Category Archives: Rail

The rail service in Woodbridge

HAPPY NEW YEAR- and greater justice for train travellers?

Its 2015 and at last the national media are catching up with reality and telling the world what we Woodbridge train users have been saying for a while:

You cannot get the cheapest and best fares for a journey from a self-service ticket machine. (Read the Telegraph’s take on it here) .

Am I cynical in thinking this omission isn’t accidental?  I’ve asked Abellio  Greater Anglia several times why they can’t sell the inexpensive and useful Day Ranger ticket from their machines -with no result whatsoever. (Indeed, I asked Andrew Goodrum, Abellio Customer Service Director -in person – about this on two different occasions when I met him, and got two differing answers. Neither one of which was “Yes, of course. We will naturally ensure the people  of Suffolk have access to Abellio’s cheapest and best means of getting around their network from the machines on our stations.”  You can argue that you can buy a ticket on the train if you get on at Woodbridge. Not if you get on at Ipswich. So, if the queues are endless, you lose your chance of the best ticket price. Which is very unfortunate – but not for Abellio.)

Nationally, the movers and shakers are belatedly becoming aware that their chums in the rail companies are fleecing ordinary travellers. Self-service machines — which are used to purchase almost a quarter of all tickets sold annually — offer wildly differing fares , adding as much as £100 to some journeys. I could tell you that. (In fact, I  seem to remember making the exact £100 point on Twitter, over the fare to Nottingham from Woodbridge, only last month) Now,  the country’s first rail fare code of conduct has established that from March, all self-service ticket machines will be required to tell customers if there is a potential cheaper fare available and direct them to a ticket office. What a terrible shame that Woodbridge no longer has a ticket office. We had one. It was in the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) controversially closed by Suffolk Coastal District Council two years ago. It is now a flower shop.

Whats been happening – November to December

Restored Sunday bus goes from strength to strength! Having finally got the 65b service back in July, after years when Woodbridge residents were cut off from any Sunday or holiday bus transport whatsoever (including getting to Ipswich hospital for visiting, A&E and minor injuries!) We were told – quite fairly–  ‘use it, or lose it’  Woodbridge residents have risen magnificently to the challenge  – and as a direct result  the 65b will not only be retained at least until March but will also now run 5 times a day in each direction from January, and the service has been extended out to Melton.  Again, we must continue to remember that it’s a case of use it or lose it – so when shopping for Christmas, or in the sales – remember to take the Sunday bus!

Woodbridge Rail StationTicket Machines!  Sadly, the machine continues to be less than wholly fit for purpose. It spends much of its time out of order or malfunctioning, leaving many Woodbridge residents frustrated – either out of pocket, having had to pay twice for a ticket, or facing a penalty fine for a fare they have paid!  I have recently been contacted by a stream of people complaining about this problem , including overseas visitors who found  local travel very difficult and some residents who have told me  that their only option to this is making a 15 mile round trip to use the machines in Ipswich (as the Saxmundham ticket machine is often  also out of action).

Suffok Speed Limit Criteria  For some months now I have been part of the crossparty  policy development panel  working on developing a new  Speed Limit Criteria policy for Suffolk. SCC Cabinet will be seeking to approve this today. If approved, the  new policy aims  to ensure that speed  limits are applied fairly, and transparently across the county while reflecting  local concerns where appropriate  – and enabling local County Councillors to make representations on behalf of the communities they represent.

This would complement the new 20mph policy that  the same panel  (on which I also sat) developed  and which Cabinet approved earlier this year.

Suffok’s Education and Learning Infrastructure Plan  SCC is also developing Suffolks Education and Learning InfrastructurePlan. This is of particular interest to me as I have been arguing that there is insufficent bringing together of strategic issues  locally.  The  coverage of the  future eduction situation in  Woodbridge is not wholly encouraging:


Woodbridge/Melton
Issue: Potential housing of up to 500 houses in the  longer term
Solution: Investigate local primary provision in the area to ensure capacity is available or local schools are able to expland to accommodate growth. Also ensure that local secondary provision, already at capacity, is able to expand as appropriate.”

I have asked for this  information to be expanded on, bearing in mind that Farlingaye, designed for 750  pupils, now accommodates around 2000 and that the the physical impossibility of moving this number around the corridors has caused lessons to be reduced to 3 a day for the last 8 years. I understood that these  developments aren’t seen as enough to fund a further school, but query what further expansion  might be humanly possible in the circumstances!

I also want to understand why the strategic  issues of Farlingaye are siloed within Woodbridge/Melton when it has a catchment area of 400 square miles including, for example Rendlesham (where I see further development is also indicated).

