ISSUE 127 (MARCH - JUNE 2010) PART 2






















Soon after South West Trains became the Conservatives’ flagship inaugural rail privatisation, Steven Norris admitted: “Awarding the franchise to Stagecoach was really taking the fight to the enemy… It was the most aggressive decision we could take, and if we had tried to dress privatisation in its most acceptable form, it would have been better to award it to almost anyone else.”

This Group’s response to the DfT’s recent consultation on franchising has an annex on South West Trains, setting out how Mr Norris’ pessimism has been amply justified through 13 years of a Labour government. The response and annex take account of comments from people outside the Group. The response is below, and the annex forms Part 1 of this newsletter.

In summary, Stagecoach, as SWT franchise holder, has moved from being gung-ho in its contempt for government and passengers to a form of sickly-smooth PR-speak which simply ignores fact. The Stagecoach founders, meanwhile, have accumulated fortunes in the order of hundreds of millions, in large part through government largesse. Although franchise promises, and even requirements, have not been delivered, Stagecoach repeatedly seeks more public funding. If ever there were an area where public funds could usefully be saved, this is it.

A good deal of taxpayer expenditure is already down the drain. Stagecoach started by depriving Southampton of its bus station. It has now deprived the city of its rail travel centre, the inter-city rolling stock acquired in BR days specifically for the long-distance London-Southampton-Weymouth route, affordable off-peak morning fares to London, and a proportionate revenue protection system.

Southampton Central was recently included among Britain’s 20 worst large stations. A national stations improvement initiative is purportedly in place, though not much seems to be happening. The main entrance, where Stagecoach ripped out the travel centre is a blight on the city.

To use old political tags, Stagecoach is now well-established in the eyes of many as the nasty operator, with more than something of the night about the way it manipulates government and regulators and, all too frequently, abuses members of the public. Eleven of the country’s 20 worst large stations are managed by Stagecoach or the Stagecoach-Virgin partnership, and these companies also feature prominently for passenger abuse in our response to the DfT’s consultation on penalty fares (Part 1 of Issue 126 of this newsletter).

There seems to be no prospect of the railways returning to public control, though rail expert Christian Wolmar reports that Lord Adonis (in succession to Tony Blair on the Breakfast with Frost programme) has radically changed his stance, admitting that much of was lost through privatisation should have been kept. Fortuitously, Lord Adonis’ change of opinion followed our own re-presentation of the glowing compliments which Sir David Mitchell (now a senior government minister) paid to BR Chairman Sir Bob Reid’s team for their achievements in exceeding both his cost-cutting targets and in delivering major infrastructure schemes (Issue 123 of this newsletter).

Overall, the political history of rail privatisation, from Steve Norris to Lord Adonis, has often been characterized by recognizing the underlying problems and failing to address them, whilst the worst operators have been allowed to flourish. The disappearance of Stagecoach would end a shameful episode and help re-establish the railways in the role that the DfT still prescribes for them: serving the public.


With cost-cutting a government priority, isn’t it time to make some cost-saving structural changes on the railways? Apart from the London Underground, the South’s third-rail electric network (formerly ‘Southern Electric’) is Britain’s busiest rail operation.

It would be surprising if substantial savings couldn’t be made, as soon as a suitable opportunity arises, from reconstituting Southern Electric. This would involve merging the South Eastern and Southern franchises under a single GoVia management, and adding SWT’s electric services.

SWT’s diesel services could transfer to Great Western. Carriages which strengthen Waterloo-Salisbury-Exeter services in the commuting peaks could be used to relieve overcrowding in the West of England at weekends. The services which SWT runs with diesels over all-electric routes (Lymington-Brockenhurst and (peaks) Basingstoke-Southampton-Portsmouth area) could be operated by electric trains, helping Great Western capacity all week. With the huge slack in many of SWT’s services, it should be simple enough to tighten diagrams and release a few electric units to replace these diesel workings.

These measures would be a cost-effective way of helping to tackle Great Western’s serious capacity problems [random example; only a two-car unit was available for the 15.30 Cardiff-Portsmouth on 23/04/2010, and passengers left behind at Bath].


Whilst Stagecoach has been ripping out travel centres, reducing ticket office opening hours (leaving stations unstaffed, a well recognised cause of passenger insecurity), and operating its revenue protection scheme with extraordinary incidents of abuse, it never fails to shout about how its community rail officers are working to keep passengers safe. Yet the reports of this tiny gang’s activities suggest that very little they do results in greater security for passengers, and SWT’s webchat has established that they are often just part of SWT’s revenue protection operation.

Of course, when you introduce incredibly high fares, and make it very difficult for people to get face-to-face advice on the cheapest available tickets by ripping out travel centres and not opening ticket offices, you may start to get paranoid about revenue protection.

[For examples of the abuse of passengers through disproportionate and often ludicrous revenue protection action, see the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group’s response to DfT’s recent consultation on penalty fares. The response is available in Hogrider 126, Part 1, on]

[From ‘Bootnotes, a free paper, 17 March 2010]

“A 25-year-old musician was turfed off a South West Trains service after security operatives objected to his "suspicious" set list, The Portsmouth News reports.

Bassist Tom Shaw was putting together the list for his band The Magic Mushrooms, and ill-advisedly included the word "killers" as shorthand for These Things That I've Done by The Killers.

He explained: "I got on at Fratton and there were two people who looked like they were in luminous Transport Police jackets. I sat down and they were looking over my shoulder.

"After a couple of minutes they told me I'd have to get off the train. When I asked why, they said they'd speak to me more on the platform."

He continued: "They made me get out at Fareham and when I asked what was wrong they told me to show them the piece of paper I'd been writing on. They said I'd been behaving suspiciously. I couldn't understand it. It seemed very strange, as it was just a list of songs.

"We had a gig coming up, so I was writing out what we could play. They made me explain song by song."

The other offending items included Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out and Cigarettes and Alcohol by Oasis, but the single word "killers" evidently set alarm bells ringing, since security staff told Shaw he'd been targeted "because there had been a 'number of arrests' nearby including one man who had killed his wife".

A South West Trains spokeswoman offered: "We employ highly-professional rail community officers who work closely with the British Transport Police in protecting the security of passengers on the rail network.

"During a routine high-visibility patrol, they spoke with a passenger on the platform at Fareham station. The team clarified the nature of the individual's business, were satisfied with his explanation and the man went on his way."

