Tag Archives: Transport

SCC AGM: LibDem Leader’s response

Dave WoodIn responding to the Leaders statement, Lib Dem Leader, Dave Wood responded:

I wish to focus mainly on two areas that have hit the headlines innumerable times during the course of the last year – that is Suffolk’s Education and Suffolk’s Roads and Transport.

Over the last year headlines regarding Suffolk education have made appalling reading. In March Ofsted told us Suffolk County Council’s support for school improvement is ineffective, and that the life chances of young people in Suffolk are being damaged by the local authority’s failure to challenge and support schools. We have to ask if this is because the administration placed too much focus on the Schools Organisational Review programme. This has has resulted in the closure of several good middle schools, which in turn has resulted in additional classrooms having to be built in many Primary Schools to take extra pupils up to the age of 11.

As the result of a challenge by one of my group regarding the closure of Badwell Ash Primary School and others we are glad to see that Suffolk County Council is now consulting on ways to prevent further closures.

Yes we are aware that the Raising the Bar programme has had some early successes and I was only to pleased to attend the awards ceremony that saw a project from my area that I had nominated and provided a grant for win one of the awards . But one has to ask, is everyone committed to this initiative ? is everyone behind it and aware of it? and is it bringing about the change our young people need?

I am pleased to point out that LibDem intervention – including media coverage bringing the matter to scrutiny has resulted in change regarding the education of Suffolk children excluded from school – premises are now being registered, inspected and some were even closed down due to safeguarding issues.

Transport and Roads – always a thorny subject in our rural county. In October of last year the County Council finally managed to outsource Highway services to Kier MG after the debacle earlier in the year where the arrangements for a preferred bidder all fell apart at the very last moment. As regards the new provider – well I think we can all say that the jury is out regarding the service they are delivering. The headlines in the local media have hardly been glowing in the past few months. There have been significant teething troubles with extraordinary delays and hefty increases in Councillor funded projects. We are lucky we didn’t have a winter like the previous three or four or but the rain produced its own problems, and I’m afraid to say that our new providers severely dented their reputation with repairing of potholes throughout the county. Just one example – a pothole in the main street has been repaired at least four times to my knowledge and each time within a few days of the repair it is just as bad as it was before. When asked why this was, the workmen said, sorry this is just a temporary repair as we do not have the right materials available to repair it correctly. Is this value for money? I think not.

As regards transport, many of the knee-jerk decisions made in previous years – such as the abolition of the excellent Explore card, and the cancellation of many SCC subsidised bus services- have turned out to produce entirely predictable adverse consequences costing Suffolk much more than the savings made: with impact on rural isolation, NEETs, health, employment, training.Just as we predicted. Yes, SCC has finally introduced the Endeavour card – a poor replacement to the Explore card which they binned – but so far less than 1000 young people have registered – as opposed to the 28,130 16-19 year olds who held the Explore card when it was cut halfway through the academic year 3 years ago. Hardly a substitute, then.

Finally to finish on a positive note. Even though Suffolk Coast and Heaths and The Dedham AONB units saw a drastic reduction in their funds from government and locally, this resulted in a reorganisation of their resources to form a joint team while keeping their own individual identities. Both of these units have been extremely successful in obtaining grants from outside sources to enable important projects to be undertaken in their respective areas. An extremely successful European funded project has just reached its conclusion in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB which will bring benefits to tourists , inhabitants and businesses alike, as well as the Lottery Funded Touching the Tide project which is extremely successful and attracting great media attention. The Suffolk Coast and Heaths Management Plan was adopted by all the relevant Local Authorities and enjoyed a successful launch. Such is the importance of these areas to businesses – bringing in millions per annum- that an active team, partnership and plan is essential and hopefully within the next year we will see an extension to the AONB ratified , with the inclusion of the South side of the Stour.Although in Essex I can assure you all it will retain the title Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB.

UKIP: “Safer lorries? Nein danke!”

Suffolk cyclists and pedestrians will be delighted to hear that  new regulations on lorry design were adopted by the European Parliament  on Tuesday with a huge majority.

Inadequate HGV design has been implicated as a significant factor in the deaths and injuries of pedestrians and cyclists. Lorries are involved in almost one in five cycle fatalities in Britain.

Under changes pushed by Liberal Democrat MEPs, the design of lorry cabs are set to be changed. Crucially they will have larger windows to the front and side – which will increase the driver’s field of vision and reduce blind spots.  New vehicles would also have a crumple zone and a rounder front, with the intention of reducing the severity of injuries to vulnerable road users – in a  collision the design would allow a cyclist or pedestrian to be deflected away from the lorry rather than being dragged beneath it.It is thought the proposal could help prevent dozens of fatal accidents each year.

Although the vote was 606 – 54,  embarrassingly, more MEPs from the UK than any other country voted against adopting these  new rules and half of the 12 were from UKIP UKIP votes lorry, including  UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Another vote against was from the BNP’s Nick Griffin.

A full list of nay-sayers can be found here.

This vote show how divorced UKIP MEPs are from any  activity except that of claiming expenses,  ” says LibDem Transport spokesman Caroline Page.

I have twice been very nearly killed by a lorry when cycling. In both cases, poor visibility from the cab was the key issue. I am sure  that lorry drivers will welcome these proposals as fervently as cyclists and pedestrians.

 Lorry drivers don’t want to become killers, any more than cyclists want to be killed. How hard is that for UKIP to understand?”

Caroline Page

Greater Anglia to remove cycles from trains?

4SuffolkSUnriseWhile Suffolk’s public health team are encouraging people get out of their cars an onto bicycles, Suffolk train operator Greater Anglia has produced a draft cycle strategy  stating pretty unequivocally that their future intention is that they will no longer carry cycles on the trains.

The company says it is  intending to work towards “ a ‘corridor approach’ where a specific problem exists with cycles on trains, and to provide secure cycle parking and hire at both ends of the train journey so that customers are encouraged to either have a cycle at both stations, or to take advantage of cycle hire or possibly another sustainable mode of transport from their destination”. You can read the full  piece below.

“Whilst bike and go is a suitable model for some cyclists – principally those with simple journeys, who are affluent enough to afford two bicycles or the £3.50 a day to hire one – this plan will  further disadvantage those passengers who are poor, with few travel options, and/or need to take a train to and from a rural destination. The Wickham Market station at Campsea Ash is a prime example – here there IS no sustainable transport,  no likelihood of cycle hire, no secure parking, and the town is some miles of unpavemented, unoccupied rural road from the station,” says Lib Dem Spokesperson for Transport, Caroline Page.

“I am further concerned about  other wording elsewhere which suggests that folding bicycles may not in the future be considered as luggage, although they may well be smaller than other pieces of luggage. This is a worrying development.

As another part of this consultation, Greater Anglia are planning on setting up a Cycle Forum to assist them in decisionmaking. I have already written to ask that I be included in this, and am awaiting their response.”

The consultation relies on one to download a pdf  hidden on a page in Greater Anglia’s website and then make a  response in writing, or by email. 

Cycle Strategy Responses
Greater Anglia
11th floor
One Stratford Place
LONDON E20 1EJ
cyclestrategy@greateranglia.co.uk

Please clearly mark your response ‘Draft Cycle Strategy

 The  draft cycle strategy as relating to Cycles on trains:

“Our policy in the short term continues to be that we will try to accommodate the carriage of cycles on trains free of charge wherever we possibly can. However, we have to balance this demand with the views of our customers as a whole, some of whom are beginning to voice understandable concerns about the safety of carrying large numbers of cycles at peak times. Our objective for the medium to long term is therefore to reduce the carriage of cycles on trains by stimulating behavioural change.

Many of our trains carrying commuters into London and regional centres such as Cambridge are becoming increasingly crowded, and it has already become necessary to impose restrictions on the carriage of non-folding cycles at these times. We will keep these restrictions under review, but as the use of our services continues to grow, we believe that we and future franchisees will have to consider a widening of the restrictions to cover other routes and services. Unfortunately, it is not a simple matter to provide additional carriages, and the priority will always be to provide seated or standing accommodation for passengers.

We are therefore conscious that we need to work with stakeholders to find alternative solutions to this problem. These need to be viable alternatives, rather than just more punitive restrictions.

We believe the options are to take a ‘corridor approach’ where a specific problem exists with cycles on trains, and to provide secure cycle parking and hire at both ends of the train journey so that customers are encouraged to either have a cycle at both stations, or to take advantage of cycle hire or possibly another sustainable mode of transport from their destination. This reflects the culture in force in many parts of Europe and will require considerable resolve on the part of our company and all of our stakeholders if it is to become the norm in this country.

There may also be options around wider use of folding cycles, provided that these are used with sensitivity for the needs of other customers. We appreciate that there needs to be a considerable amount of partnership working and goodwill from all parties to manage this difficult situation. We undertake to work with other train operators on shared sections of route to manage the problem consistently and as sympathetically as possible. We will also engage with local authorities and cycling groups to implement the ‘corridor’ approach where it is practical to do so”