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Boris Johnson has been told to “clean up” the government’s fleet of ministerial cars after it was revealed 52% are still petrol or diesel cars.
The prime minister vowed to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 as part of a major speech in February on reaching net zero carbon emissions.
But a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed the government car service – the fleet of vehicles which transport ministers and senior officials – is made up of 52% of petrol and diesel models.
The fleet is made up of around 90 cars, which means that only around 43 are electric or hybrid vehicles.
The prime minister, who has committed to moving the service towards an electric fleet of vehicles by 2030, now faces calls to speed up the replacement of “gas guzzlers” to by 2025.
Friends of the Earth call on Johnson to “lead by example”.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who passed the Department for Transport FOI response to HuffPost UK, said: “If the government introduces a car scrappage scheme, they should start with their own fleet.
“It can’t be right that polluting vehicles are still being used to ferry around ministers and senior civil servants to their meetings,” Moran said.
“The target to move towards a completely electric and hybrid fleet of government cars should be brought forward to 2025 at the earliest.
“This needs to be part of a broader plan to get drivers to ditch diesel and petrol and embrace electric, starting by reversing years of cuts to subsidies for electric cars.”
HuffPost UK has contacted the government for comment.
When announcing plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars – generally rather than among the government service – by 2035 in February, Johnson said “there can be no greater responsibility than protecting our planet”, adding that “2020 must be the year we turn the tide on global warming”.
Jenny Bates, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Getting dirty vehicles off our roads is a key part of cleaning up the air we breathe and cutting climate-wrecking transport emissions.
It can’t be right that polluting vehicles are still being used to ferry around ministers and senior civil servants to their meetings.Layla Moran
“Ministers must lead by example and clean up their vehicle fleet. But clean transport is not simply a case of swapping one type of car for another, so it’s time the government takes stock of how many vehicles it actually needs out on the roads, especially as we look to a green recovery from the dreadful coronavirus pandemic.
“This means making more work journeys public transport or bicycle, or using technology such as video-conferencing to cut journeys altogether.”
Moran, who is running to lead the Lib Dems, also proposes a “green bailout” for the car industry, to include doubling the maximum grant available for new electric cars from £3,000 to £6,000 and attaching eco conditions to any government cash given to manufacturers.
As parts of Europe and the United States begin to lift coronavirus lockdown restrictions and allow people to go shopping, visit relatives and return to work, public officials are facing a new conundrum: How can people travel safely in crowded cities?
Italy is poised to serve as a major test case. On Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that many restrictions on daily lifewill be eased starting next Monday, but he warned that people would still need to avoid large gatherings, maintain social distancing and wear masks in certain circumstances.
“If we do not respect the precautions, the curve will go up, the deaths will increase and we will have irreversible damage to our economy,” Conte said in a televised address to the nation. “If you love Italy, keep your distance.”
Some 2.7 million Italians are expected to return to work next week, with 15% of them anticipated to use public transportation, according to Italian authorities.
Thus, government officials and business leaders are scrambling to develop protocols to allow people to move about freely without triggering a surge in coronavirus infections.
Under new guidelines that are being considered, the number of people allowed on buses and trains is likely to be restricted. Markers will be placed on the ground in metro stations to enforce social distancing, and camera systems and personnel will be deployed to help count passengers and prevent overcrowding, according to HuffPost Italy.
Italy’s transport ministry has suggested that electronic ticket machines will likely become standard, with hand sanitiser dispensers installed nearby. Trains and buses will be disinfected regularly, and the way passengers board and exit vehicles and stations will be adjusted. Moreover, a key goal of any plan will be to spread out daily commuters in order to reduce congestion.
Already, new measures are being tested in Rome. During a three-hour testing period on Friday, only 30 passengers were allowed into stations every three minutes at two of the city’s metro lines, and the number of passengers on each train was capped at 150, HuffPost Italy reported. On the train platforms, blue stripes with small dots indicated how far apart passengers needed to stand. Passages connecting the two lines were closed to prevent people from crossing each other and creating crowds.
