MPs have given a damning verdict of Chris Grayling’s tenure as transport secretary, saying he should have been more proactive in preventing this year’s train timetable chaos.
In a scathing report about timetable changes in May, the Transport Select Committee said the “chaotic rollout” of changes to services in May should be the catalyst for “genuine change” for people who rely on the railways.
The committee said passengers most affected by the delays and cancellations should receive a discount on 2019 tickets.
The MPs said the minister could not absolve himself of all responsibility for the chaos, although it acknowledged Grayling was not fully informed of the serious problems caused by the changes.
Last week’s announcement that rail fares will increase by an average of 3.1% added “insult to passengers’ injury”, said Lilian Greenwood, who chairs the committee.
She added: “It is extraordinary, and totally unacceptable, that no-one took charge of the situation and acted to avert the May timetabling crisis.
“Instead of experiencing the benefits of much-needed investment in our railways, around one in five passengers experienced intensely inconvenient and costly disruption to their daily lives.
“There was extraordinary complacency about protecting the interests of passengers, who were very badly let down”.
National rail timetabling needed “genuinely independent” oversight, located outside Network Rail, to avoid being affected by commercial and political pressure, said the committee.
All passengers affected by the May timetabling disruption were badly let down by the system, but people with sensory, mobility and other impairments were disproportionately affected, said the report.
Alex Hayman of consumer group Which? said: “The report provides yet more evidence that no-one took responsibility for fixing the timetable mess and that blame for the appalling delays, cancellations and lack of information endured by passengers goes right to the top.”
The report said the disruption led to a prolonged period of inconvenient, costly and potentially dangerous disruption for passengers across the north of England, London and the south.
Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) failed to run 12% of its planned service in the weeks following May 20, Arriva Rail North did not run around 11% of its trains, and there was a knock-on impact on TransPennine Express, said the report.
There was a collective, system-wide failure across Network Rail, the train operators, Transport Department and the ORR, and “nobody took charge”, said the MPs.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We have already worked with the industry to deliver special compensation schemes on Northern, TransPennine Express and GTR, which provides the equivalent of up to 8% of the cost of an annual season ticket for those most severely impacted.
“The disruption following the May timetable change demonstrated that significant change is required in the rail industry.
“That is why we launched the Williams review to consider all parts of the industry in order to put passengers first, with reforms to begin from 2020.”
Britain’s rail fares are set to increase by an average of 3.1% on January 2, the rail industry announced.
According to Office of Rail and Road data, it will be the largest price hike since January 2013.
Many long-distance commuters will see the annual cost of getting to work increase by more than £100.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), said: “Nobody wants to pay more to travel, especially those who experienced significant disruption earlier this year.
“Money from fares is underpinning the improvements to the railway that passengers want and which ultimately help boost the wider economy.
“That means more seats, extra services and better connections right across the country.”
There have been calls for prices to be frozen following chaos caused by the implementation of new timetables in May.
Fewer than half (45%) of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of train tickets, according to a survey by watchdog Transport Focus.
The news follows a summer of transport chaos with train staff staging strikes amid an ongoing dispute between rail operators and the RMT Union over keeping rail guards on trains.
A woman almost killed while cycling to work has made a plea for tougher penalties for drivers, as new figures reveal cyclists and motorcyclists are 63 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured than people in vehicles.
Victoria Lebrec, 28, had to have her left leg amputated after being hit by a lorry in 2014. She only survived due to pioneering medical treatment at the roadside. She believes there should be tougher penalties for drivers who seriously injure people on bikes.
New analysis by the road safety charity Brake shows cyclists and motorcyclists account for almost four in 10 of all deaths and serious injuries on British roads. In 2017, a total of 9,740 people were killed or injured on a bike – an average of one every hour.
There were a total of 101 cyclist deaths and 349 motorcyclist deaths in 2017.
Lebrec was 24 when she was crushed by a skip lorry. “When I was told about losing my leg, I felt grief as I could not imagine what my future was going to be like after such a life changing injury,” she said. After recovering, Lebrec went to a rehabilitation hospital and learned to walk again using a prosthetic leg.
The lorry driver involved in the crash was charged with careless driving and received a £750 fine and points on his licence.
Lebrec told HuffPost UK: “I met the driver in court and it was emotional as he was so sorry and clearly never intended for it to happen.
“But it is frustrating that there is not a charge for causing serious injury by careless driving. There’s either careless driving or death by careless driving.
“But someone can be left alive and seriously injured and the severity of what they suffered is not represented in the punishment.”
Lebrec now works as a campaigner for RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims. She says the Ministry of Justice has proposed to introduce a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, but it hasn’t yet happened.
Road safety charity Brake has criticised the Government for not acting on their pledge to increase sentences for dangerous and careless driving made more than a year ago.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Drivers who kill or seriously injure all too often receive lenient sentences. By delaying the introduction of new tougher sentences, the Government is causing further suffering to families who have lost loved ones in road crashes.
