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General Election 2015 – A few facts to consider

OKAY – after all these weeks of election talk  the finish line is coming upon us. I have already blogged as to the general situation in Woodbridge.   For those interested in the larger LibDem picture, your LibDem candidates on May 7th are:LD rosette

Bury St Edmunds   David Chappell http://davidchappell.org.uk/en/

Ipswich   Chika Akinwale  http://www.libdems.org.uk/chika_akinwale

Central Suffolk& North Ipswich Jon Neal http://www.libdems.org.uk/jon-neal

South Suffolk  Grace Weaver http://www.libdems.org.uk/grace_weaver

Suffolk Coastal James Sandbach http://www.james4suffolkcoastal.com/

Waveney Stephen Gordon http://www.libdems.org.uk/stephen_gordon

West Suffolk Elfeda Tealby-Watson http://www.libdems.org.uk/elfreda_tealby_watson

A few things to remember when you cast your vote on Thursday:

In 2010 the Labour government left a mountain of debt for the nation (and a  cheeky note to the incoming Chancellor). Liberal Democrats stepped up to the plate and shouldered unpopularity to take the responsible step of forming a stable coalition government. In the last 5 years 2 million new apprenticeships and 2 million new jobs have been created and Labour’s deficit has been halved.

The following initiatives were in the LibDem 2010 Manifesto and would not have happened without us:

  1. Tax cuts: Low and middle income earners have had a tax cut of nearly £1,000 a year. Because we raised the income tax threshold – as we promised (though David Cameron said it was impossible) people who earn £10,500 a year of less pay no income tax at all. We want to raise this threshold to £12,500.
  2. Education: We have invested in education, targeting funding at the most deprived children. This has meant an extra £60m for Suffolk schools. It is making a real difference to literacy and numeracy and has provided, for example, one-to-one tuition, breakfast and after-school clubs. In addition we have given free school meals to 5-to-7 year olds.
  3. Health: We have provided additional funding for health and introduced the first ever mental health waiting time standards. We will invest an extra £8bn a year in the NHS each year by 2020. We are the only party to promise this and say how it will be funded.
  4. Renewable energy and environment: We have trebled the amount of energy generated from renewables. We will introduce 5 green laws including protection for bees and pollinators.
  5. We have cracked down on tax dodgers – getting £9bn tax back through deals with Switzerland, Liechenstein and the Channel Islands. We have also prosecuted 10 times more people for tax crimes than happened under the last government.

Some endorsements in the national press:

The Times  “Nick Clegg made a bold decision to take the Liberal Democrats into government. Power has been a justified gamble for the Liberal Democrats…Their signature policy of taking people who earn £10,000 or less out of taxation altogether has been one of their successes.” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/leaders/article4430579.ece

Independent  “Many of the good things the Coalition has done are owed to the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg may not personally recover from the tuition fees debacle, despite being right (eventually). But history will record him as the man who turned a party of protest into one of government.  http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/in-defence-of-liberal-democracy-10224221.html

Sunday Times  “…[the Coalition] did survive and this has been a period of political stability that would have been the envy of many majority governments of the past. Mr Clegg deserves to survive and so do his closest Lib Dem colleagues in government. Tory supporters in Labour-Lib Dem marginals may wish to vote for the Lib Dem candidate… http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/article1551497.ece

 

published and promoted  by Christine Mclean on behalf of the Liberal Democrats all at 38 High Street, Saxmundham, IP17 1AB

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A guide to the 3 elections in Woodbridge, May 7th

As several people have told me they were confused about the different elections in Woodbridge on Thursday, I thought I’d give you a brief (apolitical) run-through of what they are for, why you are voting and how the voting differs between elections.

First of all, for first-time voters: there are four polling booths in Woodbridge.

