Friday, July 14, 2017

Transport, buses and airports. We live in a false economy.

Yesterday night North Somerset Green Party organised a public meeting on transport. It was well-attended (~35).  The CEO of First Direct in the West of England spoke about the local bus services. Basically since the Transport Act 1985, they are all privatised with a tiny bit of help from cash-strapped local authorities for non profitable services. The discussion focused on individual experiences of bus transport. There are many problems, and competition means that all companies are only just keeping themselves profitable but at the end, it was clear to me that the basic disorder is that it is another privatisation problem.

Thatcher decreed that bus users should pay for their own transport. As a neo-liberal Tory, she was blind to the fact that buses provide a service to the whole community. If they are full, they are far more efficient at using road space than cars (not if they're empty though - they do about 8mpg, sometimes as little as 3mpg. Aargh).

However, since they have to do without subsidy, bus travel is expensive, so it is actually cheaper (in the short term at least) to use your car, which means that the roads are congested, which means that buses cannot run on time, so more people take their car. Vicious circle.

If instead, buses were supported by taxation, they would be cheaper, more frequent and more extensive, so people would use their cars less, meaning less pollution (especially if buses went onto biogas), less danger to cyclists and walkers, so better for all.

Another example of how neo-liberalistic privatisation is in direct opposition to progress towards sustainability.

The second speaker, Hilary from Cleeve Parish Council, gave information about Bristol Airport, which is making a loss, and therefore wants to expand in order to make a bigger loss grow out of its loss. Expansion means more traffic, bigger car parks, more flights, more noise, and more air pollution; but hey, economic growth is economic growth.

Question: How come it is possible to fly to Majorca for £5 but the airport is making a loss?
Answer - airlines pay little or no taxes on fuel. In other words, they are subsidised. So if they paid fuel taxes, like everyone else, at a rate sufficient to cover air pollution and the global warming effects of high-altitude emissions, flight would be dearer, so less people would fly, so Bristol Airport wouldn't need to expand its car-parks, and more people would holiday in the UK, which would boost the UK economy. This might mean that Bristol Airport would fold, but market forces rule, as any Tory would be the first to tell you.

We live in a false economy.

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