Archive for Transport

Arriva should do the decent thing and absorb bus fare price hike in their “mega-profits”

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop today (29th March 2016) hit out at news given to local bus passengers by Arriva that fares will be going up yet again. News of this latest fare hike came just a week after the announcement of bumper profits by the bus and train operator.

Tom said:
“In a leaflet now being  given to local bus passengers, Arriva boldly say that “we need to increase most of our single, return and day ticket fares by a maximum of 10p and weekly tickets by a maximum of 30p. This increase will be applied from Sunday 3rd April 2016.”

“But what that leaflet did not say was that in the last year, the cash put into the fare boxes by Teesside passengers contributed to record profits for the company. The Stock Exchange announcement reported a sharp rise in pre-tax earnings and revenue as the company gears up to take control of Northern Rail services next week. In its annual results the company said revenues were up sharply, rising from £4.4 billion to £4.8 billion, a 7.8 per cent increase. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation rose 5.4 per cent to £525m from £498 million.

“This may be seen as good news for Arriva Directors in the UK and for the firm’s ultimate owners, German State rail company Deutsche Bahn, but for local bus users – especially in the Redcar and Cleveland area, where the company has a virtual monopoly of local bus services – it is very bad news altogether. I would urge Arriva and, indeed, Deutsche Bahn to think again and reflect on the ethics of a cash rich company asking for yet more cash from local bus users, and to simply absorb this year’s increase in their profits.”

Fall in bus usage shows need for reform and investment

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (11th January 2016)n condemned government cuts to bus services after official figures released by the Department for Transport  showed that in Redcar and Cleveland 27% fewer bus journeys were made in 2014-15 compared with 2009-10 – the biggest decline in England.

Commenting on the news Tom Blenkinsop said:
“For many people across Redcar and Cleveland buses are a vital part of their daily lives –  helping them to get to work, attend doctors’ appointments or collecting the weekly shop. But this decline in bus usage is very concerning and doesn’t seem to have an end.

“Unfortunately, we effectively have one operator that runs a monopoly bus service in Redcar and Cleveland and they have systematically removed bus routes that local people have relied on for years.

“Compounding this is the cuts to local government funding which means less funding is available for supported bus services. These routes are often the ones people and communities need most, where no alternative transport exists.

“To halt the decline we need to see, as part of the Government’s Buses Bill, powers given to communities to plan fares, routes and timetables and investment to reflect local needs.”

Commuters hit by rail fare rises of 26% under the Tories

New figures have revealed that nationally, hard-working commuters are now paying 25 per cent more for their train fares under the Tories, because of yet another year of rail fare hikes that came into force on Saturday 2nd January.

The announcement that rail fares will rise again in January 2016 means that passengers in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland have been hit by a cost increase of 26 per cent since 2010. Figures released by Labour show that the cost of an annual season ticket from Saltburn to Middlesbrough has risen by £168 since 2010.

Commenting on the figures, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop said:
“Commuters in Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland have been getting a raw deal under the Tories. The price for passengers has been creeping up for years and a season ticket from Saltburn to Middlesbrough costs £168 more than it did in 2010 and stands at just over £800 – that is an eye-watering rail fare rise.

“For many people here, travelling by train isn’t a luxury, it’s how they get to work every day. This Government needs to get these fare rises under control and ensure that passengers are put before profits.”

“Replacement of pacer trains can’t come soon enough”

Following the announcement today (9th December 2015) by the government that it intends to award the Northern franchise to Arriva Rail North Limited, local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop urged the government that the “replacement of pacer trains currently operating on the tracks across Teesside can’t come soon enough.”

Under the plans, Arriva will invest £1bn in total, including £400m on 98 new trains to replace the outdated Pacer trains that were built from bus bodies in the 1980s.

Responding to the announcement Tom said:

“I’m sure commuters across Teesside who have ever had to use the pacer trains will welcome this announcement.

“Public transport across Teesside, and in particular the pacer trains, has been an embarrassment for too long and I have campaigned for upgrades for a number of years.

“For me, it is vital that we put pressure on Arriva and the government to ensure that Teesside is high on the priority list when it comes to rolling out the replacement programme. 2019 is still a long time away so I will do anything I can to speed up the process so that we see the back of these outdated pacer trains once and for all.”

‘Teesside AGAIN missing from Tory railway map’

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (September 30th 2015) blasted transport ministers for “again ignoring Teesside on the transport map.”

Tom said:
“Looking through the document one thing stands out: there is absolutely no mention of any electrification of the short piece of line from Northallterton to Middlesbrough and Teesport. This is the key piece of work needed to connect Teesside to high speed rail.

“At a time when we need to be throwing everything we can at infrastructure renewal for this area following the SSI body blow, this is negligence of the highest order.

“A second issue which runs through the document is that all the other promised improvements are prefaced by the weasel words on the main announcement – and I  quote – are seen “as work to develop new plans” for TransPennine rail.  I would query whether this means that they are going back to the drawing board altogether and junking past work, which if they are doing, would put a substantial delay on this and I couldn’t see a firm date for the work.

