A lot of people on my twitter timeline were sharing this article
approvingly this morning, and given that it prompted one of the very rare disagreements I have with my beloved PPC for Calder Valley
, I thought I would detail my issues with it. And the first issue comes right at the beginning:
a small engined car with four people in it has lower emissions, lower pollution, than four people traveling by train. So it simply isn’t true that everyone benefits from more train travel
The second sentence there does not follow on from the first. While the first sentence is, indeed, true, when was the last time you saw a car of ANY engine size being used as a commuter vehicle that had more than one or two people in it? And aside from that small disingenuousness, whoever said that the only benefit that everyone gets from train travel is lower pollution? There is also less congestion for those who DO drive, and there is also the small matter of the fact that for many people public transport is the only option.
My second problem with the article is illustrated by these two sentences:
Some City fund manager who commutes in from 50 miles outside London should not have his lifestyle choice subsidised by the rest of us... why should the poor pay taxes so the middles classes can live in the greenbelt?
The blithe and blind assumption that the train is a rich person's mode of transport tells its own tale: if the train is a rich person's mode of transport, then what are those of us who can't afford a car supposed to do, hop? In reality this is a perfect illustration of the fact that trains are already too expensive, rather than that subsidies need to be cut, pushing fares higher.
I suspect this probably comes from a London-centric mindset. Up here in the Frozen North, those of us in mimimum wage jobs sometimes have to commute long distances to get from housing we can afford TO the minimum wage job. I use the train to commute to work, and the bus, and I'm quite happy for what taxes I pay to go towards subsidising public transport because otherwise I would not be able to get to my minimum wage job which Tim professes to have such concern for.
My third problem is the argument "my taxes should not go towards something I don't use", which is basically the point of the snide comments about mimimum wage workers paying for rich people to travel by train. I'm never going to need prostate surgery, but I don't object to paying for other people's. Nor do I object to paying for jobseeker's allowance, or disability benefits, or pensions. Nor do I object to paying for my bloody useless Tory MP who has actively gone against my interests several times while he's been in the House. Nor do I complain about paying for the street-lighting to be on all night, even though it bloody KEEPS ME AWAKE. I don't object to paying for these things that I don't use or am actively annoyed by, because I recognise that they are necessary.
Something that I definitely think is necessary is a working public transport system. Mass transit which is cheap and reliable creates a more mobile and flexible workforce, and that keeps the economy going. I am certainly not going to object to paying for THAT. And I would happily cut spending in other areas to obtain and maintain a cheap and reliable public transit system, because I am fully aware that there isn't a magic money tree.
Finally, most of the people who shared the article approvingly did so while sharing this quote from it:
We should not be taxing the man who cycles to work at minimum wage in order to pay for wealthier people top travel longer distances.*
Well, yes, because we shouldn't be taxing the person on minimum wage AT ALL**. Which, happily, is Lib Dem policy. So yes, vote Lib Dem, get angry blue-haired nascent train geeks cutting your taxes.
*typo included was in the article, not mine. As was the assumption that the minimum wage guy cycles to work, while the posh city gent uses the train *rolleyes*
**not income tax anyway. There are, of course, other taxes available.