Creating a Transport Revolution

Introduction

There is a theme seen in many of our articles and policy papers, the introduction of free services. It is the aim of Rise to introduce free services where possible and reduce the cost of items like housing which use up large chunks of a person’s income. Our focus is on improving the quality of life for everybody. The British have been struggling for far too long. Government spending is an excellent way to stimulate an economy, improve the quality of life and ensure during global downturns people don’t suffer unnecessary hardship.

Public transport is one of the services Rise will make completely free at point of use.

We at Rise are not opposed to car ownership, however we recognise the need to radically reduce car usage. This is not just about environmental issues, it’s also how cars impose themselves on our cities. Go stand by a main road and try hold a conversation. You’ll be shouting to lift your voice above the noise pollution.

A city can be people friendly or car friendly. It can’t be both and car friendly cities don’t work. Build more lanes and more cars come and there’s only so much can be squeezed into a finite space.

Watching the Insulate Britain protests provided an insight into our society. A woman screaming at protesters “I need to get my child to school” and in her rage running her car into the protestors. For her the delay was enough to warrant rage and an assault. Whether you think protestors should block roads or not, the sense you get from the stranded motorists is one of fear of time. Fear of the clock. People are under horrendous pressure to get somewhere. This can be to fulfil zero-hour contracts or a job where they may be fired if they are late. A constant struggle to survive or at best an expectation created by society to be seen to work long and hard. I remember someone telling me speed limits should be relaxed so people could get to their work quicker. His reasoning was people would be more productive.

In reality whether protestors are blocking your route or speed limits are relaxed, it’s unlikely over a year it’ll make much difference to the average time it takes you to get from A to B. I’ve sat in plenty of traffic jams on the M25 on the stretch from the M4 to the M1. A dreadful feeling when you know once you reach the M1 you still have a long journey ahead.

Joined up Civic Transport

For us civic transport systems are defined as the following:

  • Train (including light rail)
  • Bus
  • Tram
  • Underground Train
  • Coach
  • Cycle
  • Pedestrian

The following are defined as private transport:

  • Air
  • Ferry
  • Car
  • Motorbike (including scooter)
  • All other forms of motorised transport not listed in civic transport

While we will not neglect road maintenance and absolutely necessary improvements to the road systems, our main capital investment will be in civic transport. For example, should it be identified there is a bottleneck in a given road network, we will look to resolve with additional civic transport. A new road will be the last resort. Without fail, new roads bring more cars and are not be seen as the answer to congestion problems.

Although it makes little difference whether transport delivery is publicly or privately owned in terms of provision of service (price and quality can be legislated for), we believe a publicly owned transport network allows us much more flexibility to improve and connect services. By publicly owning all the services we ensure the key deliverable of excellence rather than being concerned with profit. We regard transport as integral to the success of the country both in terms of quality of life and also a successful business sector.

Department of Transport

The Department of Transport (DoT) will retain their role of overall strategy for delivering and managing transport solutions. However their purpose will be focused on heavily curtailing road transport.

Department Responsibilities
Department of TransportOverall Strategy
Proactive and Reactive to transport needs  
Network Rail and BusOperational and strategic
Oversee all aspects of rail and bus services  
City and County CouncilsOperational local transport
Responsible for delivery of local transport services
Responsible for improving local pedestrian and cycle  
Councils and PrivateCouncils oversee rules and service links
Air and Maritime stays within the private sector

Rise does not see Civic transport as working in isolation. The local bus should provide a service for the coach or train. They must be synchronised with timetables and frequency complementing each other. While we are creating the necessary civic transport links, we will end carpark charges at railway stations. Charging to park to catch a train goes against the whole principle of encouraging civic transport. Where train stations do not have enough parking facilities, we’ll implement free park and ride.

The Department of Transport will ensure collaboration and joined up services across all transport services.

