Tag: P+R

Penhill and Ride

Today brings that rarest of rare events: Mr Montaut making a sensible and understandable suggestion. Here’s his utterance from that rare lucid moment.

We can keep the car park open and redirect people on to existing public transport. This will cut the costs to the council taxpayers while preventing the traffic nightmare that will be caused by completely closing the site. It would also support Thamesdown Transport through these tough times while supporting the administration in delivering promise 43.

Promise 43, for those that have forgotten, is

We will work with bus companies to increase the frequency and hours of operation. We will also work with parish councils to develop good rural transport links and increase overall the number of bus journeys by 13% by 2006 and a further 20% in the following five years.

There’s only one slight flaw in Mr Montaut’s argument. Currently there are no Thamesdown Transport services that pass by the Groundwell Park & Ride car park. The number 17 service does pass very close though, as it loops round Penhill before heading directly into town along Cricklade Road. It seems this isn’t good enough for the campaigners.

As a commuter, normal buses take too long to get to work, particularly for users living in village areas. It would just add to journey times.

Even with a loop round Penhill, would taking a bus service that uses the bus lanes really take longer than driving a car and joining the traffic jam? Is it really the journey time that bothers Ms Spinks, or is it the thought of having to share a bus with residents of one of Swindon’s more maligned estates?

An odd way to help

The government has recently announced that it is giving Swindon Borough Council an extra £428,873.52 — yes, the figures are calculated down to individual pennies — of tax payers’ money (or more accurately, given the way the government has squandered our money, of tax payers’ debt). According to the government press release, there are no strings attached to this money.

Local Government Minister John Healey has today confirmed that 360 councils will receive their share of £100million within the next few days, to be used as they see fit to help meet local needs and priorities – particularly helpful in this difficult economic climate.

Naturally, the government’s representative in South Swindon, Ms Snelgrove, has been quick to comment.

I am calling on Swindon Borough Council to use this money to save Old Town and Walcot Libraries and look at how the Groundwell Park & Ride can be kept open…. I will be asking the Council for full details of how they intend to spend this money and to make sure it isn’t swallowed up within the Council.

’Tis an odd choice that. Now, as I’ve made clear, I’m no fan of the proposals to close the Park & Ride service. I don’t find Mr Edwards’ latest argument for not supporting the service convincing either, as it’s far better to seek a long term future for the service with it still running than with it closed. However, though both it and the library closures have received plenty of publicity, they affect relatively few of Ms Snelgrove’s constituents — particularly the Park & Ride service which is in Mr Wills’ patch. Something that affects far more of her constituents but has received far less publicity is the sharp increase in the cost of Residents’ Parking Permits. On that, Ms Snelgrove has nothing to say. And I say that as someone that neither lives in a Residents’ Parking zone nor owns a car.

It really shouldn’t surprise Ms Snelgrove that she’s known as the government’s representative in South Swindon when she chooses to support issues for their political point scoring value rather than for their impact on her constituents.

Listening isn’t talking

Mr Bluh seems to have some very basic misunderstandings of communication.

We said we would listen to them and that is what we have done, even if they didn’t like everything they heard.

Hint to Mr Bluh: if you’re listening, it’s you that should be doing the hearing, not the other way round. But then if, as has been reported, the staff at Groundwell Park & Ride have already been made redundant, the whole ‘listening’ exercise was a sham anyway.

Jam tomorrow

It must seem like an unfortunate bit of timing for the blue nest councillors controlling Swindon Borough Council that, whilst they are attempting to axe the Park & Ride bus service, for a claimed saving of £331,000, that unnecessary and unelected bureaucracy known as the South West Regional Assembly has decided to chuck £150M in the direction of Swindon for transport improvements. Our developers’ poodle, Mr Bawden, seems pleased with this outcome, despite the embarrassment that it might cause his colleagues. The expenditure includes £22M and £111M for phases 1 & 2 respectively of the Swindon Rapid Transit Network. Phase 1 concentrates on ‘traffic management’ — so more roundabouts and traffic lights. Phase 2 concentrates on public transport.

Development of a two tier public transport network with rapid transit corridors; increase in bus routes covering most areas of Swindon; exploring technology options for rapid transit corridor.

Both phases claim to address the issue of ‘Existing P&R schemes under utilised.’ If the current administration in Swindon gets its way, they won’t just be under utilised; they’ll be non-existent.

Off the buses

I find Mr Greenhalgh’s reasoning, if one can call it that, for proposing closure of the Groundwell Park and Ride odd.

We either make savings where we can or we put up council tax.

That didn’t seem to cross your mind when you voted to put up your own allowances.

While the park and ride is an excellent service we are losing a lot of money because it is simply not covering its costs.

Until last year, Thamesdown Transport ran the park and ride bus service for a fee and Swindon Borough Council kept the profit or suffered the loss, depending on how successful the service was. Then that was changed so that, like any other bus service, the bus company runs the services that are profitable and keeps the profit from them, whilst the council subsidises the loss making ones. As parking in the park-and-ride car park is free, the council have, of their own choice, changed the funding arrangement to one where by definition they are guaranteed to make a loss and the bus company guaranteed to make a profit. It doesn’t cover its costs because you’ve set-up contractual arrangements that guarantee that, Mr Greenhalgh.

The number using the service is not that great so I don’t think the effect on traffic will be huge.

That seems to contradict the assessment in the council’s own budget proposals.

“There is some risk that this proposal may impact on our Local Transport Plan assessment and the ability of the Council to secure regional/national funding for future transport schemes. There may also be some impact on general bus network as the operator will lose profit from these services.”

Translated from public sector bureaucracy-speak, that’s quite huge.

We have good parking facilities in the town centre and while this is not an ideal situation it is something we have to look at.

And I’m sure that the knowledge that you’ll make much more money from charging them to park there had no influence on your decision….

This would not be a permanent move and hopefully there will be a change in government and Swindon will be given the kind of funding it needs.

To quote from the council’s own budget proposals again.

“This proposal may impact on our Local Transport Plan assessment and the ability of the Council to secure regional/national funding for future transport schemes.”

Regardless of the colour of the government, a habit of abandoning facilities in an ill considered financial panic is hardly a way of encouraging government to spend taxpayers’ money here.

Half and ride

Mr Jenkins of Thamesdown Transport claims that he wants to promote the park and ride bus services.

Both the council and ourselves feel that this is the best way forward to provide a park and ride service for Swindon. This is a very positive move and one that will secure the long-term future of park and ride in Swindon. It’s a very popular service and we really want to promote it during the off-peak times of the day.

By ‘promote’ he clearly means ‘advertise’ rather than ‘encourage more people to use’ as, upon taking over the service, Thamesdown Transport have cut it in half and on the northern half have increased the fares and decreased the frequency. Passengers on the southern half get a somewhat better deal with fares reduced, but the frequency is reduced as well and change will no longer be given. The northern half of the service is clearly being milked, not promoted.

There’s nothing wrong with making changes to improve profitability; there is plenty wrong with trying to pretend that you’re not.