Motorbikes, Potholes & Freight Trains

On yer bike!

On yer bike!

It was cold, wet and dark when I jumped on the bike this morning at 6:00 am to head to work, skittering over potholes on my trusty steed for my 75-mile and increasingly grim winter commute to London (because the train is too damn expensive).

I picked up a copy of motorbike weekly MCN when I got there: It has launched a “Save our Roads” campaign. Green Party members aren’t normally particularly seen as being in favour of such things. As a biker, I am 100% behind their campaign .

Not least because it makes some really sensible suggestions about road damage and has some very good case studies into road repairs. It doesn’t sound particularly sexy does it? But what is a real headache for car drivers is a potential death trap for bikers.

And the state of our roads is getting worse.

MCN points to shoddy road repairs as well as freight trucks:

Each axle of a fully loaded five-axle HGV will wear a road 9140 times more than a cars, meaning that overall the lorry is equivalent to 22,850 cars. And how many motorcycles would it take to damage a road as much as just one fully laden five-axle HGV? 30 million.

Incentivising more rail freight is a key tenet of the Green Party’s transport policy (some of which isn’t quite so hot) seems like a sensible step. (Less polluting and less wearing on the roads; less cost to repair ’em…)

With councils slavishly following the government’s code of practice on potholes—specific requirements on response time to potholes—road crews are scurrying from hole to hole, often giving a token fix to defects they’ve patched up several times already, in what they dub “splash and dash”.

It’s short-termist and inefficient: Sadly long-term planning is hindered by constant changes in the way roads are financed. MCN suggest taking 2p from the 57.95p that the government takes on fuel duty to dedicate it to road maintenance; a guaranteed annual £1 billion to fix crumbling infrastructure. Sensible? Seems worth discussing at least. (Taking it would mean making cuts elsewhere; I’d add 2p and ringfence it…)

With regard to freight trains, Network Rail just this month bought the lease on more than 100 of Britain’s key rail freight sites from three of the country’s biggest cargo operators (having had its debt taken on by the government…) It predicts that the industry will more than double over the next 30 years.

The buy-out of 105 leasehold sites from DB Schenker, Freightliner and GB Railfreight represents the first substantial change in the strategic management and development of Britain’s rail freight estate in the two decades since privatisation. Many suggest the move could lead to better use of the network, providing improved access to a wider variety of freight operators and add capacity at critical points on the East Coast and West Coast main lines.It’s a good step, though I’m personally with RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash who said:

The recognition of Network Rail as a fully-fledged public body, under public control and ownership, should be seen as the springboard for taking the entire rail network back into the public fold. Any attempt by the right to use this as an opportunity to argue for dragging us back to the lethal days of privatised rail infrastructure under Railtrack will be fiercely resisted.

The truth is that if the vast sums sucked out of our railways by the private train companies was reinvested in infrastructure, capacity and staffing under a publicly-controlled body we could end the two decades of private profiteering, fragmentation and under-investment which has dragged our railways into the slow lane while charging some of the most extortionate fares in Europe.

The RMT has pointed out that twenty of the UK’s twenty seven private rail contracts, the equivalent of seventy four per cent, are now owned by foreign state owned/backed railways. The UK’s privatised railways meanwhile have the highest rail fares in Europe and the RMT has called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into concerns foreign state owned companies are sucking profits from the UK privatised rail industry so that passengers in foreign states are benefiting from lower fares and better services at the expense of UK passengers.

Mick Cash again:

The true scale of the way the railways here in Britain are being used as a cash-cow to hold down fares and improve services across the rest of Europe will shock passengers as they prepare for another week of being crammed into creaking cattle trucks while being bled dry when they pay for their ticket.

With the planned reprivatisation of the East Coast Mainline by this rotten Government we are rapidly heading towards a situation where almost the entire train operation in Britain is in the hands of overseas companies sucking out profits to benefit their own domestic transport services.

This outrageous situation is solely down to the right-wing ideology of this Government, which says you can have state operation of railways in Britain as long as it isn’t by the British state for the benefit of the British people. There must be a full parliamentary inquiry into this appalling racket and the research released today by RMT will be used to fuel our continuing fight for full public ownership of our railways.

Maybe if the railways were in the hands of the people, hard-working dads like myself would actually be able to afford to take them to work (in winter at least…)
 

 

*Those into their bikes will note the one in the picture with me is not a Honda Hornet, it’s a Yamaha FZ8 which a London Cabby took me off with an abrupt U-turn, destroying the bike and leaving me shaken but not stirred and feeling a very lucky boy in A&E. It’s last year’s pic… 

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