I have to admit I was skeptical, but the promise to remove the toll on the Severn Bridges has been removed and over the next months the work is underway to remove the toll booths and make it free flowing. However, there has been severe criticism of what the impact will be, not only in Wales, but in Bristol too. Lots of people are concerned about increasing cars on both sides of the river. So what do we need to do? Clearly nationalisation of the Public Transport Systems should be a priority.
Its no secret that one of the small contributing factors in us moving to Wales was the promise of the Tolls being removed and the impact that will ahve on South Wales being more attractive to other businesses. But, having had some expereince now on driving the Welsh M4, particualrly at rush hour, it is clear that it is broken. There is simply too much traffic for the limited capacity. Particualrly when it reduces to 2 lanes.
In the first instance, the answer seems simple, increase the capacity. But there are limiting factors to this, firstly money, any upgrading is expensive, with the bit by Newport alone looking like billions of pounds. Then there is the Brynglas Tunnels, unless there is more work again then they are 2 lanes each way.
But for me we should be looking more simply. If we want to reduce cars but we do want to see business invest in Wales, then we have to provide a reliable alternative. Therefore it is obvious, we need to stop talking about the dream of a good public transport system, and make it a reality. Devolution in Wales gives us the building blocks, and there are some good bits of progress, such as the new Train deal, and the Swansea Metro. But these need to have a bigger, more dynamic vision of how we join up public transport and make it work together, not disparate parts that sometimes join up.
This means we need to look at:
- Bus Services, and how they fit with Train and Coach.
- Cycling provision, making it easier to either securely store bikes at stations, or take them on trains.
- Park and Ride Services
But overall, we need to look at cost. Public Transport is not cheap, and this year again the Train fares have gone up. This makes using public transport not efficient, especially when looking at travelling greater distances. I would love to use the train to go to Cumbria, but its just so expensive with so many changes and therefore unreliable.
This is the argument for taking public transport back into public ownership, because (quite rightly) each sector and franchise needs to be profitable. But as a public body, then we could invest and subsidise the early years to gain confidence and therefore usage up. But that would also mean not returning to old inefficient ways when under public ownership. As residents we want and need cost effective and trustworthy services. We are not getting them now, so we must do something different.