MEDIA

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.”

It’s time for sex criminals to feel the full wrath of the law

telford

Telford-based MEP Jill Seymour today called for an urgent cross-party public inquiry after new reports once again painted the town as the sex crime capital of Britain.

Mrs Seymour first met with local police superintendent Tom Harding back in 2016 to discuss her concerns over young girls in Telford being reportedly groomed and exploited on ‘an industrial scale’.

She said: “I was assured that action was being taken, but nearly 18 months on, it appears from the latest shocking revelations and previously unpublished material in the national media that the situation is even worse than before.

“The time for tough talk and promises is over. We need to rally behind the police. Do they need more resources or more staff to ensure this scourge of society feel the full wrath of the law?

“If the answer is yes, then let’s make sure the Government gives them what they require.

“Our priority should always be protecting innocent people and victims, and bringing the full force of the law down onto these perpetrators.

“That means handing out proper sentences which befit these ghastly crimes, and which act as a deterrent to potential sexual predators. People’s lives are much more important than spending money on government vanity projects.”

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, added: “The victims of this heinous exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in society. They are people’s children, and siblings, who are crying out for help. It’s about time we started listening.

“Telford may be in the spotlight today, but make no mistake, this is happening in every town and city, and in many cases the victims, witnesses and informers are too afraid to speak.

“Gangs like these are simply not acceptable on our streets – whatever their race, colour or language.

“But if we are ever going to bring predators to justice, those who are prepared to blow the whistle on this disgusting, evil backstreet industry must feel they will be fully protected. They need to have more confidence in the legal system.

“It is outrageous and upsetting that, in this day and age, we seem incapable of doing more to protect the victims of sexual abuse, and to expose the darkest side of our society.

“I would urge anyone who can help in any way, to contact their local police.

“It’s time for politicians and organisations to put this issue right at the top of the agenda, and show we are really serious about bringing these predators to justice.”

Gerard Batten MEP, the UKIP Interim leader, said: “These horror stories out of Telford are further evidence that these rape gangs are not a local, but a national problem, with new examples being constantly uncovered.

“However badly we have handled these cases in the past, the police must be given a free hand to investigate without the pressure of political correctness holding them back.

“One constant theme has been the failures of the CPS to prosecute these cases effectively. UKIP have long believed that the CPS should be scrapped and the responsibility for bringing prosecutions should be returned to the police, in order to let them do their jobs of protecting all individuals in our society.”

HS2: The mystery of the missing rush-hour seats

HS2 train

UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour has called for an urgent investigation into the funding of HS2 after a new report highlighted plans to dramatically cut the number of rush-hour seats.

Back in 2013, a report from the Department for Transport predicted a capacity of 19,800 seats on HS2 services during the rush-hour 5pm-6pm period, on high-speed trains from London Euston.

But in the latest ‘HS2 Strategic Case’ analysis, that figure has been scaled back to 15,700 – a fall of more than 20%.

In other words, one fifth of expected HS2 rush hour seats have mysteriously gone missing.

Stop HS2, which is campaigning against the project, has highlighted the situation by comparing the two conflicting reports, side by side, which show a dramatic difference in expected capacity by 2033.

Mrs Seymour said: “We’ve always known this is a vanity project that the British people don’t want or need – now it seems even the HS2 management team are resigned to the fact.

“Why would they already be scaling back the number of rush-hour seats they intend to provide, if they didn’t realise that they had dramatically over-estimated demand for the service?”

She called for an urgent investigation into the funding of HS2 on the back of the latest revelations.

“If the number of seats on rush-hour services are due to be cut by more than 20%, it is only right and proper that the salaries of the officials, and the overall HS2 budget, does the same.

“HS2 is dead in the water. It will be out of date before it is even opened, and there are far more pressing transport matters in need of investment across the UK right now.”

Shame that the EU is incapable of collaborative approach

driver2

Claims that holders of a UK driving licence could be banned from roads in mainland Europe after Brexit have been condemned by UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour.

A presentation made by the European Commission this week said Brexit would mean the end of ‘mutual recognition of driving licences, vehicle registration documents and certificates of professional competence’.

It failed to point out, however, that the UK Government is already taking steps to sign up to the United Nations Vienna Convention on road traffic, meaning non-EU citizens could access a permit to drive in the bloc.