  • If you are registered to vote at RIVERSIDE ward (your card will tell you so) you go to the Community Hall (Deben Annexe), Station Road.
  • If SECKFORD, it is at St Johns Church Hall, St Johns Street.
  • If FARLINGAYE, vote at the Avenue Evangelical Church Hall, 42 Warwick Avenue.
  • And if  KYSON, you vote at the Fred Reynolds Centre, Churchill Close (off Peterhouse Crescent, and then Queens Avenue) .

When you arrive at the polling booth you will get three separate voting papers

The FIRST paper is for the GENERAL ELECTION. This is to vote for a member of parliament (MP)  for Suffolk Coastal Parliamentaty constituency- a huge long rural constituency that stretches from Felixstowe to Southwold. You are voting on national issues –  policy on education, health and defence, membership of Europe.  I don’t suppose I need to say there has  been 5 years of Conservative/LibDem Coalition following 13 years of Labour government leading up to this election!

You  can vote for ONE  candidate from the list below. The candidate with the most votes will win.

  • Therese Anne Coffey (Conservative – the current MP)
  • Daryll Pitcher (UKIP)
  • James Peter Charles Sandbach (Lib Dems)
  • Rachel Ann Smith-Lyte (Green)
  • Russell Whiting (Labour)

The SECOND paper is for the DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTION. The Suffolk Coastal District Council is a tier of local government between Suffolk County Council and Woodbridge Town Council. It is responsible for services like rubbish collection , council tax, leisure services and planning.  A recent boundary change  reduced the prospective number of Suffolk Coastal councillors to 42  from 55 in different boundaries:  25 sitting councillors have stood down at this election. This means there will be quite a shake up. The previous administration had been a strong Conservative majority.

You can vote for UP TO THREE candidates from the list below. The three candidates with the most votes will win.

Distric councillors

The third paper is for the WOODBRIDGE TOWN COUNCIL election. Woodbridge Town Council owns and maintains various public spaces and the 16 elected councillors sit on various committees. They also the first port of call when Woodbridge residents have problems. There are 4 councillors for each of Woodbridge’s 4 wards.
In this election there are five or six candidates for each ward election -Farlingaye, Seckford, Kyson or Riverside and you only vote for the candidates in the ward you live in. You can vote for UP TO FOUR candidates. The four candidates in each ward with the most votes will win and represent the ward.

Vote!So go on, get out there, and – whoever you vote for – make your votes count!

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May 7 elections: Woodbridge local Lib Dem candidates

Two weeks to May 7th when Woodbridge is facing elections at District and Town levels as well as the General Election. Find out about your candidates here: Kay Yule, Patrick Gillard, Vic Harrup, Sheena Rawlings – the Lib Dem candidates for the Woodbridge District and Town elections 2015 are all notable for the amount of  work they do for local projects and people!

 

Your Woodbridge Election Candidates

Your Woodbridge Election Candidates

BlogWoodbridgeElectionflcus2

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What’s been happening in Suffolk – April 15

Apart  from a general hotting up of  General Electioneering, all sorts of things have been happening in Suffolk. My report this month could be briefly summarised as:  rail, bus, new leader, new languages & 月亮代表我的心 (the moon reflects my heart)…:

All change at the Top   The head of the Suffolk Conservative party Mark Bee has stood down and was replaced in an internal party election by former Suffolk New Strategic Direction cheerleader Cllr Colin Noble. This is, of course, far from an internal party matter, as it means that Cllr Noble will almost certainly be elected SCC Leader in May.

Cllr Bee brought a measure of unity to SCC after a troubled period and he will be sorely missed. For example, he has encouraged a measure of cross-party consensus through policy development panels.  In transport terms this has led to such measures  as agreeing a cross-county  format for new 20mph areas ( all of which had been abandoned under the previous administration because ‘we had enough already.’). Woodbridge is currently in the process of applying for one to calm local traffic.

I do not know what the future for such measures may be under the new leadership.