“The Government must implement these tougher sentences as first priority, delivering on their promise to road crash victims and then initiate a review of the flawed legal framework for road justice.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Killer drivers ruin lives and the government is committed to making sure that the courts have sufficient powers to deal with driving offences appropriately and proportionately.
“We will bring forward proposals for changes in the law as soon as parliamentary time allows.”
Indonesian officials are “not expecting survivors” from the plane carrying 189 people that crashed into the sea near Jakarta.
Indonesia’s search and rescue agency confirmed the crash of Lion Air flight, JT610, adding that it lost contact with ground officials 13 minutes after takeoff, and a tug boat leaving the capital’s port saw it fall.
After crashing into the sea, the aircraft sank. Rescue officials said they had recovered some human remains from the crash site, about 15 km (9 miles) off the coast.
The airline said the brand-new aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, on an hour-and-10-minute flight to Pangkal Pinang on an island chain off Sumatra, was carrying 181 passengers, including one child and two babies, and eight crew members.
Earlier, agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.
However, the pilot had asked to return to base (RTB) after the plane took off and is thought to have been trying to circle back to the capital, Jakarta when it went down.
At the time of the news conference on Monday morning, Syaugi said they didn’t know whether there would be any survivors.
“We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm … We are there already, our vessels, our helicopter is hovering above the waters, to assist,” Syaugi said. “We are trying to dive down to find the wreck.”
Ambulances were lined up at Karawang, on the coast east of Jakarta and police were preparing rubber dinghies, a Reuters reporter said. It’s now looking likely the ambulances will not be used for survivors.
Distraught friends and relatives prayed and hugged each other as they waited for news of their loved ones at Pangkal Pinang’s airport on Monday.
Others headed to the agency’s headquarters in Jakarta, hoping desperately for news.
Feni, who uses a single name, said her soon to be married sister was on the flight, planning to meet relatives in Pangkal Pinang.
“We don’t have any information,” she said, as her father wiped tears from reddened eyes. “No one provided us with any information that we need. “We’re confused. We hope that our family is still alive,” she said.
The National Search and Rescue Agency’s deputy chief, Nugroho Budi Wiryanto, said some 300 people including soldiers, police and local fishermen are involved in the search and that so far it has recovered no bodies — only identity cards, personal belongings and aircraft debris.
Crushed smartphone, books, bags and parts of the Lion Air jet’s fuselage have been collected by search and rescue vessels.
At least 23 government officials were on board the plane, which an air navigation spokesman said had sought to turn back just before losing contact.
“We don’t dare to say what the facts are, or are not, yet,” Edward Sirait, the chief executive of Lion Air Group, told Reuters. “We are also confused about the why, since it was a new plane.”
The privately owned airline said in a statement, the aircraft, which had only been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having accumulated 11,000 hours of flying time.
Saat ini tim SAR Basarnas melakukan penyelaman dikoordinat 05 derajat 90′ 361″ S – 107 derajat 06′ 618″ E untuk mencari pesawat Lion Air JT 610 yang jatuh di perairan Karawang Jawa Barat. pic.twitter.com/XK0UiSKyfH
— Sutopo Purwo Nugroho (@Sutopo_PN) October 29, 2018
The head of Indonesia’s transport safety committee said he could not confirm the cause of the crash, which would have to wait until the recovery of the plane’s black boxes, as the cockpit voice recorder and data flight recorder are known.
“The plane is so modern, it transmits data from the plane, and that we will review too. But the most important is the blackbox,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono.
Safety experts say nearly all accidents are caused by a combination of factors and only rarely have a single identifiable cause.
The weather at the time of the crash was clear, Tjahjono said.
Investigators will focus on the cockpit voice and data recorders and building up a picture of the brand-new plane’s technical status, the condition and training of the crew as well as weather and air traffic recordings.
The effort to find the wreckage and retrieve the black boxes represents a major challenge for investigators in Indonesia, where an AirAsia Airbus jet crashed in the Java Sea in December 2015.
Under international rules, the US National Transportation Safety Board will automatically assist with the inquiry into Monday’s crash, backed up by technical advisers from Boeing and US-French engine maker CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and Safran.
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Few companies are as divisive as Uber. The taxi and ride-sharing app has batted away scandal after scandal since it was founded in in 2009 – from a huge data breach and accusations of drivers committing sexual offences, to criticism over how it has disrupted the traditional taxi industry.
One issue that refuses to go away centres on how Uber contracts and pays the drivers who work for the company, and who have made its meteoric rise possible. Today, at 1pm, some drivers will stage a 24-hour strike.
They are protesting what they claim is unfair pay and conditions. But for all that is bubbling to the surface, the fact remains: consumers like Uber. It’s quick, it’s efficient and it’s cheap.
