Weekly War Bulletin, 1 Jan

A rollover bulletin…

Apparently some people had holiday journeys disrupted by snow?  The civil servants are having fun suggesting technical solutions to the third-rail problem — some more expensive than others.  (Not that the overhead-electric east coast route did any better: the lines came down under the weight of ice; I have vague memories of being told that the line was built with a larger than recommended distance between gantries to save money, in the knowledge that this would mean the cables would fall down more readily.)  Guess it’ll be another fares hike to pay for that, if it ever happens, then.  Can’t have anyone suggesting that we should instead be investing in arranging our lives and economy in a less mobility-reliant way.  Meanwhile, from his bunker, the mayor boasted about London’s resilient transport network even as it predictably ground to a halt.

The weather turned out to be awfully convenient for SouthEastern, who, having called an emergency and cancelled their trains, had the snow days struck from their performance records and subsequently just happened to meet their targets by the tiniest sliver, thus avoiding compensating season ticket holders.

Philip Hammond’s Department for Transport don’t care about the thousands of known dangerous drivers on the roads.  Our judges seem to think that it’s their job to facilitate the truck driver training careers of convicted road-rage attackers.  And the police seem to think that pushing somebody under an oncoming vehicle is fine if they’re a cyclist.  That’s The War On The Motorist, that is.  Just compare the authorities’ actions to those in The War On Drugs.

And the latest reform of road safety initiatives mean that you will no-longer get fined if you only go 10%+9mph over the limit — because what harm could you possibly do at 41 in a built-up area?  As one Daily Mail reader points out, this is “yet another money-gouging racket at the motorist’s expense”.

The Western Extension Zone is no more: Boris promised to obey the people’s will, and 41% of people wanted the WEZ to go, so the numerically challenged mayor (elected by the will of 24.1% of the electorate) obeyed.  The removal of the WEZ, and loss of its £55m revenue, will be funded by the £60m raised by another bus fare hike.

It’s time for those fares increases.  Up to £5,000 season tickets on some routes — though frankly, if you find yourself in the situation where you need to do a £5,000 commute, I think you might be doing something wrong.  Predictions are for a shift from rail to private car,

Fuel duty and VAT also go up this week, though, so it’s still a good time to leave the car behind.  The Express are desperately trying to stir up the resistance.  The Institute of Advanced Motorists is suggesting that, gasp, Motorists might be forced to drive at responsible speeds in order to save fuel, while RMI beg us please won’t somebody think of the petrol stations?

Fake ban on cycling to be enforced by fake police on the South Bank.

Government to publish data on where most people are recklessly breaking the law they are having greatest success at bleeding the poor innocent hard done-by Motorist dry. (c) All Newspapers.

Awww.  Poor Motorists can’t even terrorise sick people by taking short-cuts through hospital car parks without getting hassle some jobsworth.  It’s The War On The Motorist, I tell you.

Absurd solution of the week: Maria Eagle thinks we should pay Motorists not to break the law.  I think there is great potential here for basing all of post-New Labour’s manifesto on this concept.

Speaking of absurd transport solutions, last Bulletin we noted that the absurd Royal Docks cable car would not be entirely privately funded as Boris had originally promised.  Now our suspicions have been confirmed: upon further investigation, estimated costs jump from £25m to £40m, and there is no chance of being built before the mayor’s Olympic deadline.

Could we please drop this folly now and divert the money to keeping our existing river crossings open?  Greenwich Tunnel, the nearest existing crossing (excluding tubes and the motor-only Blackwall Tunnel), is plagued by unscheduled closures due to maintenance problems, with the council and contractors providing a customer service that they surely learnt from SouthEastern.

People got to travel on the tube for free last night, courtesy of a loans company that charges 2,689% interest.  When grilled by LBC, Boris called it extortion, as he happily took the money that they had obtained by extortion.

Humankind has reached the stage where it has developed computers that can be aware of the emotional state of the people using them.  What noble purpose should we find for this technology?  Satnavs that don’t upset their poor sensitive drivers, of course.  Somebody get one for this guy.