Passenger Rail Franchise I responded on behalf of Woodbridge, and as Lib Dem spokesman on Transport to the recent governmental East Anglia Rail Passenger Franchise Consultation. Full details can be found here: http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2015/03/17/my-response-to-east-anglia-rail-passenger-franchise-consultation/

Sustainable transport and Sizewell: at the last full council I argued that any development of Sizewell C must needs involve significant compensation for the whole Suffolk Coastal region in terms of sustainable transport – better train services and scheduled bus services – as well as road development. Details can be found here:  http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2015/03/21/sizewell-c-a-route-to-sustainable-transport-in-east-suffolk/

Foreign language teaching: Over the last weeks I have been on local radio and in the EADT, pressing for our Suffolk young people to be taught more languages for longer to a higher standard – so that we’re competing on a level playing field with the rest of the world. This followed on from my – and Woodbridge Town Councillor Patrick Gillard’s  – runaway success as ‘opener’ for the Ipswich Chinese New Year Celebrations  singing the famous Chinese love song 月亮代表我的心 ‘Yueliang Daibiao Wode Xin’ (the moon reflects my heart) http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/fears_over_lack_of_uptake_for_language_study_1_4003643 . Woodbridge’s own proximity to Huawei at Martlesham, and the Chinese-owned port at Felixstowe  underlines the need for Mandarin teaching, for example, if we want to make sure local youngsters get the best jobs – and not just hand them over to linguistically better qualified people. We owe them more than that!

In Woodbridge, Warwick Avenue and Haugh Lane roads have been resurfaced, as has Drybridge Hill. All at long last!

Local Bus News: When the 65b turned up at Hamblin Road last Friday we were looking at the first  Woodbridge Good Friday Service in FOUR years – and a lot of people wanting to use it too!  A Sunday and Bank Holiday Bus Service is an invaluable thing.  It took a lot of lobbying but it’s going strong. I would hope that we can continue to think that if we use it we won’t lose it, despite the change at the top of SCC. We will wait and see.

Two other pieces of good news for Woodbridge bus users:  I’ve talked to Suffolk Onboard and they have now agreed to replace those  balancing poles at the Hamblin Road bus shelters with proper seating so that people will be able to sit and wait for their buses at long last.

And (after I took them to look at the site),  SuffolkOnboard have also approved two new bus stops on the Ipswich Road –  above the Notcutts roundabout -so that people wanting to get to Framfield surgery and Clarkson Court can find it easier to use the bus. First bus and Ipswich buses have also agreed them, so they will go ahead.

My next surgery is on Saturday 18th April, 10 – 12 as ever.

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Woodbridge Bus news – and it’s all good news!

The 65b Woodridge service  seemed to be  getting prenty of custom on Good Friday

The 65b Woodbridge service seemed to be getting plenty of custom on Good Friday

“So why are you taking a photo of a bus” asked the women at Hamblin Road.

BECAUSE IT’S A BANK HOLIDAY AND LOOK, THERE’S A BUS RUNNING!’ I screamed excitedly. Yes – we were looking at the first Good Friday Service in FOUR years – and a lot of people wanting to use it too!

A Sunday and Bank Holiday Bus Service is an invaluable thing! It took a lot of lobbying folks – but it’s going strong. Remember, use it, and you’ll not lose it!

Two other pieces of good news for Woodbridge bus users:

I’ve talked to Suffolk Onboard and they have now agreed to replace those  balancing poles at the Hamblin Road bus shelters with proper seating so that people will be able to sit and wait for their buses at long last.

And after I took them to look at the site, they have also approved two new bus stops on the Ipswich Road –  above the Notcutts roundabout -so that people wanting to get to Framfield surgery and Clarkson Court can find it easier to use  the bus services. The bus companies have also agreed them, so they will go ahead.

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Democracy in Suffolk: SCC Conservatives – what’s going on?