She concluded: "We would like to thank him for his co-operation and understanding of the need to be vigilant in the current environment."


Steven Stewart, Director of Corporate Communications of the Stagecoach Group, got in touch this afternoon following publication of this article. He wrote:

I am writing in connection with the above story, which makes an inaccurate reference to an individual being "turfed off" a train. Please note that his is completely untrue. He was politely asked to step off the train by our rail community officers, which he was happy to do. The train was extremely busy and this was intended to protect Mr Shaw's privacy whilst we asked him a few questions.

I would appreciate if your story was amended to reflect the true position.”


Within a few hours, the blog which followed this article had attracted almost 90 comments, condemning SWT and its snoopers in the strongest terms. Comments like “Vote fascist” and “glo-jacketed thugs” illustrate the strength of feeling. There was particular contempt for the observations from Steven Stewart, since it was clear the abused passenger had had no option but to leave the train. The Southern Daily Echo used the term “kicked off” in inverted commas, suggesting this is what he actually said. SHRUG’s organiser contributed the following very mild observations to the blog:

“Stagecoach sensitivities 

I was amused by Stagecoach's sudden hair-splitting concern with the truth, because the passenger would clearly have been "turfed off" if he hadn't alighted voluntarily.

After Stagecoach was awarded the current SWT franchise, SWT ran an on-line poll to see whether people thought they should have won. A figure of 61% in favour of Stagecoach was published in SWT's passenger magazine, at the very time that the poll was showing 34% - confirmed by Passenger Focus. So far as I know, no retraction was ever published.

I assume the community rail officers didn't have enough to do. SWT's recent Webchat event drew a question about why these people are used on revenue protection duties.

I think one has to be wary about anything Stagecoach says, because of Brian Souter's assertion that "Ethics are not irrelevant but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed". Truth is surely essential to ethics. It's time Government stopped awarding franchises to companies that don't demonstrate reasonable ethical standards. We expect it of our MPs. So why not from companies who have received huge sums of public money in return for what DfT still calls a public service?”

Comment from Nigel Harris, the pro-industry editor of RAIL

“I’m concerned by the increasing tendency for security staff to bully someone for something perfectly innocent in order to demonstrate a company’s ‘high profile’ ‘highly professional’ security, when it’s actually anything but.

Musician Tom Shaw, 25, was minding his own business as a South West Trains’ passenger, idly jotting down a set-list for his band to play at an upcoming gig. The band plays music by Oasis and the Ting Tings – plus a song by US band The Killers. On-train security staff poking their noses over his shoulders to see what he was writing (which in itself is out of order) decided that this was ‘suspicious’ and ordered Tom off the train! Unbelievable.

What’s more galling than the incident itself is SWT’s ridiculous attempt to defend the indefensible rather than admit it just got it wrong. A spokesperson for --- SWT --- said: “We employ highly-professional rail community officers who work closely with the British Transport Police in protecting the security of passengers on the rail network. During a routine high-visibility patrol, they spoke with a passenger on the platform at Fareham station. The team clarified the nature of the individual’s business, were satisfied with his explanation and the man went on his way. We would like to thank him for his co-operation and understanding of the need to be vigilant in the current environment.”

Yes, of course there’s a need to be vigilant. But that doesn’t excuse this sort of crass, intrusive and counter-productive nonsense which is increasingly inflicted on us by small-minded uniforms with oversize egos. And it’s not just embarrassing for the victims, it actually undermines the ‘professionalism of the security staff concerned – and that IS a major safety risk for us all. Because they don’t come across as vigilant. They come across as out of touch, pompous and just plain silly. And once you’ve got a uniformed security force with a reputation like that, who’s going to take any notice of it at all when the chips are down and it really counts?

And that’s when someone will get hurt – or die. I despair of this sort of thing. The full story is here And finally, I’m curious at that passing, indirect SWT reference to the British Transport Police, whose name is casually deployed in a clear attempt to justify and validate this barmy and over-the-top incident… I wonder if the BTP were really involved – or are even aware that it’s being implied they were? It doesn’t sound like the BTP that I know these days.

You couldn’t make it up.” [Rail Issue 643]


[Item by Fran Duckett-Pike in the Portsmouth ‘News’ of 22 March 2010]

“City council leaders have called for South West Trains to ditch rolling stock after a survey found customers hated them. A study by Portsmouth City Council found frequent complaints of cramped, uncomfortable conditions on board the Class 450 Portsmouth to London Waterloo trains.

The council conducted a survey of 919 passengers on board the blue two and three-seater trains after a deluge of complaints, and has deemed them 'not fit for purpose'.

The survey discovered 74 per cent of passengers went out of their way to avoid the trains, and many complained of sciatica and other back-related problems as a result of the 97-minute journey. The 450 Class trains represent almost half of all the company's Portsmouth to London Waterloo trains. Now the council is calling for them to be taken off the line altogether.

Councillor Lynne Stagg, head of Traffic and Transportation, said: 'Our city, along with other communities along the route, deserves a proper high-quality rail service. Inferior transport affects business and economic growth. These Class 450 trains are not fit for purpose.'

The council's survey, conducted on commuters from March 3 to 4 on five early morning trains, also says that many passengers have changed jobs to avoid commuting to London by train, or started driving instead.

Cllr Stagg added: 'Passengers find it almost impossible to work with papers, use laptops or properly relax. Some have complained of back problems. Many say they prefer to stand than to be squashed trying to sit on the narrow seats.'

The trains were introduced in 2006 as an addition to the popular white Class 444 trains to help overcrowding, a claim Portsmouth City Council says has never been substantiated. It argues that crowding only occurs when trains are delayed or cancelled.

'This problem has been going on since 2006, but the government and South West Trains don't seem to be getting the message,' said Cllr Stagg.

The report of the survey is now being sent to ministers at South West Trains and the council is demanding the service is resumed to pre-2006 standards.

But a statement from South West trains said: 'We believe that the current mix of Class 450 and Class 444 trains on the Portsmouth line represents the most efficient use of our resources and provides optimum service delivery for passengers across the route as a whole. While we will of course take a close look at the points raised in this survey, we have no plans to change the fleet deployment across our network.'“


“The only reason that we've got the blue trains on the Portsmouth line, and even on some services between Waterloo and Weymouth, is that SWT is franchised to Stagecoach.

SWT has been Stagecoach's cash cow, so the company was desperate to retain the franchise. It bid over half a billion pounds more than the next highest bidder. This was a huge waste of money, and passengers have had to pay the price. So 120 mainline carriages were disposed of in return for a similar number which were much cheaper to hire.

