MEDIA

Don’t just delay HS2 legislation – scrap it altogether!

26J-HIGH SPEED RAIL LINK

UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour says the £56-billion HS2 ‘white elephant’ project is falling apart – and has called on the Government to cut its losses and scrap it altogether.

Mrs Seymour, who has been campaigning against HS2 from the outset, responded to a report in The Times which claims the Government is preparing to delay HS2 legislation by at least a year.

The newspaper says legislation needed to pave the way for the second section of HS2 to serve northern England is to be put on hold, and the bill enabling the line to be built to Manchester and Leeds will not now be tabled until at least 2020.

Mrs Seymour said: “All of the time that the clock is ticking, the budget for this vanity project is spiralling further and further out of control. And it’s the taxpayers who will have to pick up the pieces.

“This is surely the perfect opportunity for the Government to take stock of the situation, admit that it has got things wrong, and scrap HS2 altogether. It’s not too late.”

She added: “The Department for Transport says it is important that HS2 ‘takes full account’ of Northern Powerhouse Rail, the scheme to boost rail connections from east to west across northern regions.

“Is this not an admission that we should be redirecting time and resources towards getting our existing railway infrastructure up to speed, before wasting billions on a luxury line that most people will never use?

“I call once again on transport secretary Chris Grayling to open his ears to the growing volume of opposition to HS2, and take a reality check. No amount of money – our money – or parliamentary delays can possibly make this fatally flawed project worthwhile.

“The question we should be asking instead is, when is this gravy train going to stop? When can the innocent people whose lives and homes are set to be wrecked by the line sleep easily in their beds once again?

“Victims of the HS2 land seizure, who are losing their properties and livelihoods, are already being pushed towards financial ruin as HS2 heartlessly tries to grind them down by delaying compensation payments, and news of these delays only prolongs their misery.

“This is so, so wrong. HS2 is not a financial game – innocent people’s lives are being destroyed by a project which the vast majority of people say they don’t want, won’t use, and certainly don’t need.”

Paul Griffiths, the managing director of phase two of HS2, has already announced he is to leave the post at the end of this year.

Mrs Seymour said: “He can clearly see that the writing is on the wall for a project which has never had a proven business case. The Government should follow his lead, and turn its backs on the whole sorry mess.

No amount of money could make HS2 ‘worthwhile’

HS2 pic

By Jill Seymour MEP

It’s now being recommended that ministers should spend an extra £43 billion to make the construction of HS2 ‘worthwhile’.

Worthwhile? You must be joking. No amount of money – our money – could possibly make this white elephant project worthwhile.

The question we should be asking instead is, when is this gravy train going to stop?

The latest senior official to question the suitability of the current HS2 plans is Sir John Armitt, who chairs the National Infrastructure Commission.

He warns that passengers will face ‘inadequate’ transport links at either end of their travels unless more money is spent to connect the line up to better ongoing transport services.

And his recommendation? An extra £43 billion investment, which would virtually double the already escalating spend on HS2.

When is this all going to end? Sir John’s comments highlight HS2’s fatal flaw – it will be of no use to the vast majority of travellers, even though every single British taxpayer will be funding it.

And while these eye-watering sums of money are being bandied around, victims of the HS2 land seizure, who are losing their homes and livelihoods, are being pushed closer and closer towards financial ruin as HS2 heartlessly tries to grind them down by delaying compensation payments.

This is so, so wrong. HS2 is not a financial game – innocent people’s lives are being destroyed by a vanity project which the vast majority of people say they don’t want, won’t use, and certainly don’t need.

Prove the need for 20mph speed limits on London roads

20mph

UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour has challenged London’s authorities to provide undisputed evidence which justifies their quest to impose a 20mph speed limit on the city’s busiest roads.

The policy is part of ‘Vision Zero’, a collaboration between London mayor Sadiq Khan, Transport for London (TfL), and the Metropolitan Police. Authorities say it the 20mph zones are being introduced in a bid to reduce road deaths.

But Mrs Seymour claimed there was no clear evidence that these lower speed limits reduced casualty numbers – and accused the authorities of simply wanting to frustrate drivers into staying out of the city altogether.