A game of Tug of War with Suffolk in the middle? While other elections go on, Suffolk’s county Conservatives quietly continue to tear themselves asunder…

A couple of weeks ago came the news that  Conservative councillor for Hadleigh, Brian Riley, planned to continue holding his seat as county  councillor (and drawing his councillor’s allowance)  from North Carolina. This was particularly galling to the Lib Dems  as the Hadleigh seat had been occupied – and occupied  well- for over twenty years  by indefatigable LibDem councillor David Grutchfield, who only stood down at the last election  due to ill health.

(It also  suggests the pointlessness of a protest vote.  People in Hadleigh who changed voting allegiance to show  Nick Clegg a thing or  two have rather cut off their own noses to spite their faces, haven’t they?  Showed Nick Clegg a whole lot, haven’t you, folks? – and really really helped make sure you get your buses back and your old folk looked after and your schools and social care problems adequately looked at!

Well, its worth pointing out…)

NOW we have the news that Suffolk County Council Leader Mark Bee is standing down, after what has seemed from the outside rather like a year of overt and covert party infighting following the failed putsch of former New Strategic Direction cheerleaders Guy MacGregor and Colin Noble last April.

Was he pushed or has he left of his own free will?

Regardless of one’s political beliefs, Bee came in and steadied a very rocky boat in the wake of the Andrea Hill fiasco.  And we may well wonder, in failing to support this decent and honourable man  whether the Suffolk Conservative party are – yet again – prioritising party factions and personal ambitions over the needs of the county they are elected to represent!

The Conservatives are playing their cards close to their chest – but it looks like the battle will be between Colin Noble, hoping to be third time lucky, and Bee’s nomination,  Jenny Antill.

Mrs Antill has degrees in Law and Russian Studies from London University and was an investment analyst in the City of London until she retired in 1999. She worked for a number of institutions, including James Capel, Merrill Lynch and Putnam Investments.

Colin NobleSuffolk Circle

March 2012: SCC’s first year funding for Suffolk Circle was £350,000: at the year end it had only recruited 362 members (who, despite paying a minimum subscription £30 each, had also cost SCC £1000 a head!) And Cllr Noble STILL has the temerity to talk about wasting public money!

In public debates Colin Noble is fond of making reference to an 18.5% council tax rise raised by the Labour & Liberal Democrat administration in 2003. He never mentions whether it provided value for money. Maybe for him, that isn’t an issue.  He is, however strangely silent on the subject of Suffolk Circle  a “Pay-annual-subscription-to-get-a-good-neighbour-scheme”  that Cllr Noble and his then Conservative Cabinet colleagues unilaterally decided to give just under £700,000 to, sight unseen, in camera, as a three year start-up – for reasons it is hard to understand, very much more recently.  Based on the premise that every person over 50 in Suffolk was ‘old’ and neglecting to recognise the many many groups that provide similar services for free,  even a person who did sums on eight fingers and two thumbs could see that Suffolk Circle, as a scheme, was doomed to financial failure.  And indeed this baby was a baby which circled the plughole and sank without remark a year ago the moment that SCC’s seed funding ran out (and with ab-so-lute-ly total silence from Cllr Noble) -having cost every man woman and child in Suffolk – council tax payer or no –  a little over a pound a head. 

Next week’s winner? We wait and see.  We, the people of Suffolk, will need persuading that we are not losers whichever way things pan out.

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Warwick Avenue is resurfaced!

Waerwick Avenue resurfacing is finally taking place!

Those potholes in Warwick Avenue . They’ve been a thorn in  residents’ sides for years – and in MY side ever since I’ve been elected. Now, finally, resurfacing work is under way.

 

In fact, with any luck it will be finished today!

 

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Sizewell C – a route to sustainable transport in East Suffolk?

At Suffolk’s full council  this week I spoke on the motion regarding mitigation and compensation in the development of Sizewell C.

I’d like to make clear here that the decision as to whether to build or not to build Sizewell C is not at issue here. THAT is a decision being taken elsewhere. However, what is very clear to me is that if Britain’s city-dwellers want us in Suffolk coastal to host their nuclear-powered electricity generation, they need to be compensating us handsomely for this.

