot – who knew we had one? – last year called these fare rises “difficult” decisions and blamed the budget deficit.

The rises are part of the government’s agenda to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of running the rail network.

There appears to be a steady delusion among Conservatives that if you pay taxes, you don’t travel by train.

Theresa Villiers, by the way, doesn’t seem to travel by train. Continue reading

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Women for Independence, Independence for Women

Women for Independence goes public with its website this week and will formally launch in September. “The group’s ultimate aim is to increase the number of Yes votes amongst women in the referendum”: autonomous and not affiliated to Yes Scotland, to correct the earlier opening to this blogpost. Yes Scotland are launching a campaign on Scottish independence targeted at women: Women for Independence. The most recent YouGov poll, conducted by the Fabian society, discovered that there is a massive gender split on independence: 39% of men, 22% of women.

The traditional Scottish male way of dealing with such dissension, as we see with Ian Davidson, is to berate the women, inform us we’re wrong, and instruct us how we should change our minds. According to a founding member of the campaign, Isobel Lindsay, the plan is

“Although most of ’s supporters are not involved in party politics, all of us in this new group believe in independence for Scotland. But we also know that women are less likely to vote yes than men in 2014. We want to change that but, first of all, we want to find out what some of the issues are so we can work with women to provide the information they want and, hopefully, persuade them that voting yes makes best sense for them and their communities’ futures.”

Carolyn Leckie says:

“I love that this group is as wide as its name and that we have very diverse reasons for supporting independence, but we all agree that independence needs to be better than the status quo for women. So this group will listen to women and bring women together to organise for our own voices to be heard centre stage, for our own independence as well as that of the nation.”

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Filed under Housing, Public Transport, Scottish Constitution, Tax Avoidance, Women

Death on the roads

I love Fleet Street Fox, I really do, but her blogpost making fun of cyclists and complaining that if you’re squished by a bus you should have been wearing a helmet wasn’t her finest hour.

Jon Snow of Channel 4 has done a five-minute film partly with a helmet-cam of what it’s like cycling in London. He admits near the start that he runs red lights to get ahead of the traffic because the secret to survival is making sure you’re seen.
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Flaming Baguettes and Woolly Thinking

Hugh Robertson MP wrote in the February Olympic Quarterly Report:

“One of the greatest adverts for the UK from the London 2012 Games is the Olympic Park itself, which showcases the best of British architecture, engineering and construction”.

Lord Haskel noted this remark in the House of Lords on 21st May 2012, and added:

It is indeed a wonderful showcase for our companies, which supplied not only the innovative products about which the Minister spoke but also the recyclable materials-products that make this a green Olympics. The floor coverings, waste bins and much of the pipework are all recyclable. The new road surfaces use waste material. The energy centre burns waste material. New materials were developed for the roofing membranes, for the 80,000 seats in the main stadium and for the 6,000 seats in the velodrome. The water and sewerage services are most ingenious. As the Minister said, it is a showcase for the best of British industry. What a good story we have to tell-a story that British companies should tell out loud. They can supply these materials and their products to construction companies in all parts of the world.

However, they cannot tell it. Why? In order to get the business, companies had to sign an agreement that they would not publicise their products without permission from LOCOG. Despite many applications, none of the companies that supplied the products and materials that I have mentioned was given permission. Continue reading

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Access to Waverley Station: Network Rail replies

Steve Montgomery, ScotRail’s managing director, and David Simpson, Network Rail’s route managing director, wrote:

“Thank you for your patience. We are committed to giving more people than ever before the opportunity to travel by rail.”

Unless they’re old. Or have a disability that makes stairs difficult. Or have small children. Or need to travel with heavy luggage.

On 16th April I wrote:

Network Rail want to ban coaches, cars, and taxis from Waverley Station. They’ve come up with a range of excuses why this is a good idea, but I’m pretty certain the real reason is that if they get rid of the taxi rank at the south side of the station, they can have a new row of stalls or shops there. Continue reading

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Olympic spending 2012

David Edgar wrote five years ago:

Take care. In reading this article, you may be in receipt of stolen goods. In fact, the organising committee for a certain upcoming sporting event has decided it would be “disproportionate” to prosecute the author of a book called Olympic Mind Games for breach of copy-right. But, under no less than two acts of parliament, it could if it wanted to.

When it discovered that Robert Ronson’s children’s science-fiction novel was to be published, the organising committee for the previously mentioned happening sent him an email asking that he should use neither the O-word nor the expressions “London 2012, or 2012 etc” in the title. The committee was able to do so under statutes passed in 1995 and 2006, which in effect turn all the elements of its title into a trademark.

As Fleet Street Fox reminded us last week, back in 2005 the Olympics was going to cost us £2bn.

wo years later it was upped to about £9bn and a year after that the bottom fell out of the world financial markets.

This was of course no reason to scale back, and today the costs are around £12bn with a strong likelihood that with police, security and transport costs the final total will be nearer £24bn.

To put that into perspective that’s 800million trips to the local leisure centre for a £3 swim. It’s 240 hospitals, roughly, or 20m nurses on a starting salary of £12,000.

This Thursday, according to the ancient traditions of a bygone regime Continue reading

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