Mrs Seymour said: “Threats of this kind from the European Commission show they are not moving forward towards an amicable friendship after Brexit.

“To suggest that either the EU or the UK will simply sit back and commit economic suicide by banning drivers in possession of UK driving and registration documents from Europe’s roads is frankly ridiculous.

“Are we seriously expected to believe that the EU would want to close its door to the hundreds of thousands of UK holidaymakers who drive across the EU, spending a fortune with travel companies, or that our hauliers will no longer be allowed to do business?”

She added: “It’s a shame that the EU seems incapable of taking a collaborative and flexible approach to these Brexit discussions, and prefers to deal instead with a succession of threats.

“Aside from anything else, it’s laughable that there should be any need to impose restrictions on UK drivers, when our motoring standards are among the best in the world.”

Mrs Seymour said Prime Minister Theresa May needs to address this issue as a matter of priority.

“Otherwise how can the UK then allow EU drivers into the UK? Some common-sense discussions must begin to avert any future issues with our UK haulage industry, and many members of the public who travel to the EU.

“But if the EU carries through its ridiculous threat, ratifying the Vienna Convention should still guarantee that UK driving licences will be acceptable across the EU, with an International Driving Permit.”

 

Enough is enough – stop treating drivers as cash cows

speed cam

Britain’s road policing chief today declared that ‘enough is enough’ as he urged a zero-tolerance policy on speeding motorists.

But UKIP’s transport spokesman Jill Seymour responded by saying that ‘enough is enough’ regarding the constant victimisation of road users, and determination to use them as revenue-raising cash cows.

Motorists can currently exceed the speed limit by 10% before being at risk of speeding fines, but Anthony Bangham, chief constable of West Mercia Police, called for this flexibility to be scrapped.

And since he is the road policing lead for the National Police Chiefs Council, other forces are expected to take his comments seriously.

Mrs Seymour – a West Midlands MEP who is based in Mr Bangham’s West Mercia area – said: “I’m not for one moment advocating that drivers ignore the legal speed limits on our roads.

“But there is a perfectly practical and accepted reason for this 10% margin – it’s hard to read many non-digital speedometers to the nearest 1mph, and can sometimes be slightly inaccurate anyway.

“Anyone who uses a satnav on a regular basis will see that it often shows a different speed to the dial on the dashboard. Which one do you believe?”

She added: “On the new ‘smart motorways’ which are being questionably introduced at great expense, speed limits can be changed at the whim of an officer in a control centre, every few hundred yards.

“If Mr Bangham has his way, motorway drivers could spend more time looking nervously up at gantries than on the road ahead, and that raises all manner of worrying safety issues.

“Once again, the driver is being treated as a cash cow. I would urge our police chiefs to put more emphasis instead on catching the real highway criminals – those who  are driving with no tax and insurance, or using their mobile phones at the wheel.”

But Mrs Seymour did agree with Mr Bangham on one issue – that it’s time to clamp down on the use of speed awareness courses as an alternative to penalty points.

She said: “There are a lot of people whose pockets are being nicely lined by the operation of these courses. That’s the real reason we are seeing more and more of these so-called ‘safety camera’ vans on our roads.

“Drivers on a speed awareness course still have to pay almost the same price as they would to have three points on their licence and a fine, and there is no evidence that the introduction of these courses has made life on our roads any safer.

“In fact, if the Chief Constable is now calling for this 10% tolerance buffer to be scrapped, I can only conclude that he feels they simply don’t work.”

More inequality for the over-taxed British motorist?

diesel

Plans to charge road users of the basis of their age or financial means could be a breach of equalities legislation, according to UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour.

She was responding to a report from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, which suggests people should be taxed on the basis of when, where and how they use the roads.

The group, which represents companies involved in designing the UK’s transport infrastructure, says current toll fees and congestion charges are failing, because revenue from these taxes is ‘drying up’.

It suggests road use charges should be varied to take into account drivers’ personal circumstances – such as their age, financial means, and the time of day they are on the roads.

Mrs Seymour said: “It is illegal to discriminate against a person based on their age, so I’m concerned that these proposals would be a breach of equalities legislation.

“But that’s not my only concern. It sounds like the authorities want big brother to be watching us wherever we go – and smacks of panic from a Government worried about falling tax revenues.

“We’re told there is currently a £15 billion investment in the road network – but huge parts of the country don’t see a penny of it.