I haven’t noticed any great  desire to build a new power station in  London, after all.

Suffolk coastal is already an area suffering from a double whammy of traffic problems – traffic congestion on eg sections of  the A12 on the one hand, rural transport poverty on the other hand. Any development of Sizewell C must be seen as an opportunity to address this.

In addition to  finally getting round to building the Four Villages bypass (a crying need since I’ve been a county councillor – and probably since my grandmother was one) I suggest that development should include heavy investment in the east Suffolk line and better rail services along the Suffolk coast, together with huge investment in other forms of sustainable transport, such as regular reliable bus services. This would aid building work and allow both residents and visitors to enjoy the Suffolk coastal countryside while leaving a lasting and green legacy of the development  that would go a small way to compensate us for all we are being asked to hazard – in short-, mid- and long-term – when hosting such a project for the benefit of the nation.

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My Response to East Anglia Rail Passenger Franchise Consultation

I am replying to the East Anglia Rail Passenger Franchise Consultation as County Councillor for Woodbridge, and as LibDem Spokesperson for Transport – on behalf of my constituents and all the rail travellers of Suffolk.

In addition I am a very regular rail traveller, using Abellio Greater Anglia rail services several times a week: generally using the East Suffolk  line, the Ipswich to Cambridge line, the Ipswich to Peterborough line and the Ipswich to London line  – though I also make fairly regular journeys on other portions of the network. I am therefore qualified to talk about the current rail provision with significant personal knowledge of the day-to-day running of the services.

Firstly I would like to make special reference to questions 3, 4 and 5 which all link together:

“Question 3  Are there any changes to the current passenger rail service which you feel should be considered? “

Currently the trains specified to and from Ipswich are:  Hourly to Felixstowe . Hourly to Lowestoft . Hourly to Cambridge . Every two hours to Peterborough.

It is clear to all regular travellers that the Cambridge and Peterborough services need extending: Increasing the Ipswich- Cambridge service to  twice an hour; Ipswich -Peterborough  service – hourly would meet the needs of our developing community. An later extension to the Lowestoft service would be a huge benefit.

The current poor service to Peterborough means that Ipswich is already substantially cut off from rail connexions to the west and north unless one travels via London, putting unnecessary stress on passenger numbers on that line and a huge extra-time burden on Suffolk travellers. Cynically this might seem for no better reason than the privatised competitive operators seem  reluctant to extend services beyond the Intercity route with the biggest gains (Norwich to London). This then causes a London bottleneck and a lack of flexibility in travel which seriously needs addressing:

People in Suffolk need an hourly service to Peterborough as a bare minimum  – both for their own convenience and benefit  and, strategically, to take pressure off the London route.

Similarly the Ipswich- Cambridge service needs to be improved from the once-an-hour service which is all that  it currently merits – bearing in mind that the Ipswich-Cambridge line is not only the gateway from Suffolk to the west but to Stansted.

Although we are hugely grateful for an hourly service, people in Woodbridge  and further along the East Suffolk line could do with at least  one later train in the evening to allow them to enjoy a night out in London – or even Ipswich. The last London train to meet the last existing Lowestoft service leaves at 21.00. The last Lowestoft service leaves Ipswich at 10.17.

“Question 4:Results indicate that rail is not the preferred mode of transport when travelling to Stansted Airport. What improvements do you believe should be made to the rail service in order to make this your first choice of travel?”

See answer to Q 3. Try to get to Stansted from anywhere in Suffolk – especially east Suffolk and the answer is simple. Currently Abellio runs a slow hourly service that is far from reliable. The last train from Ipswich goes at 21.19 and takes just under an hour and a half if all goes well. Reliability being an issue (and I personally have been given as little as 30 seconds notice of this train stopping dead at Newmarket an turning around  rather than continuing to Cambridge, although it was clear the guard had known in advance!) means that no sensible person would rely on this service if they have a  plane to catch.