She pointed to Bath and North East Somerset Council, which spent £871,000 bringing in 13 new 20mph speed zones, but found that the rate of people killed or seriously injured actually went up in seven out of the 13 zones in the first year.

“This is not the first warning that 20mph areas are more dangerous. In 2010 the Department for Transport reviewed a similar scheme in Portsmouth, and found that number of people killed or seriously injured on affected roads actually went up, not down, after the limit was lowered.”

She added: “To be honest, you would be lucky to exceed 20mph on most roads in the centre of London anyway. The authorities have strangled the main roads, and made them the most congested and slowest of any city in Europe.

“Their priority is walking and cycling, which means many major routes in London have been reduced to little more than single lane tracks, and this is no way to help ease congestion.

“London is a mess when it comes to transport, and the polices of TfL over the years have destroyed the road network throughout London. TfL has control of the roads, but is responsible for public transport – so the priorities are always going to swayed towards buses, cyclists and pedestrians.”

She said: “The London authorities, led by Sadiq Khan, appear to have a vendetta against personal transport such as the car, and do everything they possibly can to discriminate against it.

“This 20mph proposal is nothing more than another way for them to frustrate drivers, and cause them to avoid London altogether.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if the tube and buses were decent and not overcrowded, but the tube is packed to the point you cannot get on the train during peak times, and there is no air conditioning on most which makes the journey hot, sweaty and uncomfortable.”

Bright sparks need to rethink electric car charging plans

electric

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour has called for more ‘joined-up thinking’ from Government departments to prevent their latest electric vehicle growth plans from blowing a fuse.

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, was responding to news of plans to fit hundreds of thousands of extra electric charging points – which could see new homes and offices compelled to include them.

It follows a report from the RAC which warned that the current growth in electric car sales could soon stall because of a lack of convenient charging points across the UK.

She said: “Before we start getting too excited about this latest Government idea, I’d suggest a bit more joined-up thinking from their transport and housing departments.

“On one hand we have transport secretary Chris Grayling championing this idea that people will be able to charge their electric vehicles at their own homes.

“And on the other, we have a housing policy which is trying to cram as many new properties into an area as possible – meaning there is often no room for off-street parking.

“This makes the idea of having electric charging points at new houses very difficult – unless the Government want to start clogging up roads on housing estates by encouraging lines of electric vehicles on each side?”

She added: “There is no disputing the fact that electrically propelled vehicles are now a serious option for many families, but the charging infrastructure is not keeping pace, and hasn’t been properly thought through.

“I fully support the installation of rapid charging stations in towns and cities to facilitate the growth of zero emission vehicles.

“But the Government must also encourage off-street parking and charging provision in all new housing and industrial developments by laying down rules for developers, through the local planning process.”

Clean air plans could muddy the waters for car industry

cleanair

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour has voiced serious concerns over plans to introduce a new Clean Air Zone in Birmingham.

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, said the city council’s new proposals would disproportionately impact drivers with relatively new cars.

She also fears it could do significant damage to the used car market across the region, and place a cloud over Jaguar Land Rover’s continued investment in diesel engine manufacturing locally.

Under the plans announced by Birmingham transport bosses, drivers of older diesel and petrol cars will face a charge of up to £10 per day to travel into the city centre from 2020.

The only vehicles to be exempt from charges would be those which meet the Euro 4 petrol standard – mostly made since 2006 – and Euro 6 diesel vehicles, mostly only dating back to 2015.

Mrs Seymour said: “We are not against the principal of clean air zones to clamp down on the worst polluting vehicles, but this scheme wants to ban many cars which have been sold less than three years ago.

“It is unfair and unreasonable to expect hard-working people to be able to simply find the money to buy another new car so soon – particularly as many of them only bought diesel on Government advice in the first place!

“Let us not forget that for the past two decades, Government policies have promoted diesel engines, as they are far more fuel efficient and release far less CO2 into the atmosphere.”

It is believed that around 200,000 vehicles a day will be affected by the Birmingham plans – with more than 45% failing to comply with the new emissions standard.

Mrs Seymour added: “I fully support the move towards zero emission vehicles and clean air in our cities, but how much damage will this do to the economy. We need a little scale and perspective introducing into this debate.”

Rail fares: We need full and fair pricing competition

train tickets

Rail prices will only start to fall in the UK if ticket sales are opened up to full and fair competition, according to UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour.