This was part of a package of Stagecoach measures to disadvantage passengers, including the closure of travel centres, the reduction of booking office opening hours, the imposition of penalty fares in cases of genuine error, and a 20% increase in off-peak morning fares to London. Fares expert Barry Doe considers SWT's fares policy to be 'legalised theft'.

Unfortunately, this is what one has to expect from Stagecoach, whose co-founder Brian Souter once told Scotland on Sunday that "ethics are not irrelevant, but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed".

When Stagecoach was bidding for the franchise, it issued a prospectus called 'Building on Success'. This stated: "Stagecoach's success has been built on listening to customers and using their special insight to improve services even further... consultation lies at the heart of the Stagecoach approach.”

After Stagecoach won the franchise, SWT ran an on-line poll to see whether people thought Stagecoach should have won. They published a figure of 61% in favour in their e-motion magazine, but the poll was still live and showing 34% (confirmed by the rail watchdog PassengerFocus).

After securing the franchise, the two Stagecoach founders shared bonuses totalling nine figures over two years. Not content with this demonstration of 'greed', they are now trying to squeeze a further £100m out of Government to provide them with extra cushioning against the recession.”


>From 26 March, SWT withdrew Nexus Alpha’s Journeycheck information from passengers. There are various sources of live-running information available to passengers. But Journeycheck is by far the best. It is invaluable in providing a complete up-to-date picture of the problems with an operator’s services at any point in time: cancellations, delays and short formations. It enables passengers to make informed choices about which trains to head for, and which to avoid because they were likely to suffer severe overcrowding. But it has also exposed the scale of SWT’s problems with defective rolling stock and crew shortages, and presumably became too great a source of embarrassment for Stagecoach as they tried to wrest an extra £100 million from taxpayers.

When Stagecoach was bidding for renewal of the SWT franchise, there were posters all over the network about live-running information which declared: “As soon as we know, you’ll know”. A letter about the withdrawal of Journeycheck drew a response (dated 14/04/2010) stating: “I am sorry you have noticed (sic) we no longer provide the Journey Checker (sic) Facility. The Journey Checker Facility is provided by a third party and it has been decided we will no longer require this facility.”

All other London commuter train operators continued to provide Journeycheck. Nexus Alpha say the use of the facility is increasing, and saw considerable use during last winter’s bad weather. So this seemed to be a measure of how little SWT cares about helping passengers cope with travel problems on their network.

Early in June, it was noticed that Journey Check for SWT had been restored. In view of SWT’s letter, we assume that someone in authority intervened. Nexus Alpha’s website says the facility was restored on 21 May and thanks passengers who use it.


The destruction of travel centres and reduced station staffing underline how little SWT cares about providing information. Where any kind of information is provided, it is often obscure, or simply wrong, presumably to discourage people from bothering to ask.

So on Friday 4th June, the screens at Waterloo, under a heading about engineering work on Saturday 5th June, stated “there are no major engineering works taking place in the SWT area today”. It’s anyone’s guess whether “today” meant “Friday” or “Saturday”.

Another example. At Totton station (serving the 4th largest intermediate town between Southampton and Weymouth) the live running information was down on the Late Spring Bank Holiday. A Saturday service was supposedly in operation. A passenger who wanted the 09.05 to Weymouth used the Help Point to ask if it was running. After some delay, the person at the other end insisted that the 09.05 was a Monday-Friday train and wasn’t running. The passenger then said that the station timetable showed this was a Saturday train. The person at the other end insisted that the train was not running. A few minutes later, it arrived.

  [Report from a Surrey rail user to the DfT and PassengerFocus]  

For the past six weeks, the queuing standards at Guildford have not been met (observations made between 09:30-14:00 6 days a week). On all occasions guards and revenue staff have not been made aware (where I have been able to talk to staff to ensure they were aware of queuing standards being breached). The Guildford Park entrance remains closed during advertised open times every time I check. I have photographic evidence of this.  The DfT state that SWT have good compliance of ticket office opening hours (where do they get their information from I wonder)?

13:47 Guildford to Waterloo (coach 3 - 67157) Toilet appears to have emptied into carriage and water from the toilet has saturated carpet. Unsurprisingly there is a foul smell in the carriage.

13:17 Guildford to Waterloo.  Foul smell coming from either coach 58724 or 52879.

12:50 Petersfield station ticket office closed.

Guildford ticket office 21/05/2010 11:42 1 position open
24/05/2010 12:09 14 people in the queue and one ticket window open.
25/05/2010 12:43 11 people in the queue and one ticket window open.

26/05/2010 17:46 Woking to Basingstoke
Missed train due to lack of barrier staff being able to open the gate (my valid ticket did not operate the gate). 17:50 Woking one ticket window open in the entire station and 9 people in the queue. As always, the town centre (and public transport interchange) entrance was unstaffed.

17:34 Twickenham to Wimbledon – train doors closed while passengers boarding (as train was departing during the advertised minute of departure rather than 30 seconds before).

Richmond station
28/05/2010 15:31 18 people in queue (increased to 22) and three positions open – no action taken and revenue staff refused to assist. Queuing time estimated to be around 25-30 minutes. Two passengers querying increase in ticket price from the same window (separate transactions).

15:57 Clapham – Basingstoke. Folding seat broken in-between carriages (does not lock in horizontal position and could therefore be dangerous). Other nearby (folding) seats locked out of use. Strap on fire extinguisher broken – no restraint to prevent this falling onto a passenger.


We have for some time been highlighting the stark differences between Southern and South West Trains. This year’s FA Cup Final was a great opportunity for SWT (the franchise responsible for Portsmouth stations) to show itself in a good light.

Southern served Portsmouth handsomely, putting on four extra services each way between Portsmouth Harbour and London Bridge, calling only at Portsmouth & Southsea, Fratton, Havant and Chichester. They charged just £11.90 return, and the extra services were open to anyone. Passengers from Cosham (which is not on the Portsmouth-London line) could use the normal-service Victoria trains for the same fare, with the option of changing to the special London Bridge trains. What a great advert for rail travel!

SWT just added a few extra carriages to existing trains, but did put up posters at local stations, threatening that anyone caught on a SWT service that Saturday with a Southern ticket would receive a penalty fare. The cheapest fare from Portsmouth to Waterloo by SWT reportedly remained at £27.00.