 A frequent, fast, reliable service to Cambridge from Ipswich, starting early and finishing late and costing a reasonable amount is what is required if you wish to support rail transport from Suffolk to Stansted. This is a simple strategic decision that has been beyond every planner since Stansted became a functioning civil  airport.

“Question 5  If you have a view on or would be affected by the proposal set below, please provide it: In order to improve connectivity between Cambridge and the north of England, Rail Executive is currently assessing the case for the diversion of the current Liverpool Lime Street to Norwich East Midlands Trains to Cambridge and a new hourly East Anglia operated service between Norwich and Peterborough providing good connections to the East Coast Mainline services to Yorkshire, North East England and Scotland. The assessment will equally include a sub-option where the current Ipswich to Peterborough service would be limited to Ely and connections would be provided with the new Norwich to Peterborough service. The option to retain the current Norwich through service to Liverpool Lime Street will be included within this assessment.”

My view is simple, and relates to my answer to Q3.

  Suffolk needs an direct  hourly service between Ipswich and Peterborough. If you elect to link the service to anything that carries on further, that is up to you, however it MUST NOT be any less (eg to Ely). Anything else will be selling the residents in Suffolk short, and limiting our transport choices further than they are already limited.

The Peterborough – Ipswich service is already the poor relation of Abellio’s services. The last time I travelled on it, it compared very unfavourably to several rail trips I had recently made in rural China! As planning legislation requires more and more housing in the Suffolk countryside we Suffolk residents deserve rail services that are better, not worse –  and that will allow us to move around the region to employment and education choices that do not funnel us automatically through the already overly congested unreliable bottleneck that is Liverpool Street Station. By removing the direct Peterborough train you will be doing just that!

“Question 8a How can the franchise operator help you better during planned disruption, such as engineering works?”

Let us rephrase this question: “How (excuse my bluntness, but I am put beyond patience) can the franchise operator best get off its backside and consider providing the service that the farepaying public are paying for when they cynically ‘plan’ their disruption during weekends and public holidays?”

  The current franchise operator appears to  consider the needs of the distance city commuter first and foremost when it comes to ‘planned disruption’ I suggest that it is time that this should be queried as a priority. As Woodbridge county councillor I represent a huge tranche of travellers and business people who would like to travel – or to service the needs of travellers able to arrive by rail – at the weekends and on public holidays. The next rail franchise operator needs to consider that leisure and tourism is an important part of Suffolk business and understand that supporting the travel of a wider range of passengers should be a significant part of their operation.

Yet, because Abellio concentrates on the Norwich-London commuter traffic ,  the company  has shown itself totally cavalier to the requirements of internal Suffolk  travel and travellers and specifically weekend and holiday travellers. Why should it be so difficult for travellers to travel at the times most people want to travel? And for that matter why on earth should travellers be paying the same fare for this substandard and shoddy service? Most of all – if people can carry a bicycle on the train why can they not carry their bicycle on these replacement buses?  It is not beyond the wit of man to make adequate provision for the people the operator is so ready to discommode while they continue to charge them full fare for this poor apology for ‘service’ in a wholly ‘Jesting Pilate’ spirit!  Our expectations from the next franchise operator should be of a reasonable level – and I am expecting them to be able to commit to do a lot better! (Incidentally, I travel around the world on trains and have yet to find another country which grinds to a halt the way the UK does on Sundays and public holidays. Perhaps a new franchise operator would like to investigate that?)

“Question 9 …However, we are confined by limited timetabling and infrastructure constraints and are therefore looking for other innovative ways to resolve the issue of excess capacity. When travelling on a service where capacity is stretched, what opportunities do you see which would improve your on board experience?”