She welcomed news of a public consultation aimed at making ticketing fairer and easier to understand, but said ‘tinkering around the edges’ of the existing system would make little difference.

“It’s time for the rail industry in the UK to be run for the benefit of passengers, instead of the current fragmented system which is tailored to the needs of service operators.

“If rail ticketing was simplified and open to full and fair competition, you would soon see prices starting to fall.

“As it is right now, the system seems to be deliberately complicated so that it’s almost impossible for passengers to work out whether they are getting the best deal.”

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the UK’s rail firms, has revealed that a staggering 55 million different fares exist in the current system.

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, said: “Reform is long overdue. The industry itself admits that passengers are not always being offered the cheapest fares, but have failed to act on this for years.

“How can it possibly be right, or sensible, for it to often be cheaper for passengers to buy several tickets for a single journey than one ticket?

“Opening up the rail ticketing market to competition would soon sort out this nonsense. It’s not too much to ask for a rail fares system which people can understand, and trust.”

A consultation into rail pricing is due to begin next month, running until September. A report will then be produced with proposals for the Government to consider.

Mrs Seymour said: “Let’s take the bull by the horns and think outside the box.

“Passengers have been forced to put up with inflation-busting price rises for too many years – it’s time to put them in the driving seat for a change.”

Rules governing how tickets are sold and how fares are calculated date back to 1995, and critics say they have not kept pace with technology or the 21st century work and travel habits.

Mrs Seymour said: “Over the past two decades, individual franchises have tinkered around the edges with this system, and all it has done is create inconsistency, complexity, frustration and confusion.”

 

Time for the Government to come clean over state of HS2

HS2 train

The Government is trying to pretend that HS2 is on schedule – when in reality it’s mired in behind-the-scenes disagreements, and has absolutely no chance of being finished on time or on budget.

That’s the claim made by UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour, who has accused transport secretary Chris Grayling and his cabinet colleagues of being ‘in denial’ over the state of the project.

The West Midlands MEP’s comments echo concerns raised by veteran peer Lord Berkeley, who chairs the Rail Freight Group.

Mrs Seymour said: “It’s time for a reality check, and some honesty. From the stories which are now emerging, the organisation of HS2 appears to be nothing short of a total shambles.

“The HS2 management company is at odds with several of its contractors and joint venture suppliers, and it’s pushing the production schedule back by many months and piling billions onto the budget.

“And all the time, people whose lives are set to be destroyed by the route of the HS2 vanity project are left in a state of emotionally shattering uncertainty as they await news of what is actually going on.

“While businesspeople bicker around the table about how to spend eye-watering sums of our money, innocent families are having their worlds torn apart, and their concerns are being ignored. It’s totally unacceptable.”

She added: “It is becoming increasingly clear that the first phase of HS2 can’t meet the Government’s £24.3 billion budget, and won’t be completed by the planned 2026 opening date, but everyone who has jumped aboard the HS2 gravy train is in denial.

“The Government doesn’t want to admit that it has turned into a nightmare which the country cannot afford, and does not have the support of the majority of the electorate.

“Perhaps we should not be surprised, though – these are the same politicians who are currently trying their best to thwart the Brexit referendum at every turn, so maybe a democratically expressed view isn’t worth the paper it’s written on these days.”

The Government has refused to publicly share its detailed cost estimates for HS2, citing commercial sensitivity. It has also insisted that a contingency plan has been built into the budget to take account of any unplanned delays.

But Mrs Seymour said: “I challenge the Government to be open and honest with us about what’s really going on with HS2. If they have nothing to be ashamed of, then they have nothing to hide.

“Even though only a small fraction of British people will ever use the service, every single taxpayer in the UK will pay for it. We have a right to know what’s going on, and how the Government is spending our money.

“And if, when all the cards are on the table, it’s crystal clear that HS2 makes no business sense and is not offering value for money, we should simply scrap the whole thing.”

 

Why our railway franchise plans are on the wrong track

railways

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour has accused the Government of ‘selling out’ British companies after inviting more overseas firms to bid for the running of UK rail franchises.

The Government has granted bidding rights to a trio of continental train companies from countries where foreign operators are frozen out.

