Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Our Bus Service is not for Sale!

“While I understand a minority shareholding would be involved, I believe this would be the thin edge of the wedge and will open the door to full privatisation of Cardiff Bus which will gradually reduce the service to customers.

Any private company would expect a return of at least 15 per cent on turnover.

The only way that can be met is through increased fares and/or a large reduction in marginal services which Cardiff Bus operates as a sort of dividend for the owners, the people of Cardiff: This looks like a fire sale to deal with a short-term financial position."
- Steve Pantak, Chairman of Cardiff Bus

The corporate take-over of Cardiff continues unabated. The neo-Liberal democrats cuts and privatisation agenda reveals that they are "yellow Tories". First school cuts, then the Library cuts, now a brutal attempt at privatising the local bus network.

Cardiff Council is currently talking about selling off a 40% slice of the Cardiff Bus Company - this could pave the way for total privatisation of one of the few remaining Bus services in the country still in public ownership under the municipal control of local government.

A Bus service run for profit could see price rises and vital services cut.

RESPECT defends the idea that local bus services should be publicly owned and democratically accountable to local government. This is the only basis on which an integrated, low carbon transport network can be built. We campaign for free or cheap public transport available to all workers as an alternative to car-mageddon.

The fruits of bus privatisation have already been seen across the UK. In the early 80s when the Tories privatised and derregulated public transport, they said it would increase competition, drive down prices and the travelling public would benefit. Instead workers have faced increased prices, fewer services, a lack of accountability, and incessant cuts and timetable changes.

The long-term fruits of privatisation and de-regulation have been private bus monopolies seizing control of the market throughout the country by driving out smaller operators.

In order to satisfy private operators’ endless thirst for increased profits, they have to constantly cut or remove the less profitable services. These are often the routes that provide a social service, linking isolated local communities and providing a lifeline for many people, especially the elderly.

For corporations run for profit this is of no concern, often declining passenger numbers are then used as an excuse for further rounds of cuts. The knock-on effects are considerable with many vulnerable people left isolated in their communities.

But there is another fundamental issue. When bus services are in public ownership it is much easier to challenge cuts in services, price rises, and provision, but once they are privatised there is no longer consultation or accountability. The bottom line is that the Bus Companies are free to do whatever they want with only their profit margins to worry about.

RESPECT campaigns for the extension of democracy in our society. Decisions on the provision and implementation of local services such as public transport must be made by people accountable to the communities they represent. Therefore we will be building a mass campaign to defend our public services:

Our Bus Service is Not For Sale

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Heathrow Climate Camp 2007

Report by Joe Redmond, Cardiff RESPECT member (Adamsdown Branch) and Unison Workplace Environmental Representative.

Contrary to press scare stories about environmental extremists threatening to cause mass disruption to Europe’s busiest airport on a weekend in August, the 1,500 people deposited on an overgrown “sports field” adjacent to Heathrow’s northern runway had united to draw attention to government’s continued hypocrisy on the issues surrounding climate change and it’s reluctance to impose restrictions on the aviation industry.

While mainstream politicians pay lip service to tackling CO2 emissions, people from all walks of life, including myself, arrived at the climate camp to register their disgust, to meet with like-minded individuals and talk with local people whose lifelong homes were to be destroyed by the planned third runway that would double the amount of already suffocating air traffic overhead.

Police presence was ridiculously overwhelming; officers outnumbered climate campers two to one and BAA – the company which owns and runs Heathrow – roped in extra security staff, fearful of the day of mass protest planned for Sunday 21st August.

Following the embarrassing failure of BAA to secure a wide-ranging injunction to stop the camp taking place, police were authorised to invoke terror laws to stop and search, detain without charge and film campers from the ground and by helicopter above.

If the aim was to discredit eco-protestors as a bunch of cranks and anarchists it was spectacularly unsuccessful, with mainstream media giving the event acres of coverage denied to much larger recent protests such as the 100,000 strong London march against renewing the Trident nuclear “defence” system. Discussions on the issues surrounding climate change were once again on the front page of national newspapers as well as being the lead story on evening news bulletins.

Villagers from nearby Sipson, which would be levelled to make room for the new runway, visited the camp throughout the week to show their appreciation and support bringing fresh local produce, homemade samosas and flasks of coffee.

Local residents joined men, women and children from the camp on a march towards Harmondsworth, which will also be decimated by Heathrow’s planned expansion until we were circled by a ring of police in riot vans determined not to let us reach our destination – a rally in a garden centre at which local MP John McDonnell was due to speak. Armed with drums, guitars and an accordion we kept our spirits up by singing for over an hour.

A group of activists set up camp overnight on the tarmac outside BAA’s offices and Monday morning workers were told to go home by bosses who were unable to get through the blockade. Recruiters scoured the main camp in the early hours of the morning for reinforcements and some of those who had been woken up by the first roar of jet engines at 5a.m. were compelled to join in.

The camp communications tent offered text message updates on the movement of police and protesters, working overtime to inform us that two teenage girls had climbed to the roof of BAA’s offices and unfurled a banner saying “Make Planes History”, or that a group of people had chained themselves to the cargo terminal used for holding foods imported by UK supermarkets. Hilariously, one message told how a riderless police horse had been sighted circling a field next to the camp, pursued breathlessly by a horseless police officer.

During the week leading up to the day of action such luminaries as Mark Lynas and George Monbiot delivered lectures and workshops on the worsening climate crisis and the need to build a society less reliant on the unstable petrocarbon-economy. Comedian Rob Newman, who performed on Saturday evening, deemed the event “an historic occasion” and the rapturous applause gained by his comments showed we were determined to take our experiences away and continue to build local campaigns and make our voices heard.

Cardiff RESPECT calls for

* Unilateral reduction of CO2 emissions in the UK of 90% by 2030, with similar reductions in other developed countries. We demand that the Welsh Assembly set binding annual targets to cut emissions. We call for an international treaty that goes way beyond Kyoto to cap global carbon emissions.

* International rationing of air-travel. Halt airport expansion, restrict binge flying. Nationalise the airlines. We oppose the expansion of Cardiff Airport and opening of an Anglesey/Cardiff air-route. End the £9 billion tax break to the aviation industry and spend the money on more sustainable forms of public transport.

* Stop car-mageddon: Free, or cheap, integrated publicly owned transport systems. End New Labour's road building programme and spend the £30 billion on public transport. Nationalisation of rail, road freight and bus companies.

* Cancel all third-world debt. There is no point calling on impoverished countries to tackle climate change if they are saddled with debt.

* Massive investment in renewable energy. Keep Wales nuclear free. We oppose the building of new nuclear power plants in Wales supported by the leader's of both New Labour and Plaid Cymru.
* Scrap weapons of mass destruction and use the resources for sustainable development and renewable energy.

*End the productivist throwaway society: production for use not profit.

* Sustainable town planning: redesigned cities to eliminate unnecessary journeys and conserve energy.

* All new buildings to be zero-carbon; provide insulation, energy conservation etc. to all homes to make them energy efficient and therefore lower fuel bills for working class people. We call for sustanable council housing in Wales

.* Localised food production and opposition to "Supermarket Britain".

* No GM crops for food or fuel.

* No to incinerators. High quality facilities to maximise recycling. The aim should be the full recycling of waste. We oppose the LibDems plans for a Cardiff incinerator. In Neath, Respect activists launched the Crymlyn Burrows Stop the Incinerator Campaign

.* End the destruction of the rainforests.

* Defend the rights of climate change refugees and migrants. Protect those hit by drought, desertification, floods, crop failure and extreme weather conditions.

* Renationalise water and protect water reserves. End the pollution of the rivers and water ways.