First and foremost I go back my answers to Q3 and 5 and to the simple notion of not allowing the franchise operator to neglect the minor routes and produce these bottlenecks in the first place – which is pretty much what you are proposing to do by eg removing the Ipswich to Peterborough service! It is not rocket science to see that you need to be reducing the pressure on these trains. So, simple solutions are:

Ensuring that as many competing rail services are across the area running efficiently and well and at as full capacity as possible by funding them appropriately and not allowing franchise operators and their shareholders to cherrypick the lucrative Intercity routes for short-term profits

Investing in double-decker carriages which are standard  in Europe and China (and don’t give me that spiel of amazingly long and impossible time-scales for commission and delivery that I have been given by UK rail operaters! They built an entire monorail across Chongqing: rail, stations, carriages and all in two years. In this global marketplace a rail company could source and build new carriages fast if it was in any way motivated to do so).

Biting the bullet and giving up the spacious first-class carriages and replacing them with the much more intensively occupied standard seating which is what the current franchise holder has provided for the rest of the passengers! My view of first class is that if there is no pressure on space, I have no issue with provision of first class seating – should people wish to pay for it. If however we have limited room and no chance of extra carriages, I’m afraid they stand in the way of efficiency and progress and are doomed to extinction

Question 15 mentions facilities:
There is a continuing diminution of cycle, buggy and luggage storage on current Greater Anglia trains, and the situation is getting worse.  On some Abellio trains (eg Cambridge – Ely and beyond) there is none at all within the carriages  although they are also without a guard’s van (and now resemble tube train carriages). This means there is nowhere at all to carry luggage. So what then is a traveller? Someone who only carries themselves? On these trains this lack of storage has a dreadful effect on the travel experience – cyclists and passengers with heavy luggage standing at the exits and getting in the way of people wanting to get on and off, and often with guards and passengers shouting at them. This is not appropriate reasonable or fair. Even on, say the Ipswich – Cambridge  or East Suffolk Line trains there is limited space for cycles and  it means that travelling is fraught with anxiety that one might be denied access. On several occasions in recent years I’ve been denied access onto a Greater Anglia train with a prebooked ticket because there was no space for my bicycle. More commonly, however, I’ve suffered great anxiety that I might be denied access, which has diminished my travelling experience. The East Suffolk Line is rural and there are no connecting buses so this is a particular handicap.

Babychanging facilities  are important and not very noticeable on trains (though, to be fair, I don’t carry babies any more and have had no complaints). It must always be included in carriages.

Staff presence is essential – particularly to protect the  vulnerable. It must not be reduced

Tables on trains are useful for those of us who work as we travel, while plug sockets are very useful – and so is free WiFi which every FirstBus in Suffolk provides for its passengers included in the price of their average £3.50 ticket – but which Abellio does not include in the eg £50.70 standard second-class single ticket it charges Ipswich to London

“Question 16 What areas of customer service within your end-to-end journey would you expect to see monitored and reported on in the new franchise, in order to improve the service quality for passengers?”

  Price of tickets

  Punctuality and reliability

  Provision of sufficient capacity in terms of a) train frequency b) availability of seating on board the train and c) provision of services to required destinations;

  Adequacy of cycle, buggy and luggage storage;

  management of disruption: information provision and outcome;

  ease of buying the most appropriate ticket for the journey at ticket office, online, AND via ticket machine;

  The ease of access for disabled passengers and those with young children

In Summary – which is what question 18 asks from me – I ask for my constituents from the new franchise, as top three priorities:

1 More and better evening/weekend /holiday rail services without disruptions, so that we business people, residents and travellers in Suffolk can benefit as well as the Intercity commuters from the franchise.

2 More services to Peterborough/Cambridge (1 an hour to Peterborough; 2 an hour to Cambridge, a further  evening service along the East Suffolk Line). NO REDUCTION OF EXISTING SERVICES

3 Better design of carriages to allow for more passengers to travel with bicycles and luggage and buggies (in other words – to travel) – and the fast commissioning and provision of these carriages.

