Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Preaching to the "won't be budged"

Notwithstanding the albeit rare example of a waste of precious resource I talked about in my previous post, public transport - and buses in particular - remain the best option for mass transportation. That, of course, may seem blindingly obvious.
But in an age where, if you use the roads, you won't go far without encountering some form of congestion or delay, consider these words from a "leading businessman" in the West Midlands:
"People who travel in cars pay tax which subsidises those who travel by public transport. Cars are becoming more environmentally friendly with reduced emissions but Centro is still determined to get people out of them, showing it is out of touch with the lives of ordinary hard-working people".
That is a quote from Chris Kelly, who owns Keltruck, a dealership which sells lorries, in the Express & Star (27/05/11) in response to Centro plans to bid for Government money under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Centro is bidding for £41.8m in total, but is pledging £12.4 of our local Council Tax as part of this.
The plan is to encourage more use of public transport by making it relevant to people who ordinarily don't use public transport. This is proposed to be achieved by such things as personalised journey planners, more awareness of public transport (and by golly, we need more of that!), the development of mobile phone technology so that people know where their bus is, and more understanding of the potential for car sharing.
All very laudable aims.
But you'd expect that from me - you've probably gathered by reading this blog that I'm passionate about good public transport and the wider role in society it plays, and has the potential to play. I welcome this initiative.
But why the hand-wringing and belly-aching from a bloke who sells trucks?
Does he not appreciate the traffic nightmare that is often the West Midlands or, lets face it, any large urban conurbation that for large chunks of the day is snarled up with traffic? What price is that traffic congestion having on our already under pressure economy?
Yes, cars are getting more environmentally friendly (as are buses - we're getting a load of new "hybrid" vehicles soon that are much cleaner than their already decent diesel cousins), and if we finally get the "dream" of electric cars, charged from power points dotted around the streets, we'll be even better.
But if we don't try to make inroads into the AMOUNT of vehicles on our roads, we'll still have ever increasing traffic congestion - however "green" it may be.
When we pay our Council Tax, we entrust it to councils and organisations to spend it wisely. That, of course, is open to debate that won't ever get resolved!
But this seems to me to be a great idea to try and make our vast public network web relevant to people - I have enough difficulty trying to do that in the pub on a Saturday night!
We all accept the argument that not everyone can use the bus or train. That is blindingly obvious. But the truth is that SOME people could - if only they understood it, felt comfortable using it, could rely on it and felt that they were experiencing something that was value for money and that they would use it more regularly.
For that to happen, we need to put the many pieces of the jigsaw together, and despite the million bus journeys made in Centro-land every day (and we should be proud of that) there is still an awfully long way to go.
We need to spend public money for the public good. Just because I didn't require the services of the fire brigade last year doesn't mean that I begrudge paying for it. Likewise Centro needs to be given money to carry out the many good things it does every year.
And certain businessmen need to look beyond their blinkers.

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