Following the earlier news that ELL passenger numbers have risen fast, and the recent introduction of the full timetable, Ian Brown — the man who organised London Overground and had great visions for the public takeover of all suburban rail in London under TfL — is honoured.

Tory campaigners are trying to distract from Boris Johnson’s failure to resolve the problems that unions are striking over by accusing the unions of calling strikes merely to make the mayor look bad.

That Oxford coach that turned over on the motorway? A drunk passenger done it.

The police have been visiting the people selling stolen bikes at Brick Lane.

Careful now.  Cabbies have learned dozens of new ways to kill you.

More plans for congestion relief at Bank.

New York consider adding bicycle training to their driving test.

This “news” is written by “Ian Onions”, which is a delightful combination of syllables.

Weekly War Bulletin, 11 Dec

Ken Livingstone has picked Val Shawcross as running partner.  Val chairs the assembly transport committee and has experience with both the outer and inner boroughs, so from a transport perspective, she’s probably the best person for the job.  She wants people to get out of their cars (including Olympics VIPs).  It’s worrying, though, that despite commissioning the cycle superhighway survey and stating that she “wants to know what what would get you cycling”, she hasn’t quite acknowledged yet that the result of the survey was a massive call for proper cycle paths.

The Scottish Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, resigned for his slow response to the snow.  By his criteria, Boris would have resigned several times over by now.  Truck drivers in Scotland have been allowed to work overtime — because safety rules matter less when it’s icy?  Of course, making sure that petrol stations have supplies is more important than preventing overworked truckers driving into a fuel tanker.

And according to BBC News, SouthEastern management have made up for all their snow-related customer service failings by, erm, turning up to their long-scheduled recurring meeting with passengers.  No resignations (or franchise forfeit) there, yet, then?

There are no drink-driving TV adverts this year — after all, the government has ended the War On The Motorist!  In Oxford, the annual police operation has caught twice as many wannabe killers as last year.  (I’d be cautious about concluding that one caused the other on such a small and non-controlled sample, though.)

Absurd innovation of week: yet another device to allow Motorists to pay less attention.

South Yorkshire are “trialling” a speed camera switch off.  Uh, haven’t we done enough “trials” to know what happens there?

And in South Wales, Motorists demonstrate their contempt for the lives of the people who are building roads for them.

There are record numbers riding the railways in London — but for how much longer?

While it’s hard to give a damn about car parking charge increases when you don’t have a car, it does seem unfortunate that the rising price of station car parking (at the same time as 13% p.a. fares hikes) appears to be making people give up the train rather than the car — one in four say they’re considering switching.

And a government adviser’s report suggests that we can cut overcrowding, by, erm, charging much more to use overcrowded trains.

Labour are reconsidering high speed rail, while the Tories are promising to keep those Tory voters along its route happy with fabulous cash payouts.

The Campaign for Clean Air in London are threatening to challenge Boris in court over the removal of the Western Extension Congestion Charge Zone.  Waste of public money if it goes to court?  No news outlet I can find mentions the massive EU penalties for poor air quality (many times the cost of a court case), or the vast numbers (much greater than direct road deaths) of otherwise economically-active people who are disabled and killed by pollution-related diseases.  Meanwhile our own Green MEPs are encouraging the EU to reject the mayor’s application for an extension to the deadline for complying with those air quality laws.

That runaway Northern Line train was both human error and faulty equipment.

The Met are looking at thousands of people’s Oyster records behind their backs.

Having cut back on customer services, SouthEastern are looking for more staff savings: look forward to strike action in the new year.

Somebody’s stealing the pavements in Camden.

Apparently a couple in a ridiculous chauffeur driven car got viciously attacked by a mob of rioting thugs?  They should have ridden inconspicuous hire bikes to their appointment…

“Grannies don’t like being thrown around”: cuts to pensioner bus travel will mean dedicated crap bus services for them.

(I’m late to this story, but had to post it.)  Ferrari driver who “unwittingly” drove around at 100mph is allowed to continue driving because he is reliant upon the car for his hospital treatment.  Apparently ferrari owners can’t afford bus fares, and they don’t have taxis in Devon…

And for some reason not allowing blue badge holders to use the olympic lanes is considered an outrage too far.  How will builders get to their jobs now?

