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Darren questions government over efficacy of Rail Ombudsman

Darren Jones MP has question the government over the efficacy of the new Rail Ombudsman following a number of requests for support from constituents.

Darren Jones MP said:

” My office often supports constituents who have struggled to get legitimate refunds from third party rail retailers such as Trainline, the ticket booking company.

Following a recent case where Trainline attempted to evade my office’s enquiries for months, I asked the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will extend the remit of the new Rail Ombudsman to include oversight of train ticket selling platforms which are not operated directly by train operating companies.

I was told:

‘The Rail Ombudsman is a voluntary scheme established by the franchised GB rail companies who are its members. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is currently consulting on making membership of the Rail Ombudsman scheme mandatory for all the rail companies to which it issues licences.

Online train ticket selling platforms provided by members of the Rail Ombudsman scheme are already within the remit of the Ombudsman. However, online Third Party Retailers (such as the Trainline), which are not directly affiliated to Ombudsman scheme members, are not required to hold licences from the ORR and are not therefore within consideration for mandatory membership.

Nevertheless, the Rail Delivery Group is currently in discussions with Third Party Retailers and their professional body (the Third Party Rail Retailers Association) to explore the possibility of them joining the Rail Ombudsman scheme in due course’.

Third party retailers, such as Trainline, must be subject to investigation by, and the rulings of, the Rail Ombudsman. Given they sell hundreds of thousands of tickets each year, not to include retailers such as Trainline, seems to suggest a toothless regulator for millions of rail users.”

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Darren receives reply about Sims Hill from Bristol Mayor

Prior to the closure of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) transport consultation, Darren Jones MP shared his comments with WECA. You can view these here.

The submission raised concerns about the potential for a new park and ride site at rare blue-finger allotment land at Sims Hill. Stoke Park within Darren’s constituency could also be impacted.

Darren, MP for Bristol North West, has since received a reply from Bristol City Council Mayor Marvin Rees about this matter.

Darren said:

“Grateful to Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol for his prompt response to calls from me, Kerry McCarthy and Lockleaze Councillors Gill and Estella calling out plans to build a park and ride on important greenbelt land near the M32.

It is great to see Marvin agree it needs to be further North near the M4 junction and making the case for urban agriculture too. It is now over to WECA and Regional Mayor Tim Bowles to consider our concerns and, we hope, amend their plans”.

 

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Darren responds to West of England Transport Study

As part of the West of England Combined Authority transport study, Darren has fed in comments from the various community meetings he hosted in 2018 on local transport needs.

 

You can read the full letter below and read about all of the work Darren has done on transport by clicking here.

 

Transport Upgrades across Bristol North West

 

I write in response to the ongoing consultation on the Joint Spatial Plan – Technical Evidence Consultation further to our ongoing correspondence regarding the urgent investment needs in transport across North Bristol.

 

As we are both aware, our constituents live in an area that will see continued significant development in the coming years. Additional housing is of course welcomed, but transport infrastructure that is fit for the future is needed at the same time.

 

This is in addition to the transport upgrades required off the back of the removal of the tolls on the Severn Bridge, the potential Bristol Arena site, expanding retail at Cribbs Causeway and the expected investment in Avonmouth following the installation of flood sea defences.

 

M32 Corridor

 

One of the proposals put forward is for a new Park and Ride at the Bristol end of the M32 motorway, adjacent to the current turning route for the Metrobus.

 

This will result in development on unique blue finger soil sites on both sides of the M32 (the Lockleaze side being in my constituency of Bristol North West). This area was rejected for development when the initial Metrobus route was agreed in 2014 for this reason. Further, it was widely believed that a Park & Ride so close to Bristol City Centre would fail to serve its purpose and that a site further North of the proposed site would better suit.

 

I support proposals for an M32 Park & Ride but I do not support the proposed location and will campaign for this to be situated further North into South Gloucestershire.

 

A4018

 

The A4018 is a major road route through my constituency travelling from the Bristol Rugby Club to the White Tree Roundabout (including Wyck Beck Road, Passage Road, Falcondale Road and Westbury Road).

 

In my multiple transport consultation meetings with constituents last year, Wyck Beck Road and Falcondale Road were identified as two key problem roads, due to frequent gridlock and associated air pollution.

 

I have long called for a new rail station at Henbury (and its eventual connection to Severn Beach to create the so called Henbury Loop) but have also called for a Park & Ride to reduce car volumes on the A4018 into Bristol. I know that we both agree that creating transport hubs with multi-modal connections is the best approach.

 

However, from the proposals it seems that drivers would need to drive through Henbury or North up the A4018 to park at the Park & Ride before getting the bus or rail connection.

 

These connections will be vital for retail workers at Cribbs Causeway and for into-Bristol flows, but will be absolutely crucial if the Bristol Arena is built at the Brabazon Hanger (due to out of Bristol drivers coming to the area).

 

I therefore continue to support calls for a Park & Ride at Henbury but expect to see:

 

  • A new junction connecting the M5(N) to the Henbury Train Station and Park & Ride, to prevent out of Bristol commuters from driving through Henbury to reach these services; and
  • Road upgrades and new bus lanes along the A4018 so that buses can cut through car congestion to be on time and frequent enough for them to be used by local residents. The Wyke Road part of the A4018, including the adjacent route North to Cribbs Causeway, appears to be wide enough for a new bus route without reducing the number of lanes available to cars.

 

For your information, I have also written to Highways England to seek their advice on point (1) above.