It may be that SWT’s rather spiteful response, to what was a big day for many Portsmouth people, reflected pique about Portsmouth City Council’s recent survey of Portsmouth-Waterloo commuter trains [Full report above].

Compare the Cup Final episode with the last day of the old slam-door trains on the Lymington line. A number of public attractions were mounted, and it was to be expected that a few stewards would be on hand to ensure public safety. But a former employee reports that SWT used the event to mount a show of force a tad reminiscent of North Korea. By the end of the day, police and rail managers almost outnumbered passengers. Have these people nothing better to do?

Meanwhile, travel on Southern gets ever more pleasant, with the cheap fares structure, informal and relaxed staff, and broad smiling faces on promotional material. Not to mention the iconic Loco Toledo posters – with Southern now looking for a child to be their junior Loco. What’s really significant about Loco is not his crazy eye-catching dress but his greeting, “Amigo!” SWT commuters may find it hard to believe, but Southern apparently regard their customers as friends.

This is manifested in all sorts of ways. On Southern stations, it’s not a surfeit of penalty fares notices which is striking, as is the case on SWT, but the many “Delay repay posters”, offering compensation for delays over 30 minutes.

Southern promised “Expect more” and they are delivering. For example, the 17.06 Victoria-Brighton is one of the first Southern services to be formed of handsomely-refurbished and beautifully-riding Wessex Electric coaches, giving medium-distance passengers the long-distance comfort which Stagecoach stripped from people in Hampshire and Dorset. In the Clapham Junction area, this train usually runs alongside SWT’s 17.05 Waterloo-Weymouth, with its class 444 units, described in Rail Gazette International as more commuter than inter-city, looking distinctly spartan.


[Source: Evening Standard 29 March. This sounds exactly like the kind of SWT abuses which we reported in response to the recent DfT consultation on penalty fares.]

“A COMMUTER today told of his two year legal dispute with South West Trains over an unpaid £2 fine. Neil Warwick, 29, said his family was hounded by bailiffs and he had to attend court twice after he was issued with an unpaid fares notice in 2008.

Mr Warwick was fined on his way to work from Strawberry Hill, where he lived with his father, to Richmond after he forgot his season ticket. He tried to buy a ticket but the ticket machines were not working and the inspector would not accept his bank card, he said.

Mr Warwick, who works for an animation company, claimed he did not hear from SWT until a year later — after he had moved to Bristol — when his father called to say he had been threatened by bailiffs at his home in Strawberry Hill. Debt collectors said that if he did not pay them £600 they would pick the locks and take double the amount in goods. Mr Warwick said: “I went to the Citizens Advice Bureau and they said that it was illegal and that if it happened again to phone the police. My dad felt completely threatened.”

He went to Bristol magistrates’ court to say that he had received no court correspondence but about four months later his father told him he had been threatened by bailiffs again. On 10 March he received a summons to Richmond-upon-Thames magistrates but could not get time off work to attend. He now faces a fine of £217.

Mr Warwick — who has a four-month-old son, Sol, with his girlfriend, Florence May Hyland, 28 — said the ordeal has cost him hundreds of pounds in travel from Bristol to London and three days off work. He said: “This has left us in a very hard situation money-wise.” A spokeswoman for SWT said: “While it is unfortunate this case has been escalated to such an extent, it is our belief that it could have been resolved by the customer long before it reached this stage.”

A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts Service said: “This matter has not been brought to our attention previously. We would welcome details from Mr Warwick so we can look into it.”



We are grateful for the opportunity to comment. Our Group was founded 17 years ago to promote the interests of rail passengers in Southern Hampshire through information gathering, sharing, analysis and dissemination. We are accessible through our own website (, the Campaign for Better Transport’s website, and Hampshire County Council’s e.VOLve website.

Substantial reports on franchising were published by the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Committee in 2002, and by the Transport Committee in 2006. The fact that franchising needs to be reviewed every 4 years tends to raise concerns about whether the process can ever be optimised. We had evidence published in the 2002 Committee Report as Appendix PRF12, and in the 2006 report as Appendix 1.

Issues arising from the Consultation

The Consultation presents franchising as driven by procurement of passenger benefits and taxpayer savings. What happens once a franchise is awarded is more likely to be determined by the chosen operator’s attitude to balancing the interests of passengers and taxpayers with those of shareholders. This was recognised in the January 2000 report ‘Rail Passenger Franchise Replacement’ by the Central Rail Users’ Consultative Committee (CRUCC). It stated: ‘At the heart of any private provision of a public service is the perceived inherent tension between shareholder interest and user expectations’.

Length of franchise

There is still no definitive evidence that longer franchises deliver more for passengers than short ones, though in theory they give operators greater incentives to invest. History suggests that choosing the right operator is more important than the length of the franchise. The improvements being delivered under the 20-year Chiltern franchise have transformed a Cinderella route beyond recognition. At the other end of the scale, in 2001 Stagecoach was chosen as preferred bidder for a 20-year franchise on South West Trains (SWT), but this was reduced to 3 years because of the company’s poor performance and financial weakness. Stagecoach deprived SWT’s passengers of the perceived benefits of longer franchises, which might have been realised through the selection of a better operator.

The SWT debacle illustrates the importance of both the ‘financial robustness’ criterion at paragraph 1.17 of the Consultation, and the recognition in paragraph 3.17 of the need to appoint good quality operators with an ability to deliver the commitments given as part of the bid.

Removing ‘poor operators’

Paragraph 2.11 of the Consultation rightly refers to the need to remove ‘poor operators’, but the likely trajectory of a franchise can often be foreseen from a company’s past behaviour. As in the case of South West Trains, above, prevention is likely to be better than cure for both passengers and taxpayers. It can also be better for train operators. The reduction in SWT’s franchise term meant an additional bidding round, and the costs per company of mounting a bid have been estimated at some £5 million.

The competition stage appears to be the Achilles’ heel of the franchise process. Governments and Ministers come and go. Civil servants move on. Memories and experience may be limited. Transport companies are generally permanent fixtures, and this can give them a significant bargaining advantage over those representing passengers’ and taxpayers’ interests.

The people who do have long memories are commuters, whose quality of life can be significantly affected by the delivery of rail services. There is no reliable measure of their satisfaction, because the overall ratings in the National Passenger Surveys refer only to a person’s current journey, and cannot therefore reflect the full experience of commuting. In addition, passengers’ voices have been muted by the abolition of the regional Rail Passengers’ Committees which used to feed information to the CRUCC.

