“I can’t take my chauffeur everywhere” past Conservative candidate for Tottenham stated when he was caught for drunk driving. That comment by Derek Laud could be argued to sum up government attitudes to public transport; that it is simply not on their radar even when it is irresponsible not to consider it. Successive governments have lacked the will to prioritize public transport and invest the time and money needed to update services and improve access. Labour’s John Prescot promised in 1993 that “any privatisation of the railway system which there is, on the arrival of a Labour government will be quickly and effectively returned to public ownership”. Promises broken. The Luis tram in Dublin connects the city efficiently and safely. We can shoot across Sweden, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, France and yet for us progress crawls and is often derailed by indifference. The Green Party understands that an integrated, affordable, reliable green public transport system is part of the structure that can help build resilient, healthy economies and communities. Public transport is a tool for people and planet. It also plays an important role in supporting enterprise. Businesses large and small rely to some extent on public transport systems. It is needed by local food networks, producers and shops. This month our regional website recorded Green Councillor Richard Mallender, of Rushcliffe Borough Council and Green MEP candidate Katarina Boettge’s reactions to uneven public transport expenditure: eastmidlands.greenparty.org.uk/news.html/2013/02/01/greens-slam-hs2-proposal. This post is an opening up of that debate.
While an increasing amount can be dealt with in the virtual world, via internet and satellite, there are times when human to human contact is the missing link. Meetings and conferences like the Green Party Spring Conference and 40th birthday celebration this week rely on public transport beyond one high speed link. Local and regional services should not suffer for one high speed line.
Mobility for many is limited by inadequate public transport, often coupled with economic injustice, with isolation posing threat to the physical and mental well-being of many. Those reliant on public transport include the elderly, those with disabilities, students, young people and parents with young children. Buses and trains form vital life-lines to shops, post offices, places of work and study, play and social groups. These services are often unreliable, infrequent, expensive, vanishing. Instead of such retraction of service we need to broaden access and appeal. Air quality, public and planet health are adversely affected by congestion and over reliance on cars. Fuel poverty increases with over use of fossil fuels and energy security is threatened. Cycle lanes, walk-ways and better rail and bus networks with lower fares offer a healthful, sane and regenerative system in place of the predominant congesting crawl of cars squabbling over parking space. People are travelling ever further from home to work as local communities, economies and eco-systems are undermined.
If we are to support the strengthening of our communities and the building of a sustainable and durable economy we need efficient, affordable public transport. We need it to connect people; to empower ethical enterprise and those at risk of isolation, poverty and social exclusion. Improving services such as bus and trains creates and secures more jobs. This is needed in these times of economic insecurity. Improved air quality protects our health. Good public transport, efficient, green, safe, affordable, accessible is win-win. We are told it is not a priority. Frankly, what of importance does seem a priority in much of mainstream political rhetoric at the moment? The NHS, schools and other public services are struggling through cuts while we spend billions on weapons and millions on creating new roles in management. It is not a matter of lack of money as much as irresponsible lack of vision. Let us not allow those who rely on chauffeurs to dictate our direction and those who break their word to define our reality.
Happy travels and blue skies in this season of no leaves on the line 🙂