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social justice and UK transport policy

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  • Simon Norton
    I don t normally send my posts to more than 1 group, but I wish to combine and link together replies to various posts which went to different groups. Let me
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1 3:04 PM
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      I don't normally send my posts to more than 1 group, but I wish to combine and
      link together replies to various posts which went to different groups.

      Let me start with Todd Edelman's post about the importance of transport to civil
      rights. I agree with Morten Lange who says that the rights of pedestrians and
      cyclists have been trampled over by the excessive use of cars. But I think one
      can go further.

      Car-centric transport planning is discriminatory. Unfortunately discrimination
      against non-motorists doesn't seem to confer the same opprobrium as
      discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion, disability etc. Why not ?
      There are two possible reasons.

      1. People can choose to drive or not to drive, whereas they can't choose their
      skin colour or sex (unless they are trans-sexuals), nor can they choose not to
      be disabled. As for religion, this should be seen as something where people
      should be entitled to choose without prejudice to their rights.

      Well, many people can't choose to drive. They may not be able to afford a car,
      or they may not be old enough to drive, or their sight or reactions may be
      inadequate for safe driving. The disability inherent in the last may not be as
      visible as being in a wheelchair, but why does that disqualify them from the
      right of equal access to services ?

      In addition to this, I think there are many people for whom having to drive a
      car would be as much against their conscience as changing their religion. If I
      had to choose between the latter and the former, I for one would choose the
      latter -- and I belong to a religious group which has in the past suffered more
      than its fair share of discrimination.

      2. Non-drivers are excluded from services in a "natural" way if they are not
      conveniently accessible other than by car. By contrast any discrimination on the
      basis of race, sex or religion will normally be artificially imposed. But this
      is clearly not true of disability. I would expect that on a per capita basis the
      cost of making facilities available for non-motorists would be less than making
      them available to wheelchair users, so if the latter is justified (as I think it
      normally is) why not the former ?

      Eric's latest digest included a reference to a Honk article attacking the UK
      government for its transport policy. I may say that I am not quite clear as to
      the target of the article -- was it specifically the M4 bus lane or was it more
      general ?

      Regarding the M4 bus lane, there are (or were) in fact two. One is on the
      Heathrow spur road, one on the main motorway. I don't know whether the former
      still exists; but my experience is that it was useless as the time taken for
      buses to cross the other lanes to get to the bus lane outweighed any time
      savings due to lower congestion there.

      It is the bus lane on the main motorway that is being stopped. The link to the
      comment by Anzir Boodoo explains why this won't help motorists.

      The bus lane is used mainly by long distance coaches entering London from the
      west and taxis.

      There is a stereotype that time is not an important factor for users of long
      distance coaches. In many cases this is true, but rail fares in the morning peak
      are so high that even those for whom time is of value may use coaches. To give
      an example from my own experience, once I travelled on the first coach from
      London to Birmingham as part of a journey to a deep rural area only to miss a
      vital connection as a result of that coach getting caught up in congestion.

      Many coaches on these routes stop at Heathrow Airport. Passengers from the west
      to Heathrow would not be affected by the closure of the bus lane as the latter
      is east of the airport. Passengers from Heathrow to Central London might be
      affected but this is not a particularly popular journey: it would probably be
      used mainly by passengers changing in Central London to other coaches, but most
      destinations would be served by more direct routes.

      There is also a link to a complaint by taxi drivers. I'm sorry but I simply
      don't see why this is so important. They will predominantly be taking people
      from Heathrow to Central London, and do we really want to encourage people to
      make such journeys by taxi ? The least that could be done to make this
      reasonable is to institute a shared taxi system and restrict the use of the bus
      lane to participating taxis.

      Let me move on to wider issues. Here Eric is more on the ball than he makes out.
      Here are some salient points. (Use the link to Hammond's full speech.)

      1. Hammond starts by blaming the last government for our budget deficit. Surely
      he is aware that this was primarily due to the banking crisis ? It is possible
      to argue that the last government was culpable in not regulating the banks
      properly, but his party didn't argue that at the time, and, more to the point,
      it isn't regulating the banks properly now, with the result that I've seen
      predictions of an imminent repeat. As with climate change, even a small chance
      of a crisis is surely enough to justify preventative government action -- and
      this isn't happening.

      2. Hammond criticises the last government for imposing its will on local
      authorities. This is the same government that is insisting that they cut their
      spending by 25% over the next few years and is preventing them from bridging
      the gap by raising taxes. It has also refused to review a method of local
      taxation that was deliberately designed to be unfair in the Thatcher/Major era
      so that local authorities would be discouraged from "overspending". Support for
      buses is likely to suffer particularly because many other areas of local
      government spending are statutorily required -- while the attitude still
      prevails in many areas that buses should "normally" be run on a purely
      commercial basis. Bearing in mind that fuel tax on buses (but not cars) is set
      to double, in a few years there will be few buses in rural areas outside working
      hours, or possibly at all. Who's imposing their will on local authorities now ?

      3. I don't think I have to refute the suggestion that the last government was
      waging a war on motorists. If only they had been !

      4. One of the key announcements was a rise in tolls for motorists on the
      Dartford Crossing. This would be used to finance a major upgrade of sustainable
      transport in the area, as follows:
      (a) Extension of London's overwhelmingly successful Oystercard system to cover
      all buses and trains in the Thames Gateway development area.
      (b) Building a new bus/rail interchange station where the Dartford Crossing
      meets the high speed rail link between London and Kent/Channel Tunnel and a
      local rail link to South Essex.
      (c) Providing a regular coach service linking the main radial corridors east of
      London to Stansted and Gatwick airports and Ebbsfleet station (which is served
      by Eurostar).
      (d) Providing local buses between Essex and Kent -- currently if you want to
      make that journey in the evening or on Sundays you have to detour 40 or so miles
      via London. There would also be a lift to link a stop at the Dartford tollbooth
      with the existing Fastrack busway network. (I think that there is still a free
      on demand shuttle between this point and a point close to the proposed rail
      interchange mentioned above, but it is only available for cyclists. Otherwise
      the public service is limited to <http://www.ensignbus.com/bus_routes-X80.htm>.
      This prevents people from the Essex side from taking day or weekend trips to
      Continental Europe via the Eurostar railhead at Ebbsfleet.)
      (e) Providing a waterbus service linking the Thames-side communities.
      (f) Improving access to the North Kent countryside by providing bridges over the
      A2. (The public transport is almost all to the north and the countryside to the
      south. The existing bridges are not well located to provide links where they are
      most needed.)
      ...sorry I was dreaming. The stated purpose of the increase in tolls is to
      finance a new road to enable even more people to travel by car and even fewer by
      public transport.

      There is more, but need I go on ?

      Simon Norton
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