Wednesday, May 04, 2005

New Labour's Transport Disaster

In 1997, improving the dire state of transport in Britain was a major item in Labour’s manifesto. Since then we have seen one broken promise after another, the only plus points being a 30 per cent reduction in congestion and a huge improvement in bus services in central London – both successes for ‘Old Labour’ mayor Ken Livingstone.

‘New Labour’s’ transport policies, on the other hand, are a very sad tale:

 the government backtracked on its 1997 pledge to re-nationalise the railways; until recently Britain was the only country in the world to split control of railway companies from management of the tracks

 rail privatisation was a disaster in terms of cost, safety and services, yet New Labour has continued to pour hundreds of millions in public money into the private rail companies’ coffers - with no improvement in services and increasing ticket prices.

 even though privatisation was such a costly failure, Blair and Brown forced through privatisation of the London underground – one of many policies not included in election manifestoes – although the overwhelming majority of Londoners opposed it.

 Londoners (and millions of visitors and tourists) are now paying the highest underground fares in Europe or America - and getting a very bad deal in return

 Private contractors upgrading the tube’s infrastructure are earning guaranteed profits of £2m every week, while London Underground’s losses have rocketed from £50m in 1998 to £756m last year.

The real reason why after eight years New Labour has failed to deliver an integrated transport plan is that the public interest has taken second place to the oil, road-building, haulage and car companies.

So while car use has steadily increased, over the past 25 years of freight transport has shifted from environment-friendly rail and water transport onto the roads. The people of London are left with an inefficient and dirty system which creates huge health problems, and destroys the city’s quality of life.