This is a map of the proportions of people who travel to work on public transport, by walking or by bicycle (click to enlarge) as against those who don’t.
This shows an extremely small number of ‘good boys’ in a large class – limited to London, Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford and Cambridge. The rest of us are not in the good camp, though some where roughly equal numbers go by car as do the environmental thing include largely urban areas – see, for example small ‘pockets’ in Plymouth, Exeter, Reading, Southampton, Nottingham, parts of Essex, Manchester, Merseyside, Newcastle and Birmingham. These areas are those where there is a series of local monopolies to provide bus services. (Indeed with no common ticketing system even if two companies run your route you will invariably have to buy a more expensive single ticket every time in order to take advantage of the variety of times and services….)
This is an indictment of UK transport policy although I suspect the UK cannot be said, properly, to have one. It is a classic case of the market will provide, even when it clearly doesn’t. Not only do we now have this January’s rail price hike, which is the biggest for six years, and at a time when most wages are flat, but buses and trains are obliged to run independently for competition reasons. So less wasteful transport co-ordination, which would only increase public transport uptake, is actually seen simply as anti-competitive.
London, uniquely, is exempt from this madness as Thatcher never summoned up the courage to fully privatise London Transport, and London has ended up with a compromise that seems to work. Transport for London specifies the requirements, private companies bid to operate services.
It is at first sight remarkable that government transport policy has not realised that London is easily the most successful public transport authority in the country, but then you have to realise it is also easily the most expensive.
So for buses elsewhere in the UK, the Department for transport is happy to degrade the environment because ‘there is no money’.
Meanwhile trains, which generally transport more wealthy people than buses, cost more than they have ever done, mostly because the decision has been made to shift as large a proportion of the actual cost of running the railway onto its users (though, strangely, fuel tax freezes have, at the same time, offered a declining cost to road users) and partly too, because all the interfaces between Network Rail and operating companies and between operating companies themselves are actually drawn up as legal contracts with appropriate enforceable penalties. Whilst changing the ownership of railway franchises is unlikely to be earth shattering as regards service, it would stop the necessity for constant competition and ceasing legal contracts would reduce unnecessary overheads.
Still, if flying is more important for you because you’re already dreaming of a holiday abroad you will be delighted to discover that the Department for transport has already thought of that and will be enabling us to jet off to foreign lands even after Brexit:
— Dept for Transport (@transportgovuk) January 4, 2019
Why did they post this?
The lack of anything that could remotely be thought of as proper detail about those plans, does not exactly inspire confidence.
Rather like the 80 odd lorries – when they wanted 150 – they got to travel from Manston to Dover, when Dover port actually handles more than 7,000 a day.
It seems that with Grayling as Minister, our entire transport thinking is firmly in the hands of the Brexiters.