Northern Rail and Transpennine Express Trains put profits before passengers!
Scarborough and Whitby Constituency Labour Party members are incensed over the lies and hype around George Osborne’s “Northern Powerhouse” claims.
Following the cancellation of rail electrification plans in the North, there is even more bad news for passengers and Transpennine Employees travelling from Scarborough over the Pennines. A threat to both jobs and to passenger safety comes in the form of proposals for the new Northern and Transpennine Express Rail Franchises due to start on 1st April. The franchises will be jointly managed by a new body “Rail North” – chaired by Sir Richard Leese – and comprising representatives of 29 Northern Councils / combined authorities and the Department for Transport.
Train Guards will be axed from rail services to and from Scarborough by Transpennine Express resulting in “Driver Only Trains”.
At present railway regulations guarantee that passengers in the North always have a Guard / Conductor on their train. In addition to the driver, passengers to and from our seaside resort know there will always be a highly trained guard to protect the safe operation of the train and deal with emergencies, such as fire, derailments and driver incapacity. The Guard also provides general assurance to passengers, ticket and travel advice and revenue protection. ASTONISHINGLY, THE PROPOSED RAIL FRANCHISE AGREEMENTS MEAN PASSENGERS WILL NO LONGER HAVE THIS PROTECTION.
There is also no guarantee that current ticket offices and station staffing will be retained on the new franchise. More …
Recently I wrote to Don McKenzie (portfolio holder with responsibility for public health) at North Yorkshire County Council) because of concerns that had been raised with me by members of a local community group – ‘Friends of the Old Railway’. I play a very small part in the organisation giving what support I can, to a dedicated group of people trying to protect and promote this wonderful community asset, the Cinder Track, that stretches along the coast from Scarborough to Whitby. The route provides fantastic access to our dramatic coastline and the North York Moors National Park; as well as providing a safe off-road route for pedestrians and cyclists in the urban sections at either end. I am also a member of the North York Moors National Park Authority, which recognises the strategic importance of this asset and we were very disappointed when our £5m bid to Government to improve cycling infrastructure in our National Park was unsuccessful. Well over a 1000 trips per day are made along the Cinder Track in urban Scarborough; some for recreational purposes but most simply as a way of getting about. The route is strategically important for many reasons but specifically in relation to tourism and in the promotion of North Yorkshire County Council’s Public Health agenda. The bid included £2m to bring the track surface up to a decent condition and emphasised the benefits that improving the track would bring not only to sustainable tourism and a cleaner environment but also to public health, by encouraging everyday physical activity. More …
Given that so few people vote in local elections, one would probably be correct in assuming that many people don’t really care all that much about councillors. So when a proposal is made to reduce the number of councillors – as it was in our manifesto for the county council elections in May – the idea should be based on the notion of re-engagement with the electorate and of creating a structure which is transparent, accountable and responsive.
Sadly, in this Conservative dominated area, Labour did not secure enough support for our candidates for us to be in a strong position to push through our proposals, which were based on getting rid of the wasteful two-tier system of local government in North Yorkshire, and thus removing 72 councillors at the county level. Instead, what we face now is a purely cost cutting exercise in reducing the number of councillors at the district level. Some district councils in the region have already embarked on this course, and now Scarborough Borough Council is joining the club. A review has been set in motion to see whether the council really needs 50 members.
Like so much of the cost cutting agenda, this review is unlikely to look at the systemic waste of the two tier system, but will take a purely parochial path. I predict it will recommend a council size of about 40, if what has happened in other authorities is anything to go by. Any proposals will have to be approved by the Boundary Commission, so the outcome may not be known for a year or two.
Is this cost cutting agenda an attack on local democracy? Are we actually over represented now? The fact that these changes are being proposed purely to save money makes me suspicious – when the Conservatives have agreed amongst themselves to leave the two tier system alone. They are not looking at making a better system, but instead have chosen to accept the Coalition Government’s line that local councils are bloated, bureaucratic and inefficient. They talk of ‘localism’ but at the same time engender a view of local democracy which seeks to diminish it. This is in sync with the Government’s capping of council tax and the ‘localisation’ of government funding (e.g. for council tax benefits) when what is really delivered is another mechanism for cuts.
Will there be a proper debate about this? Or is it in effect an already done deal? Who will be consulted? What is the case?