“Much of this is being spent on things like smart motorways, which have no proven business case, while potholes and crumbling country lanes remain neglected.”

She added: “Motorists do not resent paying their fair share, but they want to see the money they are spending being ploughed back into the network, for their benefit. That’s not been happening for decades.

“The idea of means-testing drivers on the basis of whether they are students, pensioners or unemployed is a knee-jerk measure as more motorists cut their tax bills by using zero or low-emission vehicles.

“Let’s not forget, motorists are already paying huge taxes every time they fill up with fuel – so those that use the roads the most, are already paying the most.

“I challenge the Government to reveal how much of the money received from fuel duty and excise tax goes back into maintaining Britain’s road network. I suspect it would be a very small percentage.

“It seems to me that, far from making things fairer for car owners, there’s a danger these latest plans could simply price them off the roads, or frighten them away from car ownership.”

Mrs Seymour added: “We also need to remember that, for many people living outside big towns and cities, the lack of practical public transport means they have no alternative but to use their cars to get to work.

“Let’s make sure there are viable and practical alternatives in place for everyone, before trying to penalise them for taking what they currently feel is their only option.”

A ‘smart’ move to question changes to our motorways

smart-mot

 

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour is urging the Government to act on the results of a survey which shows the public still has ‘serious concerns’ about the roll-out of smart motorways.

Almost 20,000 people responded to the AA survey over the operation of ‘all lane running schemes’, prompting concerns to be raised by the House of Commons transport select committee.

Lilian Greenwood MP, who chairs the committee, said the survey showed the public still has ‘serious concerns about the safety’ of the schemes.

Smart motorways use overhead gantries with built-in speed cameras to direct traffic into lanes, with variable speed limits responding to the volume of vehicles.

The hard shoulder is often turned into an extra lane in a bid to ease congestion – leaving long stretches of motorway without an emergency refuge. The Commons committee said this was an issue ‘of particular concern’.

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, said: “The Government should halt the proposed roll-out of these so-called smart motorways immediately until the many concerns have been addressed.

“We’re told they are part of a campaign to improve safety on our roads – but it seems to me they are being used first and foremost as a revenue-generator to penalise the driver.

“The Government insists this is not the case, but statistics suggest otherwise. I have yet to see any compelling evidence that safety records or average journey times have improved on stretches where smart motorways have been introduced.

“Like the select committee, I have been voicing serious concerns over the lack of emergency refuge areas on sections of motorway where the hard shoulder is removed to operate as an extra lane.”

She added: “We’ve already got more than 230 miles of Smart Motorways in the UK, and that figure is due to almost double over the next few years.

“No wonder these schemes are being escalated – revenue from speeding fines has increased to more than £1.1 million a year, compared with little more than £150,000 five years ago.

“It’s clear from the result of this latest AA survey that questions need to be answered about the way smart motorways are being rolled out.

“I for one will be delighted if the programme is halted, because I believe that once again, it is once again using the already over-taxed motorist as a cash-cow to line the Government’s pockets.”

Crazy new channel crossing idea is a bridge too far

cliffs

Boris Johnson’s quest to build a new bridge linking the UK and France have been dismissed as ‘pie in the sky’ by UKIP’s transport spokesman.

Jill Seymour MEP said: “When so much of our existing transport infrastructure here in the UK is still crying out for investment to bring it into the 21st century, this idea of ploughing billions into a cross-channel bridge is an absolute farce.”

The foreign secretary floated the idea of a new crossing between the UK and France, during a summit with French president Emmanuel Macron.

Mrs Seymour said: “We already have air and sea connections with France, in addition to the rail and car services through the Channel Tunnel.

“While the construction of a 22-mile bridge might be feasible, it’s could cause total and utter chaos in one of the world’s busiest and most important shipping lanes, and the cost to the taxpayer would be eye-watering. Frankly, this is just pie in the sky.

“The two countries are already struggling enough as it is to keep illegal migrants from crossing into the UK through the single Channel Tunnel entrance, despite throwing millions of pounds of our money at the problem.

“The last thing they now need is another potential troublespot. First we had ‘Boris Island’, his totally impractical idea for a new airport on the Thames. Now we’ve got the equally far-fetched ‘Boris Bridge’.

“When transport links between some of the UK’s biggest cities remain so poor, the last thing we need is to be diverting money onto a vanity project like this.

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