Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just said no

The "No" vote to Manchester's Congestion Charge referendum has been overwhelming. Had you asked me six months ago I would have said that I was voting "yes" and wondered why you bothered to ask. So why did I say "no?"

I'd struggle to tell you what the No Campaign's arguments were. They didn't sway me. I was swayed by the failures of the Yes Campaign.

They started off with a load of adverts showing pictures of various people with the strap line "I won't pay the Congestion Charge." Well, I'm sorry, that sort of beggar-my-neighbour nonsense never sits well with me. The way my love life is these days I'd not be troubled by a Shagging Tax but I'd not be voting for one. Then they started to tell us about all the improvements that would magically come our way...

  • "What would you say to more trains and more carriages?" I'd say: "weren't you promised when they privatised the railways?" When I moved here, just before privatisation bit, we had an hourly train service seven days a week. Now we have a two-hourly service (if it arrives) and nothing on a Sunday. I'm not living in some countryside backwater, we're within the proposed Congestion Charge area.
  • "What would you say to more buses and more bus services?" I'd say: "how would the transport authorities ensure that the buses improved services on routes that are currently under-provided? Most of the congestion in city centre Manchester is caused by the hordes of buses chasing students up and down Oxford Road and Wilmslow Road. Not only do these roads clag up but, when your bus from elsewhere tries to pull into the traffic island that is Piccadilly Gardens Bus Station it can't get in because there are a dozen number 42s queueing up for the same stop and blocking the roads and junctions for all other traffic.
  • When challenged about dealing with private rail and bus operators over whom the authorities have no sway, the response was that: "we don't need services to be re-regulated, we would be working in a new way with the operators." Bollocks. First and Stagecoach run most of the bus and rail services in Greater Manchester and if Mister First and Mister Stagecoach were interested in working in a new way to deliver better services to the poor bloody passenger then they'd have done it by now and we'd have seen a bit of the evidence. As it is, this autumn has seen cuts in rail services; and so many non-arrivals of trains and buses that one can only conclude that they were trying to panic people into a yes vote by demonstrating just how bad public transport can be in this country.
  • "The No Campaign is consorting with unsavoury characters like the UK Independence Party, Peel Holdings and the BNP" said the Yes Campaign, who were consorting with Stagecoach, First and Manchester United.
  • My daily commute is about twenty-two miles across Manchester and the timetables say it should take me about fifty minutes each way. At least twice a week it takes two-and-a-half-hours. Looking at the proposed "improvements" I found that the delays were to become even greater because 'feeder' services were being replaced by trams and additional stations were being added to ensure that trains would be as badly hit by weekday football matches as are the buses now.

I think the clincher was the last desperate poster campaign by the Yes Campaign: an old bloke with the strap line "I want to feel safer on the bus." And how, precisely, were they going to do that? Issue all the OAPs with Kalashnikovs? Great God in the morning, some of them have the manners of pigs at the best of times; what would they be like if they were armed and dangerous?

"When we asked people why they wouldn't vote for it they told us 'we wont vote for it because the transport is so bad'. But our argument was 'if you vote for it, the transport will get better'.”

If the public transport operators can't deliver on the modest promises that are their timetables, why should we trust them to deliver anything even remotely ambitious?

1 comment:

scarlet-blue said...

Commuters should strike!