In addition, many cities are hoping to encourage people to use alternate forms of transportation. Bologna has requested support from the federal government for the purchase of e-bikes and electric scooters, for example, and Milan has unveiled an ambitious plan to remake its streetscape to discourage car use and make it easier for people to walk and cycle, while still having room to spread out.
Over the summer, the city plans to take over 22 miles of streets and create temporary bike lanes and widened walkways for pedestrians. The speed limit for cars will be reduced in parts of the city, while bicycles and pedestrians will be given priority on certain streets.
“We worked for years to reduce car use. If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops,” Milan’s deputy mayor, Marco Granelli, told The Guardian. “Of course we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before. We think we have to reimagine Milan in the new situation.”
Other cities around the world are taking similar measures. This month, the city of Oakland, California, closed 74 miles of streets in order to allow people room to exercise outdoors while still maintaining social distancing. Bogota, Mexico City and Berlin have also added bike lanes.
Italy in particular, however, could provide a model for other cities to follow.
“The Milan plan is so important because it lays out a good playbook for how you can reset your cities now,” Janette Sadik-Khan, a former transportation commissioner for New York City, told The Guardian. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a fresh look at your streets and make sure that they are set to achieve the outcomes that we want to achieve: not just moving cars as fast as possible from point A to point B, but making it possible for everyone to get around safely.”
“I know we’ll be looking to Milan for guidance from New York City,” she added.
With reporting from HuffPost Italy.
Rail fares have been hiked by an average of 2.7%, prompting one campaign group to warn of “another decade of misery” for passengers.
Some long-distance commuters saw the annual cost of getting to work increase by more than £100 on Thursday despite fewer than two-thirds of trains being on time last year.
Bruce Williamson, of pressure group Railfuture, claimed fares are “outstripping people’s incomes”.
“Welcome to another decade of misery for rail passengers,” he said.
“How on earth is the government going to meet its climate commitments by pricing people off environmentally-friendly trains and on to our polluted and congested roads?”
According to TUC data published by The Times, RPI-linked rail fares have risen twice as quickly as average wages over the past 10 years, with rail fares jumping by 47% compared to a 22% rise in average wages.
Network Rail data shows only 65% of trains arrived at their scheduled station stops within one minute of the timetable in the 12 months to December 7.
South Western Railway passengers suffered from strike action throughout December, while there was major disruption to Northern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains services during much of 2019.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union analysis of company accounts for train operators and three major rolling stock firms showed they have paid out £4.4bn in dividends to shareholders over the last 10 years.
Among the routes where the price of annual season tickets has increased by a three-figure sum are:
– Reading to London (up £132 to £4,736)
– Gloucester to Birmingham (up £118 to £4,356)
– Glasgow to Edinburgh via any permitted route (up £116 to £4,200)
Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We know that no-one wants to pay more to travel, and rail companies have, for the third year in a row, held average fare increases below inflation while continuing to deliver investment in new trains and extra services that will improve journeys for customers.”
He added that 2020 will see 1,000 extra weekly services and 1,000 more carriages added to Britain’s rail fleet.
Meanwhile, transport secretary Grant Shapps unveiled a new fares trial on Govia Thameslink Railway services which will give passengers on certain routes the opportunity to buy better value tickets aimed at part-time workers.
A fund to support further trials across Britain will also be established by the government.
The Department for Transport will set out reforms of the railways in a white paper, responding to recommendations of the government-commissioned Rail Review led by former British Airways boss Keith Williams.
It was due to be published in autumn 2019 but has been delayed until this year due to the general election.
Shapps said: “This government will improve the railway system to ensure the focus is always on putting passengers first.
“This commitment begins with the launch of innovative fares trials, to help explore the benefits and costs of a clearer, more flexible and fairer fares system.”
Why does the cost of train travel increase every year?
It has been the policy of successive governments to switch the burden of funding the railways from taxpayers to passengers.
How much more expensive have train fares become?
Office of Rail and Road figures show that between January 1995 – around the time the network was privatised – and January 2019, average fares increased in real terms by 21%.