Additionally, strategic development of schools seems to stop at the buildings themselves and does not consider the impact on local roads.

Warwick Avenue:  That  long-awaited resurfacing of Warwick Avenue is delayed again –  until March 2015 – but this time there is an excuse! I have been lobbying for this seriously overdue and much-needed repair work for years, and  am very glad that it  is finally going ahead. The repairs had been planned for the end of 2014, but when cores were taken from the concrete slabs that make up the road, it was discovered that they had metal reinforcement, making hopes of using an in-situ recycling technique impossible.  I am now told that the SCC contractors, KMG, will be bringing in a specialist surfacing  contractor to remove any asphalt on the slabs, repair the slab joints and lay high density asphalt overlay.

Let us hope this will finally and at long last provide the reliable and stable road surface that Warwick Avenue residents deserve – and for which they have been waiting for such an unreasonably long time!”

County Councillor Surgeries  My  monthly walk-in surgeries continue to be very successful and well-attended. In October I discovered 14 people waiting for me when I opened.  The final Surgery of the year will take place on 20December 2014 10-12 in the library as ever.

Dates for the early part of 2015 will be: 17 January, 21 February. 21 March and 18 April.

Finally,

Happy Christmas and all good wishes for a peaceful New Year!

Woodbridge Ticket Machine. Not working. Again

This machine is currently out of service. Abiello Greater Angliaa apologise for any inconvenience this may cause
This machine is currently out of service. Abiello Greater Anglia apologise for any inconvenience this may cause

 

This machine is currently out of service.  Abellio Greater Anglia apologise for any inconvenience this may cause

I’m sure we all remember SCDC’s controversial closure of Woodbridge’s Tourist Information Centre last year. At the time, we Woodbridge residents were all assured that the new ticket machine at the station would be just as effective as the friendly and helpful staff who had been such an integral part of the Tourist Information Centre by Woodbridge  station.

Right.

I have just had to make a 15mile round trip in the  pouring rain to collect tickets from Ipswich because the machine is ‘currently out of service’. This is the second time in 4 days.  Like many of my constituents I have limited transport choices, and am currently suffering from extreme mobility problems.

Some bright spark has just pointed out we could buy tickets on the trains. Why gosh, so we could. Buying my tickets on the train might meaan that travelling to the funeral I am attending next week would cost  a little over £130, instead of the £25 return my prebooked tickets sitting in Woodbridge’s non-working ticket machine might cost, but hey – what is that? a mere bagatelle!

 

Taking the TIC away, and further limiting our choices  by having a non-working  machine has really not benefited all those who most needed it.  Can I give a special thank you to the   SCDC councillors of Woodbridge who made this decision on our behalf. We do remember who they are.

 

Incidentally,  readers, are you as irritated as I am by  the formulaic mantra  whereby a company will ” apologise for any inconvenience this may cause“? What on earth do they mean by  “any inconvenience”?  Are they suggesting that some people will come along to buy a ticket from this non-operational machine and find themselves in any sense convenienced by its lack of action?

Abellio Greater Anglia – if the ticket machine doesn’t work , aren’t you – in your heart of hearts – expecting it  to cause inconvenience to each and every passenger (I unapologetically use the old-fashioned term) who wants to buy a ticket? So, go on -why not apologise unreservedly  to all of us?

Rural Transport: the Far East v East Anglia

Apologies for my recent absence – I have been away in China on family business.

And took the opportunity to look and report back at the state of transport in this huge, crowded, and fast-evolving country.

Qufutransport (800x525)
Main Street, Qufu

I love travelling by public transport, and so took the chance of using every conceivable form in my solitary travels, from gaosu (highspeed train) to ordinary train, to long-distance bus, to metro, to city bus, to minibus, to taxi, to tuktuk to bicycle rickshaw and horse-drawn cart – and am happy to report that all these forms are simultaneously alive and flourishing despite the rapid increase in car ownership.

On the left is a picture  main street in Qufu old town, in Shandong province. It is two hours away from big-city Nanjing by highspeed bullet train. There is a huge variety of vehicles driven along this street, powered by legs, hooves and electricity as well as the internal combustion engine. No one variety has booted any other form of transport out of the way. As yet.

In horrifying contrast, here is a picture I took of the Nanjing South railway concourse on the bright sunny day before.

Nanjingpollution (800x527)
The silvery beauty of poor air quality in Nanjing

It doesn’t look horrifying, does it? Not a car in sight, the temperature 25o and there wasn’t a cloud in the  sky (“万里无云as they say in China) but the air is filled with a silvery cloud – the deadly emissions of the millions of private motors that fill the city these days and make crossing each road an act fraught with difficulty.