The CRUCC report, mentioned above, stated: “The Deputy Prime Minister, in a meeting with CRUCC representatives in August 1999, said that he wanted to see the passenger representative network heavily involved in the process of franchise re-letting. Support, or otherwise, for particular bids would be crucial. He stated he wanted to see the CRUCC network involved in the running of passenger forums and hearings which might be held to consider bids”.

This confirmed Government recognition that passengers’ voices could add significant value to the decision-making phase of the re-franchising process. More generally, passenger participation seems only equitable, given that rail commuters in Britain pay some of the highest fares in Europe. It appears logical, too, because Government continues to present passenger train provision as a public service.

The Annex to this response (which takes account of comments from some stakeholders outside our Group) provides an evidenced-based analysis of how a poor operator has been able to prosper by ruthless manipulation of the franchising regime, and how MPs, passengers and passenger representative bodies have struggled, with little success, to resist. This inevitably suggests that the regime is insufficiently robust.

Amendment of franchise specifications

The proposals in paragraphs 5.14 and 5.15 to incentivise train operators to reduce less well-used services give considerable cause for concern. The Government still contends that the railways are a public service, and specifies service levels and stopping patterns at the start of a franchise. To allow operators to keep a percentage of the savings from reducing those services removes this safety net from passengers, some of whom may have taken the services into account when deciding where to live. This seems no way to encourage a modal switch to public transport, which can have considerable economic benefits when health and environmental factors are taken into account.

Even now, the service patterns prescribed under the DfT’s Service Level Requirement may simply be ignored by the operator. The Waterloo-Weymouth fast services under the December 2007 timetable changes are as prescribed. The stopping patterns of the Waterloo-Weymouth semi-fast services and Waterloo-Poole stopping services are significantly non-compliant (confirmed through a Freedom of Information request from the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group), with substantial disadvantages for some substantial centres of population.

It needs also to be borne in mind that statistics on train usage are notoriously unreliable. An extreme example is Dorchester West station on the Weymouth-Bristol line. This station is accredited with 416 passengers a year (just over one per day) in the March 2010 Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy. However, it is not unusual to see passengers in double figures joining and alighting from individual trains. Some of these are making journeys which involve transfer between the town’s two stations.

The consultation recognises that ‘It will be important that any such changes proposed by the operator are justified, and the Department will always consider such changes’. However, if such procedures are adopted, there needs to be full public consultation. First Great Western is a good example of an operator which has worked closely with stakeholders to achieve a much better timetable.

We recognise that there may occasionally be cause to adjust services either upwards or downwards. BR, in meeting changing Treasury requirements, was adept at amending timetables so as to minimise the effects of any reductions. For example, a 15-minute service frequency might switch to every 20 minutes. Reductions in slower services which served medium-sized towns were often compensated by additional stops by longer-distance trains.

The difference now, as the Consultation suggests, is that there is a good deal of slack in some timetables. For example, National Rail live running data have demonstrated that off-peak trains at 09-minutes past the hour from Waterloo to Portsmouth, and at 39-past from Waterloo to Poole, can readily recover around 13 minutes of delay between Waterloo and Eastleigh.

Such slack could be used to introduce additional stops in selected services without increasing overall journey times. In this way, small and medium-sized towns, which in many cases have been seeing the greatest population growth, could get a better service should any cuts be implemented. In any case, there are plenty of routes where services need improvement, and any savings from cuts should be used to fund improvements elsewhere.

[FOOTNOTE 10/06/2010 The Campaign for Better Transport and 50 other organisations, including the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group, asked for a formal consultation on this issue. Follow-up correspondence between the Campaign for Better Transport and the Department for Transport is at: ]

From The Herald (Scotland) 2 May 2010

“Bus passengers will not be seeing improvements in the frequency and quality of their services because the profit levels of the companies operating the routes have fallen to perilously low levels, new industry figures have revealed.

Major bus firms are struggling to achieve the healthy margins they need to invest in new vehicles and keep fares low, according to research by the TAS Partnership consultancy. Waiting times, dirty interiors and surly staff have long been a cause of complaint among the nation’s bus passengers.

In a report submitted to the Competition Commission as evidence in a two-year inquiry into the UK bus market, TAS, whose regular reports are relied on throughout the industry, found that returns have plummeted over the past decade as fuel bills and other costs increased. The result, industry figures told the Sunday Herald, is that there is a shortage of money to invest in new, more efficient bus fleets.

“It’s all very well talking about partnerships with councils driving up services but unless there is government money to pay for that, it’s not going to happen. You certainly can’t fund that with profits from the bus industry,” a source in one major bus company said. The findings have underlined the difficulty faced by councils attempting to drive up the standards on bus services and increase passenger numbers, a key government objective central to tackling congestion and cutting car use.

The Competition Commission’s market investigation was triggered in January after the Office of Fair Trading referred concerns that a lack of competition in the UK bus market, dominated by four companies, was driving up fares and leading to low-quality services. One of its terms of reference is to investigate whether there was evidence of “persistent high profits” for local bus companies due to a lack of competition.

It was discovered that Stagecoach, one of the major bus companies, achieved a profit margin of 15%. The average profit across the industry, however, had fallen to 6.9% last year from a peak of 12.1% in 2000. First Group, the biggest operator in the UK, had profits of 11.3%. In Scotland, profits have fallen over the last three years as companies have struggled with pension funds and cost increases, according to the TAS report.

The findings were attacked yesterday by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, whose leader, Bob Crow, said: “It doesn’t stack up. Bus companies in this country are making huge profits out of their operations and they’re doing that by charging high fares and paying low wages. This is nothing more than a whinge on behalf of bus companies.”

Charlie Gordon, Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, who last year failed in an attempt to introduce a parliamentary bill giving councils greater control over bus services, said: ‘There is a case for greater investment by local authorities in bus services but in return they would get a greater say in how they’re run. They are too unreliable.’ ”


In the Southampton area, where there are about six bus operators, services are being incrementally stripped to the bone, as we have repeatedly recorded. However, GoAhead has a good record on introducing new buses, and has managed to increase ridership on the more commercial routes. Interesting that they are also part of the partnership which runs the excellent Southern Trains.