This year’s rise is 2.7%.
When are fares increased?
Prices rise on the first working day of every new year.
Who decides how much they go up by?
Increases in about 45% of fares are regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments. The rest are decided by train companies.
Which fares are regulated?
Season tickets on most commuter routes, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and tickets for travel around major cities at any time are regulated.
How is the cap on the rise in these fares calculated?
Most rises are pegged to the July Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was 2.8%.
Where does the money go?
The Rail Delivery Group says 98p of every £1 spent on train fares goes towards running and maintaining services.
Is there any way of avoiding the fare rise?
Savvy commuters renewed their season tickets in the days before Thursday’s increase.
Any other tips on limiting the cost of train travel?
Passengers can save money by getting a railcard, travelling off-peak and booking in advance, although these options are not available for many journeys, particularly those made by commuters.
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Friday’s travel woes are continuing into the weekend as travellers face further delays due to the weather, repair work and a rail strike.
East Midlands Trains (EMT) customers have been warned to expect a significantly reduced service to and from London due to repair work on damaged overhead line equipment and a revised timetable on several local routes because of RMT industrial action.
Customers have also been told to check before heading out on their journeys and not to travel on the London St Pancras-Nottingham-Sheffield route as there will be a reduced timetable.
#EMTUpdate We have set up this web page to preempt questions that customers may have concerning travel on our London route this weekend, such as:
* Should I still travel?
* Is my train running?
* Which trains can I travel on?
* How do I get a refund?https://t.co/LFr0RYhgSH
— East Midlands Trains (@EMTrains) July 27, 2019
A spokesman said that the ongoing disruption to services on the Midland Main Line route to London will continue over the weekend while engineers repair major damage to overhead line equipment near West Hampstead, the Press Association reports.
Jake Kelly, East Midlands Trains managing director, said: “We’re sorry to everybody who has experienced disrupted journeys over the past two days.
“We are working very closely with Network Rail while they work to repair the overhead line equipment and fully reopen the railway, which will in turn allow us to reintroduce our full train service to and from London St Pancras.
Good morning, here is Saturday’s weather summary. Don’t forget, you can visit our website (https://t.co/cQSfu1VDbo) for all local & national weather forecasts including the 6-30 day UK outlook. Please tweet or drop us an email with any other queries. ^Dan pic.twitter.com/mjj2LNTwRq
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 27, 2019
“Whilst this work takes place, we do have a significantly reduced timetable in place on our London route over the weekend and our advice for customers is to avoid travelling on this route wherever possible and make alternative arrangements.
“Due to the RMT industrial action, there will also be some changes to services on our local routes on Saturday, with revised timetables and replacement coach operations in place on some lines.”
After a week in which Britain has been hit by hot temperatures and thunderstorms, heavy rainfall could now bring flooding and travel disruption.
The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning for rain which covers vast swathes of Scotland and England, with the exception of the South West region, until Sunday afternoon.
Up to 20mm of rain fell in parts of London and the south-east of England overnight on Friday into Saturday, with forecasters expecting up to another 20mm during the morning, which could lead to travel problems.
If you need any information or updates with regards to your flight today, then Gail, our Gatwick chatbot is here to help get you on your way. https://t.co/OdJ4M4g4J0
— Gatwick Airport LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) July 27, 2019
Delays or cancellations to train and bus services are possible.
It comes after air passengers suffered major disruption on Friday due to the heatwave and a technical problem with the UK’s air traffic control system.
Passengers using Heathrow and Gatwick airports had to contend with delays due to the extreme conditions across Europe.
The air traffic control company Nats said a technical problem with a system at the Swanwick Air Traffic Control centre had been identified shortly after noon, which restricted the rate of arrivals.
A Heathrow spokesman said the technical issue has now been resolved, adding: “We apologise to passengers for any disruption that this caused.”
On Saturday morning, Gatwick Airport said: “We aim to run a normal schedule today, however due to ongoing adverse weather across Europe, passengers are advised to check with their airlines for the latest information.”