Finally, I must point out – once again – that I take great issue with the first question in this Franchise consultation.  I have already responded personally, and face-to-face, as a county councillor in a public consultation, to this  – but I cannot emphasise how improper and dismissive it is to ask the poor passengers who travel on the current Greater Anglia trains your Question 1 (which asks them to prioritise only three of the following  list which they consider require  particular attention in order to improve an end to end journey:

Delivering value for money; Providing a punctual and reliable service;Provision of sufficient capacity, both in terms of train frequency and the availability of seating on board the train;Effective management of disruption, especially through information to passengers;The availability of accurate information about trains and platforms;The comfort and adequacy of accommodation on the train, especially on longer distance journeys;The availability of train and station staff;The ease of buying the most appropriate ticket for the journey at a ticket office, online, or via a ticket machine;The ease of access to services for passengers with reduced mobility; and Free wi-fi available on trains)

I wish to put it on record for a third time that this question is deeply inappropriate considering the current levels of service provision. Are we expected to make a choice?  Yet as any person filling in an electronic version will be unable to continue UNLESS they tick three boxes and three only, it will completely distort the problems that exist with the current provision given that:

*The train tickets are expensive (£50.70 each way standard fare Ipswich to London) * the trains are often not punctual or reliable, * they are often not of a suitable capacity (at least for second class passengers) * management of disruption is perfunctory and kneejerk with conflicting advice being given and the poor staff on the ground left without support to deal with enraged passengers*The availability of accurate information about trains and platforms is such that I am often reminded of the comic film M Hulot’s Holiday; *space – particularly for people with luggage or bicycles and most particularly at peak or holiday times is unreliable – the stock being variable; trying to travel with a bicycle  on the ‘tube-style- carriages north of Cambridge is a particular challenge * one cannot buy the popular Day Ranger ticket either online or from a ticket machine because -although I have repeatedly asked  Abellio  to do so – they  do not provide it  online or via a ticket machine machine, presumably because it is rather too good value (!) * reduced mobility covers a multitude of problems some of which  are dealt with better than others* Finally, as I travel around Suffolk on First Eastern Counties buses who all provide free wifi in the price of their ticket – I am at a loss to understand why Abellio should decide it is a First Class perk!

Given, as I say, all these factors , I would absolutely refuse to prioritise three of these recommendations ‘that would  make my journey better’. Why on earth should anyone imagine that passengers should not need them ALL to make our journeys better, if all are lacking? 

Yours sincerely

Caroline Page

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Suffolk v Swindon Stanza Bonanza

Stanza Bonanza - Suffolk v Swindon

Stanza Bonanza – Suffolk v Swindon

On 26th February I joined with five colleagues from the Suffolk Poetry Society in a ‘Stanza Bonanza’ –  when two teams of poets from different areas join with each other in a sort of friendly contest.

It was held at the Poetry Society’s Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. We were matched against some excellent poets from Swindon, Wiltshire.

The doughty poets of Suffolk and Swindon: Elizabeth Bracken, Hilda Sheehan, Florence Cox, Cristina Newton, Kate Foley, Louise Crossley, Caroline Gill, George Morehead, Caroline (Cro) Page, Sam Loveless, Beth Soule, Maurice Spillane

The doughty poets of Suffolk and Swindon: Elizabeth Bracken, Hilda Sheehan, Florence Cox, Cristina Newton, Kate Foley, Louise Crossley, Caroline Gill, George Morehead, Caroline (Cro) Page, Sam Loveless, Beth Soule, Maurice Spillane

I read one poem inspired by a fungus  foraging afternoon organised by Suffolk Wildlife Trust at Knettishall Heath, last year, and also – because  I had spent the afternoon at the House of Commons’ first EVER debate on Epilepsy –  a poem I’d written on Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, “Lament for a Late Ghost“.

Why not be topical.

I may also be reading  this at Woodbridge Library  for their next poetry evening, 26 March as will be Purple Day 2015 – Epilepsy Day!

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