The RV1 riverside bus has gone hydrogen powered, in order to test the technology.  The hydrogen production requires electricity, and the electricity is still mostly generated by burning coal and gas.  It might at least reduce the particulate pollution given off by these vehicles (or shift them back to the out-of-town power station, anyway).

Here’s an updated tube map for the day London goes under the waves.

I don’t often cover news outside of the UK, but: this is just how they drive in China; and this story from NZ made me giggle — they seem surprised that building a new motorway caused congestion.  Has NZ learned nothing from the mistakes that Europe made forty years ago?

Your moment of zen: the mayor’s Christmas card:

I took the opportunity to pen a few lines on this occasion.

We three kings of Orient are,
One in a taxi, one in a car,
One on a Boris Bike beating the tube strike,
None of them getting far.

Weekly War Bulletin, 4 Dec

I just looked outside to check and apparently it’s true: it snowed.  Unfortunately I can’t find a single news article about it, though, so you’ll just have to go without hearing a any news at all about snow causing transport chaos.  Oh, well, but I can’t resist a little blog post or two about just how appalling SouthEastern’s customer services were during the outage.  (I’m currently in Scotland, where the MD of Scotrail came on the news to tell everyone how hard he was working his staff, and even though the message was “find your own way home”, at least there was a message…)

But stop the presses!  The important news is that Becky Sargent, 24, from Portsmouth had an eight hour nightmare drive back from Bluewater.

Scotland was looking into some radical policies to tackle car addiction; the car lobby has succeeded in having them quietly dropped.

Bike hire opened to casual users… and crashed, of course.

In an effort to end the War On The Motorist, the government are declining to approve an EU scheme for cooperation on enforcement of traffic laws.  The scheme would allow countries to pass on fines to a Motorist’s home country for enforcement.  The UK government doesn’t want to join up because they are worried that it will cost too much to the UK.  Presumably because on the continent there are some fines of a magnitude that actually provides a serious disincentive to breaking the rules.

Not strictly on topic for AWWTM, but the opening of a new major trauma centre at St Mary’s caught my eye because motor vehicles are the single largest cause of major trauma.  It’s open just in time to take the victims of all the new M4 lane-changing pile-ups that Philip Hammond will be responsible for — indeed, St Mary’s was apparently chosen for its proximity to the M4, M40, and M1.  This is the final of four new MTCs around London, and they’re not cheap.  It’s great that the cost of NHS care is free at the point of delivery; it would just be nice if it were acknowledged at the point of tabloid hacks whinging about speed cameras, government ministers making dogma-based policies, and Motorists shouting about “road tax”.

The Department for Transport have already failed: the Health department thinks that it has been left to them to provide the nation with cycle paths.

Press release plugs massive relative rise in cycling in Merseyside.  Fails to even mention the absolute figures.

Hardened criminal Katie Price finally taken off the road, along with a killer HGV driver.

Kids in Oxford plea for drivers to slow down.

Some (overinterpreted) numbers on fines given for bicycle misuse in London.

A private members’ bill seems to move us onto Central European Time, moving our daylight hours to later in the day thus saving lives on the evening commute in the winter.  (The Scots don’t like this one, but I don’t know what the fuss is about — I’ve not managed to wake up before sunrise while here…)

I was thinking of getting some spoof parking tickets made up myself, actually…

The transport select committee have come out in favour of lowering the drink-drive limit — a change that almost everybody was agreed upon, but which Hammond recently decided against pursuing.

I’ve cycled in Yeovil and I can reassure anybody thinking of doing the same that chavs with air rifles are the least of your worries.

Insightful news: tube drivers might go on strike next year.  What was that about a no-strike deal, Boris?

Rosie Sullivan clearly has a great anti-motorist future ahead of her: holding up the traffic right from the start.

Your silly story: “bizarre incidents” as drivers in Limerick can’t work out which side of the motorway to drive on.  I don’t know if it’s still there, but the road from the ferry terminal at Cork always used to have helpful “wrong way turn back” signs for those who picked the wrong carriageway.