Here are some things you might want to consider before you tap the app.
Is my driver being paid a fair wage for my ride?
With this one, it depends who you ask. Ask Uber, and they’ll say their workers are paid an average of £11 an hour, after accounting for all of their costs and Uber’s service fee.
If you ask The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) union, which is organising Tuesday’s strike, then the answer is a resounding “no”.
The IWGB want to see an increase in fares to £2 per mile (currently £1.25 in London) and a 10 per cent reduction in commissions paid by drivers to Uber (currently 25 percent for UberX). It says Uber’s calculations of earnings fail to take into account time spent waiting without a passenger.
Central to this dispute is the fact that Uber has been locked in a battle for years in the UK about how it classifies its drivers under UK employment law.
It’s a bit complicated – but essentially, Uber classifies its drivers as self-employed, which means they have no entitlement to the minimum wage, holiday pay or basic protections from the company.
Unions, meanwhile, have long argued that because drivers work solely for Uber they are in fact “workers” – a different categorisation of driver under the law, which would mean they are entitled to those rights.
A tribunal last year agreed but Uber is appealing that decision at a hearing later this month, which the IWGB claims is essentially a move to delay drivers getting access to rights that they claim under law they are entitled to.
Am I safe in my Uber?
In 2017, Transport for London (TFL) revoked Uber’s license to operate in the capital (Uber won an appeal for a temporary license which is why it’s still operating). It said Uber was “not fit and proper” to operate and cited concerns over “a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”
There have been concerns over passenger safety globally and in the UK. British Police charged 25 minicab drivers for sexual offences in 2016, according to TFL figures, and more than half of them – 13 – worked for Uber.
But when TFL revoked the licence, Uber found an unlikely ally in women, who said they felt far safer in an Uber than in a minicab or London black cab because a passenger can share their location with a friend, making the journey more trackable.
There have also been concerns over the number of hours Uber drivers can work in a row. In a bid to combat this issue, Uber implemented a cap for drivers in January – meaning a driver must take a six-hour break after he or she racks up 10 hours driving.
Am I contributing to the demise of traditional taxis?
Unfortunately yes, you probably are. Ever since Uber launched in the UK in London in 2012, traditional taxi drivers have complained of being undercut by the company – which offers lower fares.
They say their livelihoods have been damaged by Uber. Drivers of London black cabs – known as Hackney carriages, have been particularly vocal. Whereas black cab drivers have to pass tough exams known as “the knowledge” to show they can memorise every route in London, Uber drivers use sat nav. Black cab drivers claim that Uber drivers are unprofessional and have lowered standards in the industry.
Does my ride have any impact on the environment?
If you live in London, it’s sometimes cheaper to jump in an Uber than hop on an underground train. The capital city has pollution levels so bad they exceed the legal limits set by the EU Air Quality Standards.
Cars are an obvious contributor to this situation (though, if you’re a regular Uber customer you’ll know a large volume of drivers use a Toyota Prius, which is a hybrid electric car and therefore has less environmental impact than your regular petrol or diesel-chugging vehicle).
If you’re close enough to use a more efficient method of travel but just use Uber because it’s quick and easy, getting a bus, walking, or cycling might be better for the environment and maybe even your wallet in the long run.
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The announcement was made at the first Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Summit held in Birmingham. The prime minister went on to say that the UK should start “leading from the front and working with industries and countries around the world to spearhead change.”
In addition to £106m provided by the government, there will be a further £500m of investment made by industry leaders including the creation of around 1,000 jobs.
“Our electric UK-manufactured cars account for one-in-five sold in Europe,” said the prime minister.
In addition to these financial incentives the prime minister has also unveiled a new international declaration which will create a shared set of targets and objectives on how countries can adopt green vehicles in the future.
There are already 11 countries signed up including Italy, France, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Belarus and Indonesia with more expected to sign up in the coming months.
Despite this investment a recent survey by GoCompare found that for every 10 electric cars in the UK there was just one public charging point.
To combat this already considerable shortfall of public chargers, the government has already announced a £400m investment in the rolling out of a much larger charging network in combination with partners.
There are currently around 133,000 electric cars on the roads in the UK, and yet there are just 13,534 chargers dotted around the UK.
While you certainly wouldn’t expect there to be a like for like figure this does become problematic for electric cars in particular. For starters they take longer to charge and so are required for longer periods of time by one vehicle.
To try and increase the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK the Department of Transport has also said it’s looking into the creation of a green number plate specially for electric or low-emission vehicles.
The green number plates would be used to raise awareness of green vehicles in an effort to encourage customers to choose electric next time they buy a new car.
Of course cost has always traditionally been a barrier with many electric cars costing well above the average for their size and class. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe have done much to bring the cost down with both cars costing below £30,000 and £20,000 respectively.