Network Rail and Bus (NRB)

One of the roles of NRB will be to synchronise the two services in terms of connectivity and timetable. NRB will also be responsible for:

  • Identifying where new services should be provided
    • Work with councils and local people to identify where new bus and rail services are required.
    • Where new routes are identified the NRB will provide project management, funding, and technical resources as applicable.
    • Ensure new services are set up in compliance with disability access requirements
    • Overseeing new rail such as HS2 to the north of England and Scotland
    • Identify and oversee opening new rail links
    • Identify and oversee the opening of new bus services
  • All rail engineering (not bus as this will be more localised)
  • The re-work all rail and bus services to fully and without hindrance meet the needs of disabled passengers
    • Staff readily available to provide assistance if required
    • All bus stops provide audio output of timetables and next bus approaching
    • All rail stations to provide access to platforms to wheelchair users without a need to seek assistance
    • Level boarding for all trains to allow disabled passengers to access trains without the need of assistance
    • Unassisted access to tube platforms for disabled service users
    • All buses will have disability access
    • All trams will have disability access
  • Identify new coach services and oversee implementation
  • All rail transport premises will be owned and managed by NRB
  • Work to move more freight off the roads onto rail especially with the completion of the northern / eastern sections of HS2

Rail Company

The rail company will primarily be responsible for the operation of the railways. This will include:

  • Manage all rail employees.
  • Ensuring staffing levels provide for a 4-day week (reducing to 3 days over time) to meet Rise plan of people doing what needs doing, not fulfilling a time quota. The extra staff means the rail company can flex staff so there are staff to cover holidays, absentees and any short notice needs. Rail workers will need to be on standby on a rota basis. When on standby they will be paid accordingly to reflect the impact it has on their private life.
  • Operate against timetables.
  • Provide clean and safe services at railway stations.
  • Ensure staffing levels meet needs of passengers and particularly that there is always assistance for disabled passengers should it be required.
  • Identify to NRB any areas where passenger service improvements are required.

Bus Company

We regard bus services as the natural choice for local travel (along with tram, light rail, and underground). Bus services should complement rail which would cover middle to long distance typically, although rail can cover shorter distances when stations are situated along a line which goes through the suburbs. Coach services will offer custom journeys where rail cannot reach economically, although decent transport services will allow passengers on occasion to journey by train and then local bus.

As currently constituted, the UK Bus industry is split into a number of owning groups, each of whom have different parts of the UK in which they enjoy a dominant position. London is a little different, and also there are a tiny number of ‘municipal’ companies which remain owned by the councils in which they operate (Blackpool, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newport, Nottingham).

The rest of the UK has commercial groups operating bus services, referred to as the ‘big 5’. These are: Arriva (owned by the German state railway), FirstGroup, Go Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach. The latter three are considered to be the most progressive of the bus groups with clear central policies, Stagecoach being regarded as the most efficiently run of these. Almost all have overseas interests, FirstGroup and National Express have expanded in the USA where they run a significant number of school buses.

Both Arriva and FirstGroup are acknowledged as the weakest of the big 5 groupings, running elderly fleets and not generating sufficient returns to replace vehicles as they wear out. First has a legacy of debt from its overseas expansion and is losing money in the USA on its Greyhound operations. Servicing their debt takes a high priority impacting their bus services in the UK. Arriva and FirstGroup have been seeking to exit the market for some time now, Arriva, due to the debt levels at DB, the German state railway, and FirstGroup due to its 2007 USA investments and the high debt levels it is servicing. Their shareholders haven’t received dividends since 2012. There are a number of steps Rise will take to bring buses back under national control:

  • We will maintain the structure (of limited companies running local bus services from multiple depots) removing the need to ‘franchise’. Essentially we will purchase the share capital of each operating company. We will then retain the existing management teams in the companies ensuring continuity.
  • By doing so we will reverse the privatisation of National Bus Company as it was divided into parcels of companies and sold off one by one. There were no restrictions on onward sales, this is how Arriva/First/Stagecoach got their empires – through the onward sales by management teams.
  • Where there are operators of buses or coaches around the 50-vehicle mark, normally concentrated on a single town/city/county, there will be an option for them to sell to the new holding company.
  • Sale prices will be the agreed for the value of the company properties, plus the book value of the vehicles concerned. If fleets are under finance agreements it reduces the purchase price, but we then novate the vehicle leases to the new national company which lease companies will like because Governments are a reliable payer.
  • We’ll let the bus leases expire, then annually purchase new buses for the overall fleet. As we are bulk purchasing we so corner production lines at the manufacturers, so we can also agree the minimum specifications for vehicle standards, consulting with trades unions accordingly.
  • We will not follow the TfL system of individual route tendering – which is what Labour always proposes, and what Mayor Andy Burnham wants in Manchester. It costs a lot of money in contract management and does nothing for the terms and conditions of the workforce or for the continuity of businesses. You still have market failures where operators go out of business as costs can’t be controlled. Owning the companies insulates the costs, as it becomes ‘a service’
  • Buying the share capital of the big 5 bus groups is the way forward as they are willing sellers. Covid has decimated the revenue streams, and only 80% of the customers have returned to the bus network nationally, but all car traffic has returned. So you have spiking costs on fuel/wages met by reduced revenues.