“In terms of road improvements again, there is no specific mention of the needs of Teesside. There is talk of rebranding the A19 as an “expressway”, which, when you look at the small print seems mainly to give the road a logo to indicate that it is a through dual carriageway. The needs, for example, for a new Tees crossing is simply absent.

“It seems that yet again the switches in the Northern Powerhouise have been pulled off by this government.”

Tom urges Arriva to look at better fares for young people

Local Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today (28th July 2015) written to the bus firm Arriva urging them to look at introducing a child version of the weekly ticket.

Tom said:
“As it is currently the school holidays, hundreds of families across my constituency will be looking to utilise Arriva’s bus services to travel around this and the surrounding area. However, the lack of any sort of weekly travel ticket for children is off-putting for commuters as it leads to spiralling travel costs, particularly for parents with more than one child.

“I am aware that such tickets are available for adults using your bus services. Therefore, I have written to Arriva to enquire whether they have any plans to introduce a weekly ticket for children across all their services to reduce the financial burden on parents and to make travelling on public transport an economically viable alternative for families in my constituency.”

‘Northern Powerhouse minister underestimates need for rail electrification on Teesside’

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, has today claimed that the Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse, James Wharton MP, ‘underestimates the need for rail electrification across Teesside routes.’

In his response to a question about the shelving of electrification schemes in a House of Commons Business Questions for Communities and Local Government, James Wharton MP claimed that the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project was “not just about transport”.

Tom said:
“I am deeply concerned by this response from Mr Wharton. Businesses, think-tanks, local leaders and local commuters are more than aware that upgrading transport connections and the infrastructure remain key to the prosperity of the North East. The only person that seems to think otherwise is James Wharton.

“I’ve long campaigned for the electrification of Teesside railway lines and will continue to do so, but it is important that Government is on board.

“Following last week’s announcement to put on hold many railway upgrades, this will come as a double blow for commuters and businesses alike. If the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ project is to be more than a sound-bite then we need to start seeing some action.”

“Cuts to south Middlesbrough bus services show the market is rigged” claims Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (March 17th 2015) hit out at what he called a “rigged market” which has meant that some bus services serving Hemlington, Coulby Newham and Marton will be coming off the road this Friday (20th March 2015).

Routes scheduled to be terminated include the 18 and 19 which operate a service linking Hemlington, Coulby Newham and Marton on a circular route. The other service to end is the early morning 603 and 604 buses linking Coulby Newham and Hemlington with Middlesbrough Town Centre.

Tom said:
“These services have been operated for many years by Leven Valley Buses and have provided a service that I know have been well liked by local passengers. In addition the 18 and 19 also calls at the front door of the James Cook University Hospital giving a direct link for local hospital visitors and out patients.

“Leven Valley say that – and I genuinely believe them on this – they are sad to end these routes, but claim that the company could not go on as it was due to factors including the loss of local council support, increased costs for running services and not having the advantages of scale that rival multi-national operators like Arriva or Stagecoach enjoy – and in particular the costs of insuring their bus fleet.

“This shows just how rigged the deregulated bus market is towards small firms like Leven Valley. If Arriva or Stagecoach were to announce that they were looking to re-tender their total insurance needs on the market, they would be besieged by insurers looking for a blue chip customer. But for local firms, they are left to drift in a commercial sea of disinterest and high premiums.

“We need a shake-up of the bus market and the rules for entry to this market.  Meanwhile in the short term and in the absence of any interest by the big bus companies in picking up these routes, I have written to Middlesbrough Council’s Chief Executive asking if they will re-tender the already supported 603 and 604 service and consider taking the 18 and 19 route under their wing.”

Teesside and the North “left out in Prime Minister’s announcement on Wi-Fi on trains” claims Tom Blenkinsop MP

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (13th February 2015) slammed the Prime Minister’s announcement of free Wi-Fi on trains, which he said “would only in the main benefit South Eastern commuters.

David Cameron recently announced a £50 million plan “to ensure that rail passengers are better connected.”

Tom said:
“This may sound grand, but when you look at the small print no one on Teesside or in the North will get anything from this. The plans would only cover services on trains run by Great Nortnern, Southeastern, Chiltern and Arriva Trains Wales. The first three only operate trains geared to the South Eastern commuter market to London.

“As this is a government scheme, taxpayers on Teessside will be paying for city traders travelling to work to use their laptops and smartphones free of charge. ‘Digital’ Dave may think this is a wicked wheeze, but local rail users on the line from Saltburn to Darlington, packed into vintage, rattling, pacer trains will not be impressed at all.

“This scheme needs to be re-thought to benefit this area – and fast.”

Tom backs Transport Committee’s call to scrap “outdated” pacer trains

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (23rd January 2015) backed calls by the House of Commons Transport Committee to scrap “outdated” pacer trains, such as those running between Saltburn, Middlesbrough and Darlington.

The committee has called for pacer trains to be removed from the rail network by 2020 at the latest.

Tom said:
“This is a wakeup call from this cross-party committee to the Coalition Government’s Transport Ministers. Despite call after call from me and other regional MP’s, the government have refused to make a definite pledge that these veteran trains – first designed in the 1970s – will be removed and replaced by the same standard of trains enjoyed by commuters in London and the South.

“The only place for a pacer train now is at Beamish Museum – not on passenger tracks on Teesside.”