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Module:6  Travel and Transport

opening impossible. Successive governments since the 1950's have refused to invest in railways and the Railways Act 1993 privatised the remains of the network. It was set up in such a way that government could still maintain control without the financial investment. In simple terms this means that no company can make a realistic profit without forcing the passengers to pay inflated prices.8 At the start of 2008, with a new round of fare increases biting, British passengers now pay more than twice the amount their European counterparts pay for comparable journeys.

Buses also have been pushed firmly into the private sector. Local authorities have little control over what buses are run where or how much is charged. They can put certain services out to tender that are deemed to be socially necessary, but Central Government has been successively reducing the funding available to allow this to happen.

In the meantime little is being done to encourage people to use public transport in preference to the private car. In fact First Group wanted to run an integrated bus and train service in West Yorkshire and were prevented from doing so because it was deemed to be unfair competition!

All people aged over 60 now have free travel on many services. In some areas this is having a detrimental effect on young mothers who wish to travel but still have to pay and have difficulty using the buses because they are overcrowded. Many operators are being poorly compensated for free travel passes and are losing money. Some are inflating fares to fare payers to compensate.

Cyclists are encouraged to use trains – as long as they don't take their bikes on the train! Many trains in Europe have adequate cycle storage space. On British trains every square foot of space is costing money because the rolling stock is leased. Therefore, as many full-fare paying passengers have to be crammed into that space as possible in order to generate sufficient profits to keep the company in business. Consequently, on many trains there is no room for bikes.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s all local authority highways departments worked to a manual created by the Ministry of Transport which dictated the precise road layout to be adopted for any given circumstances. On every almost every page it was stressed that pedestrians and cyclists were hazards to be kept away from cars at all times. The result is a network of roads across the country where cyclist are not welcome and feel very unsafe. Alongside this is a driver mentality that does not tolerate cyclists. The majority of people who can be encouraged onto a bike feel safer cycling on pavements, amongst pedestrians, even though it is against the law to do so.

Flying has increased at a phenomenal rate in the past ten years and 1.3 million take a flight from a UK airport every single day. This represents nearly one third of all air travel from EU airports9. Most of these flights are less than 500km, a distance that could comfortably be covered by train at one tenth of the pollution.10 Energy consumption by the air industry in the UK has increased 41% since 1994, compared to an EU average of 35% over the same period.11 Due to the fact that no tax is paid on aviation fuel the air industry

8Christian Woolmar – Rail Magazine

9Eurostats 206

10John Whitelegg. Flying into trouble. Green Party  2003.

11Eurostats 2006.


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