The bus company will primarily be responsible for the operation of bus services at a local level working with the council for the area. This will include:

  • Provide a comprehensive network of services through provision of evening and Sunday services. Profit will no longer be factor, but rather the need for the provision of a service.
  • We will introduce a new bus investment programme, taking advantage of the economies of scale a cohesive network of bus services will present us.
  • Employees will be encouraged to join a union to ensure their voice is heard.
  • Employees will have direct representation on the board as well as through their union.
  • Employ all bus operational staff
  • Manage all bus facilities
  • Manage the investment plan
  • Manage the relationship with councils
  • Ensuring staffing levels provide for a 4-day week. This will also provide for staffing levels to take on the workload of the present operating companies as they smaller companies come under the Bus Company
  • Operate against timetables.
  • Provide clean and safe services at bus stations.
  • Ensure staffing levels meet needs of passengers and particularly there is always assistance for disabled passengers should it be required.
  • Identify to NRB any areas where passenger service improvements are required.
  • Ensure facilities meet disability needs

Coach Services

There is a national coach network presently in place and this will be purchased and taken into state control. This can either be done through purchasing the operating company directly, or through the share capital acquisition of National Express PLC.

In Scotland, coach services are provided by a separate company, Scottish Citylink and this too would be purchased, should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom.

Operation of National Express services can be undertaken by Network Rail and Bus

It will be necessary to repeal parts of the 1980 Transport Act, which legislated for on road competition between operators.

Car and pedestrian balance

While we are not opposed to the car, we recognise cars impose themselves on our environment and take far too high a priority in infrastructure spending. All new infrastructure projects will give priority to pedestrian and cyclist.

Pavements in city centres will be made level with the road, with a pervious band where the gutter is now. To avoid collisions between cars and pedestrians, small bollards will be placed four feet apart. This will ensure wheelchair users can cross roads much more easily and create the effect of the pedestrian having greater priority over the road.

We will introduce superblocks as have been introduced in Barcelona. Superblocks are blocks of streets surrounded by main routes. By simply adding one-way systems and pedestrianised areas the superblock becomes a haven from the noise and pollution of traffic. Only residents can bring their cars in and out. We will create excellent public transport for these blocks and ensure they have facilities within the block, such as schools and shops. By creating superblocks we create spaces where the residents can regain the streets. With investment we’ll make these superblocks excellent city spaces where children can play out and families can relax together.

We want cities to be places where people live and thrive in their communities, free from noise and air pollution.

People in rural areas have been hit particularly hard by the cutting back of bus services to their communities. This creates serious issues for people needing to access services like post offices, government offices and shopping. We will ensure all villages and small towns are well serviced with public transport with bus services and excellent community transport. Also our commitment to the NHS will mean better transportation for hospital appointments as this has been neglected over recent years. Through support we will re-establish post offices in communities and provide grants to encourage them to expand their services to groceries where it will not undermine an existing local shop.

Flights

As we roll out our highspeed Rail networks, we will ban internal flights to those destinations. Internal flights are environmentally damaging. We also like the plan of Scottish Greens to link highspeed train services to the continent and hopefully we can reduce international flights to the continent too.

Summary

Our plans are to revolutionise transport systems in the UK. Transport is critical to ensuring cohesion and mobility in our society. We see it as a right and as such we will make it a free service. Free services open up opportunities to our whole society. It is part of the plan to make life cheaper with government focusing resources to make a difference to quality of life and is how public money should be spent.

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