The latest to be invited to stake a claim for UK business include Italy’s Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, Spain’s state-owned Renfe and France’s Transdev.

It means just one in three of the rail operators eligible to bid for franchises such as Great Western and Cross Country are British.

“Passengers are already being asked to pay rail fares which are rising above the rate of inflation – the fact that this money could soon be lining even more foreign pockets makes matters even worse,” said Mrs Seymour.

“Surely the result of the Brexit referendum showed the Government that British people are sick and tired of their political leaders not putting the interests of our own country first.

“It’s tantamount to admitting we are incapable of operating the British railway system ourselves. That’s certainly how it feels, so it’s no wonder that our businesses and unions are expressing such frustration and anger.”

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, said: “It’s been stated that overseas companies can bring in new innovation and fresh ideas – that may well be true, but they should only ever be granted access to our network if they are working in partnership with UK-owned companies.

“Revenue which is raised through our railway network must be kept in-house, to be re-invested for the good of our country – not to line the coffers of another nation by selling out British-based industries.

“Transport secretary Chris Grayling has some serious questions to answer about the shambolic franchising system, which is selling out British businesses, and making a mockery of the UK’s supposedly privatised railways.

“If we’re not careful, they may soon be majority owned by foreign governments.”

Britain’s road network is in a ‘hole’ lot of trouble

pothole

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour has called for an urgent injection of cash to repair Britain’s crumbling road network, as the number of potholes reaches record-breaking levels.

Mrs Seymour, an MEP for the West Midlands, said it was time that highly-taxed motorists got back what they put into the chancellor’s coffers.

“One in five roads maintained by local authorities in Great Britain is now officially described as being in poor condition, or has been flagged up for further inspection,” she said.

“This is simply unacceptable at a time when there are record-breaking numbers of vehicles on our roads – paying taxes to the exchequer.

“Where is that taxation going? Based on this evidence, too little of it is being ploughed back into the highways network.”

Mrs Seymour added: “For far too long, drivers have been viewed as cash cows. Successive governments have been happy to take their money, but reluctant to give enough of it back.

“The winter’s cold snap has merely emphasised the appalling condition of our rapidly crumbling road network, which in many cases is posing a serious risk to people’s safety

“Compensation claims are on the increase from road users who feel the full force of these cavernous potholes – so a failure to invest in proper, long-standing repairs is false economy.

“As the RAC has quite rightly pointed out, the condition of many local roads was already on a knife edge before the cold snap, with a mounting backlog of potholes in need of repair.

“We are spending nearly 25% less on fixing these holes across the UK than we were a decade ago. So, what exactly are road users paying their taxes for these days?”

An investigation by the Asphalt Industry Alliance has found more than 39,300 kilometres of road across the UK have been identified as needing essential maintenance in the next year.

Mrs Seymour said: “While the Government presses stubbornly ahead with the HS2 rail link which now looks set to cost much more than the predicted £55 billion, our existing transport infrastructure is left to soldier on, becoming shabbier by the day.”

Excellent opportunity to ‘get shot of the driver CPC’

haulage

Brexit is presenting the British haulage industry with an excellent opportunity to get rid of the ‘damaging’ Certificate of Professional Competence, according to UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour.

She said: “It has brought misery and hardship to countless drivers in the United Kingdom and across the continent of Europe, and I have long campaigned against this unnecessary nonsense.”

She was speaking in a debate about HGV driver training regulations, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Watch Mrs Seymour’s speech here.

Mrs Seymour said: “The driver CPC is a damaging piece of legislation

“Now that the European Commission has declared that it will not recognise British driving qualifications after Brexit – and how short sighted is that? – this surely is an excellent opportunity for Her Majesty’s Government to do the right thing and get shot of the CPC once and for all.”

Mrs Seymour has described the CPC as an expensive and over-complicated system which is causing many truck and bus drivers to either lose their jobs, or take early retirement.

“The result is a shortage of registered drivers in an industry which is battling hard to get itself back on its feet.

“It is being kicked in the teeth by the EU, which always thinks it knows what’s best for Britain. Hard-working people should not be losing their livelihoods – we see no need for drivers to undertake this unnecessary and expensive course.

“Our traditional driver training course, which has been in place for many years, is a proven system which has served us well. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.”

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