Shepley on... disconnected travel policy

For a while in its earlier days, the present government expressed its enthusiasm for "joined-up thinking".

This came as welcome news to planners, who specialise in this very subject. But the idea seems to have vanished.

This summer, the rail passenger watchdog - a canine seemingly having all the ferocious presence of a one-legged teddy bear with a squint - voiced some unhappiness about fare increases. It does this regularly and justifiably, but to little effect. A spokesman for the Department for Transport told The Guardian, with all the cloth-headedness of the most absurd hermitic functionary, that: "The reality is that six per cent of the population travels on railways. So why should people who don't use railways regularly fund the people who do?"

I won't insult you by listing the many reasons why this is among the most stupid remarks ever made. But you must be irked to find that you are contributing to the salary of someone so witless. A single lecture in joined-up thinking at any of our excellent planning schools would surely help to equip him to take part in intelligent debate.

It seems perfectly obvious that for environmental and practical reasons the only way we can be kept on the move, if indeed on the move is where we all have to be kept most of the time, is by road user charging and massive investment in buses and railways. This is not about a couple of tawdry new carriages from the cheapest supplier and some piffling platform extensions, such as are currently on offer, but a proper set of improvements and a serious reduction in the cost to passengers, as seen all over Europe. And this government seemed to be so full of promise in those early days.

Chris Shepley is principal of Chris Shepley Planning and a former chief planning inspector for England and Wales.


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