China’s air quality standards are less stringent than those of the WHO, or the US -when it comes to particulate matter, there’s currently an  annual standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5  (The WHO recommends a maximum of 10 micrograms, and the US 12).

Nanjing – the 24th most polluted city in China –  has an annual average of 75.3 micrograms, double China’s standard – with an maximum of 312 micrograms on a bad day. These measures are less than half the measures of average and maximum air pollution of China’s most polluted cities!

And yet – just like in the UK- establishments in China ask smokers to smoke outside – in both cases “because we don’t want to breathe your fumes!” Hah! (I speak as a non-driving non-smoker.)

Its a worrying situation. Yet unlike Suffolk, China hasn’t turned its back on those who can’t afford the internal combustion engine that is poisoning us all. You can get on a bus in any city and travel as far as you like for a flat rate of 20p. You pay a bit more in the countryside, but for a 7 day-a-week many-times-an-hour service. Cities are busy building and expanding undergrounds and all new developments are bus-accessible.  Sounds like a happy dream, doesn’t it?

We in the west feel free to criticise the unregulated Chinese rush to private car-ownership that is our own symbol of ‘making it.’ But we are far from keen – particularly in the UK countryside – to change our own ways. And even though we may think the Chinese are making ‘bad’ choices – they still HAVE a choice, because they still have cheap, effective and expanding public transport services in town and countryside alike.

I spoke passionately on the problems of Suffolk rural transport on Friday, 19th April. You can hear what I said here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01wj3bz (about 43 mins in) – for the next few days at least.

What’s been happening in Suffolk November/December 2013

Dec 6 Flood and Aftermath    Multi-Agency flood responders worked  through the night to ensure the tidal surge of 5/6 December was mitigated where possible. The forecast high water was due in Woodbridge at 1:00 am on Friday 6 December  rising 2.17 m AODN, with an additional forecast surge height of 1.73. As it was, the surge arrived early.

Fortunately the flood barriers held off most of the high water (though they leaked at the station, and at the Eversheds ramp which I phoned in to the Environment Agency). The most damage seemed to be suffered suffered by the Waterfront café and the Tide Mill which had prepared for less high water.

In addition to the leaking there was a strong sewage smell  from the public lavatory by Eversheds, plus gushing water from the new emergency storm drain behind the Woodbridge community hall , I reported these to Anglian Water but fortunately their engineers found no issue some hours later. It was probably a case of the emergency drains backing up due to the surge .

Members of the public are being advised to heed notices warning that footpaths are closed due to flooding. The warning is there because they are impassable and/or unsafe.

 A14 tolling  Government plans to introduce the UK’s first toll road in 10 years  on the A14 have been dropped – to the relief of all. The planned upgrade will now be funded from general taxation – as is happening with all other of Britain’s road upgrades..The toll was condemned almost unanimously by Councillors at Suffolk County Council’s October meeting as a ‘toll on Suffolk.’ http://blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2013/10/29/a14-will-years-of-underinvestment-take-its-toll/

Ipswich Sexual Health Clinic  The sorry saga of the unplanned, unthought-through relocation of these vital services continues. We were told that the Sexual Health clinic was moving because the clinic needed to be in a more central location and I was assured that this would be a modular building at Gipping Court, Constantine Road  – but this turned out to be no more than aspiration. According to the latest communication from the Director of Public Health they  are now relocating the service in the grounds of the former Holywells High School – eg exactly as far from the centre as Ipswich Hospital, but with considerably fewer transport links. This is a truly extraordinary decision. I will be following it up.

Locality Budget –  do you know of a project that needs funding?  My most recent grant from the Locality budget is for a mobile skating rink to draw new custom into town in the dark days of February.

I still have money in this year’s budget, and would be interested in hearing from people for suitable projects. There is no urgency, as I am able to roll money over until next year, if nothing of sufficient local importance or need comes to hand.

New Street   As it seems that it has been impossible to reach a solution to the continuing New Street flooding issues and as some residents are unhappy that the only solution offered is the barrier/sandbag one,  I am escalating the situation. I think it is reasonable to say that the SCC Highways team have done all that is possible for them to do. There are elements within the situation that encompass the Environment Agency, Anglian Water, Suffolk Coastal District council – and maybe other bodies. I am now asking Cabinet Member for Roads and Transport, and the Director of Economy Skills and Environment whether they can do anything to improve the situation.

My Last Surgery of the Year will be on 21 December (10-12 at the Woodbridge Library) if anyone has any last minute problems and issues – and I’ll be serving a mince pie to everyone who turns up

And finally… 

May I wish everyone

xmas2013picsmall (500x800)A MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR