How safe is London Transport?

We heard a lot about how unruly kids can be on buses or generally on their way from or to school If children on public transport, mainly buses was equipped with police officers or community safety enforcement personnel.

Looking at the transport situation out of school hours and getting into the personal travel sphere things do not look so good for vulnerable passengers on London transport vehicles. The Underground is at best a tin of sardines in busy times and can also be an oven, turning you into a cooked sardine in a tin, by the time you arrive at your destination.

And with children or disabled and even the elderly travelling on the underground can be frightening and there should be special provision for people travelling with small children. For example children cannot stand in the middle of isles of trains  and certainly passengers are not always willing to give up a seat for a child, so that it cannot fall. It is not separatist to make a car / compartment available for travelling families or children so that they can travel in adequate circumstances and not be exposed to drunk or impatient or badly behaved fellow passengers, which can make travelling with a child a frightening experience.

I can also very well imagine that it must be a nightmare for disabled travellers to get into a train compartment and cannot understand why there is not a specially dedicated compartment for wheel chair users on London underground.

If anything then children are most likely to learn a careless attitude if they have to wedged into a train compartment full of ignorant fellow travellers. If children are treated with respect,  they will learn to respect others when they get older.  If children get acquainted to the elbow attitude whilst young, they will elbow themselves to get a space on a train at a later stage in their lives.

Pro-lib plaid SNP

Having just read that Alex Salmond calls for a progressive Alliance between Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru, shows me that I completely misunderstood the political situation here in the UK. But insofar as Wales is concerned my feeling was right as the Conservatives made significant gains in Wales.

On 5 March 2010, the SNP has expressed anger at Labour plans to slash funding by over 50 per cent the ‘Access for All’ Small Schemes Fund, which is used to improve access to the railway network for disabled people, and has echoed calls by Scottish Government Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson for the planned cut to be suspended.

Mr Salmond was very disappointed when his support slumped to 17 points behind Labour and Mr Salmond’s dream of increasing the number of SNP MPs from seven to 20 and using them to make Westminster “hang from a Scottish rope”, fell apart.

In April Labour rejected a call for fair fuel prices to allow lower fuel duty in rural areas. The SNP does not agree with Labour’s DNA database policies.  Only a short while ago on 8 May 2010 Labour was slammed by the SNP by failing to release £350 million funding for housing.

and yet, the SNP want to go into coalition with the Liberals and Labour against the Conservatives and in fact the SNP went into coalition against David Cameron with Labour in Scotland only very recently.

It must be a deep-rooted historic hate that David Cameron has inherited here because as an unhibited onlooker, I would bet my house on it that the SNP and the Conservatives have naturally more in common than the SNP and Labour ever had. One can even sympathise with Labour’s view that Mr Salmond wants to make himself look more relevant.  But that even such a cynical attitude towards the SNP exists from Labour would not make me think one moment that the SNP would even remotely consider an alliance with Labour, I thought they would be tempted to go in with the Conservatives instead(if they would have them of course).

If I was David Cameron I would take a deep breath and not sell myself short in a panic. After all there are still the 19 independent seats and one more or less safe Conservative seat is still to come on the 27 May 2010. Even if the Liberals go in with Labour and make a slight majority, neither of them would want to be seen as being a hindrance to the UK’s progress, by systematically stalling on necessary policies, that would bring the electorate against them. I think that David Cameron can pretty much count on that scenario would it arise.

It’s all about nationalist interests at the moment in this hectic alliance between Plaid Cymru and the SNP. But have all those seriously considered how they salvage their local economies if they tear away from the Conservative business proposals and try to go it alone? It is not just national / regional pride that is at stake here and David Cameron has pointed out that it is all about the nation and not just certain regions. As far as I can understand from the little historic knowledge I have is that certain regions of the UK felt repressed from the English, but is it now the right time to play that card when the UK stares into the ugly face of recession and a huge deficit? I am a little disappointed that The Guardian jumps straight onto the dissident bandwagon.

At the moment I do not know how those 19 independents are composed but shall comment further when I do.

Extra-curricular schools provision

When my own children grew up the after-school-play centre was free of charge and heavily used by children. Each and every school had a play centre and provided completely subsidised, that was around 25 years ago. Then we had mostly Conservative governments.

Since we had a Labour government that constantly argues for better schooling, we’ve seen the cost of play centre provision rise steadily. For the last 3 years we paid £5 per term for benefits recipients for the ability to send a child to play centre after school and parents still had to pay 20p tuck money per day. And now that cost for play centre has risen to £20 per term without any warning. That is a 150% rise in cost. Obviously we  are told that this is in line with other boroughs but whom do we really have to thank this policy, its the current Labour government that doesn’t allow those subsidies to happen because of the policies, that do  not fund councils as generously as we seen it under Conservative government. A working parent has to pay £5 per day to keep their kid supervised. Considering all other prices rise steadily as well, I find it kind of a little bit unaffordable to work nowadays unless one is in the higher income league. Especially also as the fares constantly go up too.

I heard that other parents also refuse to pay the higher play centre costs and feel sorry for the play centre staff who might get threatened with redundancy over the decision to cut play centre subsidies, whilst no plans are made to cut the cost of East End Life or the wages of local councillors.

Play centres may well be able to earn their costs in an area where most parents are waged, yet in our area, that is still poverty stricken, we’ll see a reduction in after-school services. Holiday play centres have already been cut to 2 in the whole of Tower Hamlets. That is also a change to a free play centre per school 25 years ago.

It now explains why the Council built a controversial playground behind one of our housing blocks and then makes such drastic rises in the cost of in-school play centre provision, as if this new playground shall make up for the loss of supervised playing time.

Considering that Tower Hamlets Council also cut youth provision by 5% and we recently had a spade of murders of young persons, I do not believe that this Labour government and Labour council take the future of our children seriously. A well run play facility will help with the social cohesion of children and cultural integration but the less of that provision is available the less that social cohesion is going to happen.


Statue dedicated to the traveller in Oviedo, Spain

Statue dedicated to the traveller in Oviedo, Spain

If this “parking tax”as proposed by Sadiq Khan, Labour’s new minister for transport, as reported by the Press Association and picked up from Yahoo News, gets the go ahead, we can look forward to the re-structuring of traffic soon unless the car industry comes up with cars that are so environmentally friendly and cheaper to run that the amount of an eventual £350 per year of parking tax could be recouped by the users.

Initially the “parking tax”is scheduled to start off with £185 per year, to be paid by companies that provide car parking spaces for employees. This scheme is to be tested by Nottingham City Council. Is it coincidence that we get the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham scenario again? But really Sadiq Khan should be on the side of Robin Hood shouldn’t he, as Labour Party minister who opposes extradition treaties with the US!

What are the real motives for this new tax grabbing incentive? Could it be that Mr Khan is genuinely concerned about the environment and wants to discourage use of the car to curb omissions or does Mr Khan think that the use of car parking spaces take away from potential housing being built?

I always thought that companies could use their property any way they liked but that will now be challenged by this new initiative of the Labour Party.

On speculation what such a new tax would create we first of all have to look at the fundamental change of rights of owning property as the business owner will be told you can do anything that is not environmentally and health detrimental and you cannot provide car parking spaces for employees unless you pay us a tax on it.

For traffic we get the gist is that the revenue created shall be used for a tram system. Not too bad a motive I suppose but as of now traffic – and I speak as a resident of London – is already having problems sharing the thoroughfares sensibly and happily between buses, cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

Our roads are set up to allow for cars and buses in the middle, the sides are reserved for pedestrians but increasingly shared by cyclists who do not want to keep to the roads. We do have an “on your bike” campaign going on as well and I just wonder whether the whole traffic infrastructure should be re-thought to allow more driving space dedicated to cycles, whether the direction of policies is going to be, ban cars from the roads, unless they are public transport and only allow company vehicles or otherwise pedestrians, trams, buses and cycles on the thoroughfares or should we strive for battery driven cars that need to be parked somewhere at the cost of parking tax.

Not an easy decision but having taken to foot and public transport my point of view is that I miss clarity on national policy about transport issues, this also being stirred up even more by the current dispute over rail franchising and profitability of the rail network.

We get the keep to the time tables movement who do not understand that unless you have roads like in American cities, wide and not narrow as in London’s Bank area, we cannot keep to regular times, that also put pressure onto the argument and caused time displays of buses predicted arrival times, which are not reliable as I could see.

We get the back on your bikers who cause cyclists to use pavements as cycling routes.

And there are many more transport initiatives and all those taken together, cause our local environments to be riddled with transport thoroughfares of one sort or another. If things go on like this we have to invent floating houses so we can escape the constant flow of traffic in front of our doors or virtual schools so our children avoid being run over by bikes on the way to and from school.

The emphasis of our lives is not where we live anymore, our homes are not the centre of our lives any longer and business activity goes on around it, our homes are mere containers from which we emerge to go somewhere else to work , shop or holiday and hence all our homes are surrounded by some sort of constant traffic. With all those schemes traffic tends to increase rather than decrease and our local economies nonviable with fast food outlets becoming the norm for social gathering rather than pubs, who would also find the parking tax unaffordable. With fast food outlets the gathering can take place in the street, hence we see so many congregating around them at night time.

We should examine what is the idea of a home and how many hours we spend out of it and live out of suitcases, and take-away cartons. Surely and originally a home was a permanent place to live and work activities took place around the home either by rural production or economic activity but this is apparently no longer so, and since we have created the travelling citizen, government have become viable institutions but without it, they could not fatten their MP’s to the extend they do now.

Car in garage, get on the train

British rail first class wagon

British rail first class wagon

The most positive bit of news I read today was that rail operators want more rail lines to enable an extra passenger capacity of 1 million.

Those lines that were closed under the 1960s Beeching cuts now come in handy again. A bit like fashion, keep it in the cupboard long enough.

The car craze is going to come to an official end, even though even this morning I could not help admiring a sports care breezing past me and wondering whether I ever can afford one of those myself.

Definitely business for train travel is going to be booming the more the environmental lobby publishes for greener living and since even the most sceptical scientists have acknowledged that the oncoming earth warming is due to our making, e.g. carbon emissions, the train has it.

Well in the 60s the car industry had much to gain by selling us automobiles and now since its getting gradually out of fashion even those inner London narrow roads can breathe a sigh of relief as they will not be widened ever.

One obvious advantage for train travel, for those who can’t afford a chauffeur is that one can get quite a bit of work done, whilst sitting in a train carriage equipped with hot spots.

I love to ride my bicycle

Map of the triangle that includes, Approach Road, Old Ford Road, Sewardstone Road, Victoria Park and names some local schools in the area

Map of the triangle that includes, Approach Road, Old Ford Road, Sewardstone Road, Victoria Park and names some local schools in the area

and yes, I used to do it for a living, when I could not get any other job, I signed up to be a cycle courier and I was 43 at the time and had 5 children, nevertheless I couriered around London, cycling 12 hours per day and carrying weights of up to 30kg on my back.

So I know how difficult it can be to go around London and to avoid riding on pavements. It is simply just the shortest route, especially when one has time pressures. Who can remember the famous pictures of Boris Johnson and David Cameron being caught out cycling in places where they should not be?

View Larger Map
In my local area, e.g. around Sewardstone Road, Approach Road, Old Ford Road, we get a fair amount of cycling on the pavement. People come from the park and continue across the zebra and on the pavement, especially so as the new boulders have been erected to stop a direct descending from the park into Approach Road.

But, as had been mentioned in a recent meeting on Parkview estate, parents bringing their children to Gatehouse School often cycle on pavements, through Parkview estate and not too slow neither. Just yesterday I witnesses a young boy with his father racing around the estate on the way to school.

We all love Gatehouse School as a most valuable addition to our local community and especially also as Gatehouse School now rents the hall from our local church. I know some parents there and had some dealings with them years ago about the fencing to stop local youngsters climbing over their wall to use the play equipment there.

On that point, we hope to improve play facilities in the area very soon and await approval that the play area behind Rosebery House can be revamped.

Back to cycling, I very much welcome the initiative to increase cycling rates but miss the travel infrastructure for this. Here in East London we usually have heavy traffic going in and out of London from cars, Sewardstone Road is especially busy and so is Old Ford that is very narrow.

I however do get alarmed when I walk along with my 4 year old and bikes are zooming past. When I remarked to a Gatehouse parent recently, I was called stupid. I don’t think it is necessary to lower the tone that much, at least, one could answer, I can understand your concern and we could make a working group on how to improve the pedestrian areas and or road to allow for easier cycling routes but nothing of the sort.

Both Approach Road and St James Avenue are very sleepy streets, with hardly any traffic and the path through Parkview estate is used by parents bringing their children to one of the 5 local schools in the morning. Maybe we could improve awareness to take care for cyclists not to alarm pedestrians as to their style of cycling, so that we all can use our footpaths in peace.

I personally disagree with the Mayor on the point of traffic in London. I feel it should be restricted to delivery vehicles and public transport and taxis and allow the rest of the city to become pedestrian areas. The density of traffic in London is alarming and the air quality a concern. I am rather green and to really encourage more cycling one has to reduce the street traffic from cars.

Cyclists, are in a category that doesn’t fit in either with cars or with pedestrians but they are doing the right thing and get my encouragement, but just not too fast on pavements when it can be avoided. The danger is that one is late one morning and realises how fast one can cycle to save time and then tends to cut that little bit of time to be even more economical with time planning and gets faster and faster each day.

If anyone is interested in a working group to improve the traffic infrastructure around East London, here Bethnal Green please get in touch. I wish to thank all parents from a local school who were kind enough to return my questionnaires about cycling on pavements.

I don’t think that our local cycling problem is an isolated one and that this needs addressing everywhere. Hope we can learn from the Dutch who got a great cycling culture.

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