Note the following from the Evening Standard of 4 May: “Go shopping for shares in transport giant Go-Ahead, advises KBC Peel Hunt. The group, which has a big presence in London’s bus market, said last week that the bus part of its business grew 3% in the last four months. It also told investors that its yellow school bus joint venture in North America was well on track. Following three acquisitions in its financial year so far, KBC Peel Hunt reckons Go-Ahead might be on the prowl to buy small bus companies. It adds that the firm’s net debt at year-end in June will be £150 million, below the broker’s previous forecast of £185 million.”

[Source: Orange Travel News, 10 May 2010]

“All the chat about making train travel a practical, green and affordable alternative to driving is turning out to be little more than lip service: some cunning tinkering with the peak and off-peak service times means that certain rail fares have quadrupled overnight, hitting conscientious commuters the hardest.

South West Trains and Virgin Trains are the main culprits. The two operators have changed more than 180 services a week from off-peak to peak-time travel. South West has made all trains between 4pm and 7pm peak, and Virgin has extended peak hours by 35 minutes each morning and 28 minutes every afternoon.

The Association of Train Operating Companies insists that the majority of travellers are enjoying lower fares, but that doesn’t help commuters who need to travel between, say, Manchester or Birmingham and London for morning meetings.

These commuters are the travellers the train services know cannot change the times they travel. Operators expect them to put up, shut up and fork out for the increased fares. What they can do, though, is return to using their cars, which is bad news for tailbacks, the environment, and the poor driver stuck for hours in traffic.

We accept that the promise of high-speed rail networks linking up Britain’s major business centres and commuter towns will take some time to realise, but what can be done to reverse the sky-high prices of rail tickets right now? Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT Union, says rail companies have used privatisation as a “licence to print money”. Crow’s blustering about cash is not always, er, on the money, but this time rail bosses should sit up and take notice. After all, if they force us all back to our cars, who’ll be left to fill their train seats?”

NOTE Of course, this is all déjà vu on SWT, which has already introduced an eye-watering 20% surcharge on morning off-peak returns to London on routes where there is no competition from other train operating companies. At the time, PassengerFocus called that increase abusive. Nigel Harris, the pro-industry editor of RAIL, commented:

“Maybe it’s because many railway people don’t actually pay fares – or not in full – especially very senior managers. But no-one likes to feel ripped-off and once you offend the British sense of fair play, you’re in trouble. Politicians forget this too but a bloody nose at election time usually reminds them. So, I watched in despair in mid-June as The Times ‘exposed’ South West Trains’ pre-meditated policy to “… fleece its passengers.” The harsh words “sharp practice”, and “profiteering” were used. SWT was “the unacceptable face of rail privatisation.” This is all enormously damaging – not just for Stagecoach, but the whole industry. RAIL was critical of SWT’s recent moves to manipulate the peak and impose 20% increases on off-peak fares and The Times was equally unimpressed. SWT’s protests about easing the post-peak rush were unconvincing: this is all about maximising revenues.” [RAIL Issue 569]


“A loophole that can save you a huge amount on train fares exposes the current pricing structure as “legalised theft”, says an expert. Splitting your ticket can save you a quarter of the price of a peak time return from Bournemouth to London. Instead of buying a return to London for £84, you can buy a return from Bournemouth to Woking, and a return from Woking to London. You can stay on the same train – and the combined fare is £14 cheaper at £70. “The question is, why are South West Trains charging so much in the first place?” [asks a regular traveller]. A South West Trains spokesperson said: “We’re committed to providing passengers with the best value ticket for their journey. Our prices are reviewed on a regular basis. However, we have no plans to make any changes regarding this specific journey.” John Friedberger, from the Wessex branch of Railfuture, said: “Complex fares are a function of the privatised market – it needs to be sorted out.” Barry Doe, a rail pricing consultant from Bournemouth, said Woking is the “magical line” for price drops on the London route, and described the higher prices as “legalised theft”. (Bournemouth Echo)

FOOTNOTE 1 A member of Railfuture reports an even more dramatic example of this kind of “theft” on Anytime day returns:

Wool-Waterloo = £92.60, but Wool-Basingstoke = £25.60 and Basingstoke-Waterloo = £31.60, a total of only £57.20.

FOOTNOTE 2 Mr Doe lobbied the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group on behalf of Stagecoach during the 2005-06 refranchising exercise, so it’s good that he now realizes the sort of company he was lobbying for. Stable doors and horses come to mind.

FOOTNOTE 3 Comment from Mr Doe about a guard employed by the Virgin-Stagecoach partnership [RAIL Issue 640]

“An incompetent guard who doesn’t know the rules

I have had several alarming emails demonstrating that some train guards really do not understand the rules about breaking journeys with Off-Peak tickets. One reader had a £73.20 OP return from London to Lancaster dated February 24. The next day he returned from Lancaster to Preston, where he broke his journey before returning to Euston on February 27. The ticket, of course, showed the usual calendar month validity, with the expiry date of March 23.

The guard between Lancaster and Preston marked his ticket ‘25/2’. The guard on the Virgin service on February 27 then told the reader that his ticket was now invalid because he had started the return journey on February 25 and once started the return must be completed the same day. The guard demanded the full single of £135.50 from Preston, and threatened to have police meet the train at Euston if he didn’t pay. Our reader called his bluff, and on arrival went to find the Duty Station Manager to complain. The manager agreed the guard was wrong and that nothing can change the expiry date of a ticket, and agreed he could break his journey at a different station every day for a month if he wanted to (provided he didn’t double back, of course.)

Our reader is seeking an apology from the guard. So he should. This is not exactly ‘John-Lewis-style’ customer relations from Virgin. More to the point, from how many people has this guard extracted money over the years, when their tickets were perfectly valid?’

[More to the point, why don’t Virgin-Stagecoach ensure their staff are applying the rules correctly?]

[Source: The Herald (Scotland) 29 March 2010]

“One of Scotland’s richest men is to spend more than £100,000 on flying his daughter and her friends to St Petersburg in Russia to celebrate her 21st birthday.

Brian Souter, the owner of the Stagecoach transport group, hired a private jet and invited more than 100 of his children’s friends to join his family for a masked ball in the historic city. Mr Souter has told three of his children to invite up to 40 friends each. A total of 150 people, including several Stagecoach executives, will make the trip.

The lavish party – including a masked ball at St Petersburg’s most famous palace, where Rasputin was murdered – has been planned for Amy Souter’s 21st birthday.

Her brothers Scott, 18, and Fraser, 16, have each been told to invite a large group of friends, and formal invites have been issued to a number of surprised teenagers.

