One of the themes of local campaigning and Green politics is of course transport issues. The city is widely recognised for its clogged and polluted, vehicle-focussed transport system. Many years of initiatives have brought some limited improvements, though it’s taken many years: bus priorities, some cycle instrastructure, and a few more pedestrian priorities. I’ve lost track of how slowly these have been achieved! So an invitation to attend and speak at the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways (FOSBR) AGM recently was very interesting.
This fascinating and informative local rail-focussed evening was packed with ideas – all credit to the dedicated group keeping our under-utilised local railways on the agenda for investment. I have personally appreciated the rise in reliability and frequency of local trains.
It followed a series of other transport events. These range from the city Cycle Forum, with a major discussion on cycle safety initiatives; work with neighbours in the Redland ward to initiate Community Speed Watch on a busy rat run; discussion on a local walking guide to the area; and previous public transport events around high bus fares. A nice multi-modal mix to highlight so many issues we face locally!
Our Green manifesto – and special election Transport Mini-manifesto – for the city makes clear our commitment to an Integrated Passenger Transport Authority for the area – a prerequisite for effective local management and investment in co-ordinated transport that we all need. The FOSBR event also highlighted the debate over private versus public ownership of rail franchises. see the motion debated at: http://fosbr.org.uk/news/2014/resolutions-from-fosbr-agm-17th-january-2014
Our Green MP Caroline Lucas currently has a Railways Bill in Parliament showing how clear we are that public ownership – letting old franchises run out and revert to public control – is a simple way to regain user-focussed services instead of fragmented, shareholder-focussed rail businesses.
I believe some form of public control, maybe strengthened by user involvement via a community rail partnership model, can ensure better services that meet our needs, protect the environment, and treat staff fairly. Many ideas around this were featured in a packed debate at our recent autumn Green Party conference.
Local control of our buses is also needed – witness the recent problems over First Group re-routing the no. 20 away from Bishopston ward residents and then saying they’ll move the route back, but away from Redland ward residents who after a brief spell of a more convenient service are clear they also need a local route. I’ve actively taken this up and been to lobby First Bus directly as currently only by finding an operator to run and manage a viable route can we get better bus services for residents. The company were, I am delighted to say, quite open to explore some new possible route options that will cross our ward with better services. I look forward to news of this in the near future. See my letter to the Post about this – on my letters page.