The weekend trip, early in June, will involve guests staying at leading hotels in the city. They will be taken out for dinner by Mr Souter, 55, and his social-worker wife Betty after they arrive in St Petersburg on the Friday night.

The highlight of the celebrations will take place the following night, when the party take over the Yusupov Palace for a masked ball. Each of the invited youngsters, who also include the couple’s youngest son Calum, 11, has been asked to pack a mask and formal dress for the occasion.

The palace is one of the top tourist attractions in St Petersburg and was the scene of the infamous murderous attack on Grigory Rasputin in 1916.

The trip will end when the party are flown back to Scotland on Sunday afternoon, although Mr Souter and several Stagecoach executives will remain in the city for their annual conference.

The former bus conductor has chosen to hold the conference abroad to mark the 30th anniversary of the foundation of Stagecoach.

Mr Souter and his sister Ann Gloag started Stagecoach from scratch and built it into one of Europe’s leading transport groups. A spokesman for Mr Souter declined to comment on the trip.”


The Herald of 3 June reports that Mr Souter has made a personal investment of £9.5m for a significant minority stake in luxury motor yacht manufacturer Sunseeker International. Good to know that there is a silver lining to the story of the hundreds of millions of pounds which Stagecoach has received from taxpayers over the years.


With the Government planning to spend billions on high-speed rail, it’s incredible that SWT’s fastest services suffer from such large amounts of slack time, which enable the company to boast that most of its trains are punctual when, with BR timings, they would all be late.

In issue 126, we reported National Rail live-running data which proved that the hourly Waterloo-Poole and Waterloo-Basingstoke-Portsmouth services could recover about 13 minutes of lost time between London and Eastleigh.

Under the current franchise, DfT’s principal objective for the SWT main line was faster end-to-end journeys between Weymouth and London. Stagecoach’s objective seems to be additional recovery time, probably because the cheap Desiro trains are so prone to developing minor faults en route.

The current ‘faster’ service must be one of the greatest bluffs of all time. In 1999 the standard Weymouth-Waterloo timing was 161 minutes, with 13 intermediate stops. Stagecoach increased this to 169 minutes, still with 13 stops. Today it takes 166 minutes, with 12 intermediate stops. Whilst this is no worse than farcical, the latest timetable has had catastrophic consequences for other stations, such as Totton (fourth largest intermediate town between Southampton and Weymouth) where direct journeys to London, New Milton and Christchurch are now about 30 minutes slower, and connections with faster services are not held even until their advertised departure time.

Interesting National Rail live-running data for the 14.03 Weymouth-Waterloo ‘fast’ service on 28 May: the train departed 2 minutes late, was 10 minutes late by Wareham, back to 2 minutes late at Woking, and expected to reach Waterloo on time. Clearly, therefore, there is ample scope to accelerate these services, or introduce additional stops, either of which would benefit many passengers at no cost.

While Totton is a Cinderella station, the Guildford-Aldershot-Camberley-Ascot line is a Cinderella route, notorious for unreliability. In BR days its trains joined on to Reading-Waterloo services at Ascot. Nowadays passengers have to waste about 10 minutes changing, having only a few token peak-time direct services.

What did the former Stagecoach chief executive Keith Cochrane say, as reported by the BBC on 24 April 2001? “The arrival of the new rolling stock will mean more-frequent services to London on the Windsor, Woking and Basingstoke lines. It will also enable through services to run from Camberley and Chertsey, with passengers no longer having to change at Ascot or Staines.” It seems that Stagecoach’s promises are even slower than its trains. Chertsey has now got through services from London, but they take 67 minutes, compared with 54 minutes by the connectional services they replaced.


On 10 June, Journeycheck showed that passengers on the 15.12 Waterloo-Shepperton were dumped at Fulwell because of a crew shortage. The return working at 16.11 from Shepperton therefore started at Fulwell. The 16.41 from Shepperton, which must presumably have been full of unhappy passengers was reportedly 22 minutes late because of ‘disruptive passengers’, and all intermediate stops after Wimbledon were axed for operational convenience. It would appear likely that all the problems arose from not having enough crews.


The service is virtually unchanged. The following principal amendments are provided in a spirit of helpfulness but we do not take responsibility for their accuracy or completeness.

On SWT the 14.35 (Mondays-Fridays) Waterloo-Weymouth calls additionally at Wool. The 05.55 Portsmouth Harbour-Waterloo (Saturdays) starts at 05.50 to connect with a faster London train at Eastleigh.

SWT’s 16.56 (Mondays-Fridays) suburban train from Havant to Waterloo now starts from Fareham at 16.43. This seems to serve little purpose as there is a Southern service a few minutes earlier, although the 12 coaches did arrive at Havant on the second day of the change with at least one passenger already on board. However, the 16.56 has been notoriously prone to cancellation and, unsurprisingly, is omitted from the GB Rail Timetable. Has the change anything to do with contracted mileage, following the removal of a return Southampton-Eastleigh service from last December?

On Mondays-Fridays, the half-hourly trains between Brockenhurst and Lymington are slowed by one minute as diesels replace SWT’s worn-out slam-door electric trains. Ferry connections between Lymington and Yarmouth are now very haphazard. Wightlink caused an uproar over environmental issues by introducing much larger vessels in a fashion ruled illegal in court, purportedly to meet increased demand. Yet they have now reduced their service from half-hourly to every 40 minutes.

On Cross Country, the 17.45 Bournemouth-Manchester diverts to Leeds on Saturdays until 4 September inclusive; Manchester passengers can change at Birmingham New Street into the 15.24 from Newquay. On Saturdays/Sundays until 10/11 July, certain late/early trains will not call at Stoke.

On First Great Western, the 13.23 Portsmouth Harbour-Cardiff has a new connection at Westbury (depart 15.20) on Fridays only for Taunton and Exeter, though for Exeter it’s quicker to change at Salisbury. The 17.00 from Brighton now extends from Cheltenham to Worcester Shrub Hill on Saturdays (it already runs to Worcester on Mondays-Fridays), but on Saturdays from 17 July until 4 September inclusive, passengers need to change to a bus at Cheltenham.

On Southern, the Sunday stopping service from Portsmouth Harbour to Brighton departs at 5-past instead of 14-past and runs about 9 minutes earlier throughout. The return service starts at 12-past instead of 17-past. This applies until 5 September inclusive.


The new GB Rail Timetable, published by TSO and valid from 23 May 2010, is about 600 pages shorter than the previous edition. The print has shrunk to the extent that it’s virtually illegible without strong light or a magnifying glass. So much for the disability agenda! The price stays at £16.

Although people can make a wide range of journeys through connections or direct services, the timetable generally omits connectional times, and gives no indication of the final destinations of trains which cross between individual tables.

This seems to be a further step away from a joined-up railway. The timetable’s customers are likely to be people who need to look up train times quickly and easily. For many, it now offers only the opportunity of eye-strain from flicking laboriously between maps and tables. What hope of sales being sufficient to justify further editions?

Example of the changed format:

The former Table 123 shows the timings of the 08.23 from Southampton as far as Filton Abbey Wood. There is a note saying that the train continues to Great Malvern and that there are further details of this in Table 71. Connectional times are provided from Bournemouth, and to Exeter, Plymouth, Chippenham and Swindon. It’s fairly clear, from the table layout, where passengers need to change to reach these places.

The new Table 123 shows the timings of the 08.23 from Southampton as far as Filton Abbey Wood. And that’s it. It does have a general footnote saying that connections from Bournemouth are in Table 158, and connections to Exeter and Plymouth are in Table 135. It gives no clue where passengers need to change, and is highly misleading because the majority of connections to Exeter are in Table 160 (which itself now omits connections from Portsmouth and Southampton).

Daily Record 22/3/2010

Horror as Megabus driver runs over motorway plunge woman - then drives on for another 150 miles

Exclusive by Paul O'Hare

A BUS drove on for 150 miles after running over a woman who plunged from a motorway bridge. The Dundee to London service struck her on the M74 after leaving Glasgow - but the driver carried on until his first scheduled stop, at Preston. A relief driver then took over and the bus carried on until it was ordered to go to a depot in Rugby, Warwickshire, where passengers were transferred to two other vehicles. Police investigating the incident will try to establish whether the woman was lying dead in the road or whether she was merely injured when the coach ran over her.

One passenger on the Megabus service last night described his horror at the incident which happened at about 11.30pm on Saturday. John Thompson, 45, said he was aware the bus had struck a large object - but was left stunned by an announcement on the final leg of his journey. The musician said: “In a very matter-of-fact manner, the relief driver said 'sorry about the delay, ladies and gentlemen. As you may have realised there was an incident just after you left Glasgow. A woman jumped off a bridge and your Megabus went over her. The bus did not stop or you would have been stuck at the side of the motorway all night'. I do not understand why the driver did not stop the bus straight away."

The Stagecoach Group, who own the brand, last night confirmed they had launched an investigation.

John yesterday spoke about the nightmare on board the coach, which left Buchanan Street bus station at 11pm on Saturday. He had spent the weekend visiting his elderly parents in Glasgow and was returning home to Twickenham, London. But half an hour into the journey the bus struck a 45-year-old woman who had jumped off a bridge over the M74, near the Blackwood junction in Lanarkshire.

John said: "That noise will live with me for the rest of my days. I could hear something rattling under my feet and a dragging sound. I was sitting next to an American woman and she said we must have hit a fox. But I said: 'That's not a fox. It's a human being'. It was a modern double decker bus and it would have squashed a fox flat and you would never have known."

Police confirmed the alarm was raised by a passing motorist - who it's thought had spotted the woman lying in the road. It appears the bus may have struck the woman just minutes later, as the timing of the motorist's 999 call is extremely close to John's recollection of feeling an impact. But the megabus did not stop until it reached Preston in Lancashire and John then noticed some unusual activity. He said: "I saw four or five guys with yellow jackets shining torches under the bus. They also arranged for a smaller bus to face our bus and put its lights on full beam. There was a change of driver and five minutes later we were on our way. Nothing was said."

It finally became clear something was wrong when the bus reached Birmingham, it s penultimate stop. It is understood Stagecoach bosses ordered the vehicle to the nearest depot in Rugby 30 miles away. When the double decker reached the depot the 70 passengers were transferred to two other buses. A source said that the original driver of the bus contacted police from Preston, and they then ordered the bus to the depot. The bus finally reached London's Victoria Station at 8am yesterday.

Strathclyde Police last night confirmed investigations into the incident are ongoing. A force spokeswoman said: "Around 11.35pm on Saturday police were called to a report of a 45-year-old woman who fell from a bridge on the M74 near junction 9 at Blackwell. "There would appear to be no suspicious circumstances." A spokesman for Stagecoach said: "Our immediate thoughts are with the family of the person who has died. We are assisting police and have also launched our own investigation."


[The Government has firmly committed itself to restricting the growth in air travel. It will be interesting to see whether it acts similarly on road traffic, which for many people, such as asthma sufferers, can be a more immediate and pressing threat.]

Press release from the Campaign for Better Transport:

'Missed opportunity' for Brent Cross development with 29,000 new car trips instead of new public transport

20 May 2010

London's major development opportunity areas are being wasted on out-of-date development schemes that fail to tackle transport problems, according to new research from Campaign for Better Transport.

In a report – 'Missed Opportunity Areas' [1] – Campaign for Better Transport shows how the planned development of two of London's largest remaining sites, Brent Cross / Cricklewood and Battersea Power Station, ignores emerging best practice and threatens massive congestion increases at the sites themselves and in the surrounding areas.

The report singles out Brent Cross / Cricklewood development in Barnet, north London, for particular criticism. It will have no significant new public transport but will provide parking for almost 20,000 cars, generate around 29,000 additional car trips a day and lead to even worse congestion on the local road network. Plans for Battersea Power Station in Wandsworth in central London are better, being based on a new extension of the Northern Line, but still include over 3,000 parking spaces and will have a severe traffic impact.

Richard Bourn, London Campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, who conducted the research, said "These developments are a key test of Boris Johnson's commitment to making London 'the best big city on earth and the best big city to live in'. By giving his approval for Brent Cross, he has failed this test. More progressive, modern cities elsewhere insist on new public transport services for major developments and on creating urban environments which are not traffic dominated."

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has approved the plans for Brent Cross. Campaign for Better Transport is now calling on Eric Pickles, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to call in the application for a public inquiry and on the London Borough of Wandsworth to refuse permission for Battersea Power Station until effective controls on demand for car travel are in place.”

[NOTE: The Group’s best wishes go to Cat Hobbs, who has moved on from the Campaign for Better Transport, after contributing a very great deal to the organisation’s work in a very short period]