 

GBBN2 (New Bus Networks) and Cycle Routes

This current study seems to fail to set out any proposals for bus route upgrades or new cycle lanes in my constituency.

 

We have key bus route corridors in Bristol North West that can currently hold up buses for the entire city due to traffic congestion in North Bristol and which can lead to long delays and frequent cancellations for knock on routes (for example through Lawrence Weston and Shirehampton).

 

Additionally, many of my constituents will cycle North to Cribbs Causeway or South East to Bristol City Centre for work on often dangerous road networks that have intermittent or no cycle lanes.

 

I assume that proposals for new bus routes will be forthcoming, but I would like reassurance of that alongside a clear commitment to investing in proper cycle lanes too.

 

My various consultation meetings with constituents have all resulted in a clear ask for a super-cycle highway with segregated and maintained cycle lanes between our two major economic areas of Cribbs Causeway and Bristol City Centre. For note, preference has been for these routes to be off of the major roads to reduce the impact of air pollution on cyclists.

 

Missing Areas

 

I understand that this current study is only able to consider certain projects within a certain timeframe, but a number of transport issues in my constituency are notably missing:

 

  • Southmead Hospital Transport Hub

 

The B405 (Southmead Road) is also a problem road, with workers and students commuting to major employers and the University of the West of England in Filton. Residents have concerns that this will increase with the aforementioned developments across the North of Bristol including the potential Bristol Arena. Suggestions had been previously mooted for road upgrades and/or new investment into a Southmead Hospital Transport Hub. Have these now been dropped?

 

  • Avonmouth Industrial Routes

 

I understand that further transport investment can’t be considered for Avonmouth at this stage, instead having to wait for further industrial investment expected after the installation of the flood sea defences. Is that still correct?

 

Regardless, many workers in the Avonmouth / Severnside area have to drive to work or risk their safety by walking or cycling to work. Additionally, industrial traffic continues to use the minor routes along Kingsweston Lane when they should be clearly directed along the Portway and along the existing major road routes.

 

I would like to see travel routes into and around Avonmouth to become more worker friendly and for steps to be taken to properly direct industrial transport.

 

 

  • A38/Gloucester Road

 

The A38/Gloucester Road is clearly a significant challenge, as both a major road route and a busy high street environment. However, significant traffic along this route causes air pollution concerns for many local residents and my constituents have raised questions in my consultation meetings about potential mass transit routes along this road. Please can you set out any proposals you have for this cross-border route.

 

  • RPZ Parking

 

We have started to see significant nuisance parking along the connecting residential roads attached to Stoke Hill and Parrys Lane. Whilst we expect some of this to be student related (and are in ongoing correspondence with Bristol University) we assume that a great deal of this is travel-to-work related. We should therefore do all that we can to encourage park and ride and rail usage from current and proposed sites.

 

I appreciate all of these issues don’t fall under your remit as the regional Mayor, but they do provide the context for many of the requests from my constituents which result in my demands for key transport investment. These investment requests go through the West of England Combined Authority. However, I have naturally copied my colleague Mayor Marvin Rees for his information.

 

I look forward to hearing what plans the West of England Combined Authority have for each of the above issues.

 

Darren Jones MP
Member of Parliament, Bristol North West

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Darren questions government changes to low-emission car incentives.

Darren Jones MP has continued to question the government’s recent decision to remove some financial incentives to purchase plug-in hybrid and electric cars.

Darren Jones MP said:

Back in October, I slammed the government’s decision to reduce, and in some cases remove, the financial incentives to purchase ultra-low emission vehicles.

This seemed reckless and short-sighted at a time when governments across the world know they must act to reduce emissions and the health and environmental impacts of air pollution.

In follow-up, I asked the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he “made an assessment of the potential effect of reducing incentives for plug-in hybrid and electric cars on the number of purchases of those vehicles before taking the decision to reduce those incentives“.

In response, I was advised – “since 2011, the plug-in car grant has provided a discount to the price of over 170,000 cars, and disbursed over £0.7 billion to support the early market for ultra low emission vehicles. Based on internal assessments made before the change to grant rates in October 2018, we expect sales of ultra low emission cars to continue at similar levels in 2019 to those seen in 2018″.

I then asked if the government would publish the data that assessment was based on. I was told “The Government’s internal assessment relies, in part, on commercially sensitive data from manufacturers and cannot be published for that reason”.

I disagree with this conclusion and I would not be at all surprised to see the number of ultra low-emission cars being purchased significantly reduce. I am very clear – the government must support initiatives that aim to reduce emissions wherever possible – not to do so is a dereliction of their environmental responsibilities”.

You can follow Darren’s work on climate change, animal welfare and the environmental protection here.

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Darren shares concerns about Stoke Bishop Parking

MP for Bristol North West, Darren Jones has formally shared his concerns about on-going parking issues in Stoke Bishop near the university halls of residence with the council and University of Bristol.

Darren has previously met local residents, and held multiple telephone calls with the University of Bristol about this matter.

Darren said:

“Constituents who live near the University of Bristol halls of residence in Stoke Bishop have contacted my office in recent months regarding escalating parking problems.

I first raised these concerns with the university back in July and in September was assured steps would be taken to reduce the number of cars being brought into Bristol by students as well as the impact of the remaining cars on local residents.

Residents have made it clear the situation has not improved. I have therefore shared my continued concerns with the council and university and asked they urgently consider what action can be taken to alleviate this dangerous and inconsiderate situation“.

You can view Darren’s work on Transport here.

 

 

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Darren asks Government about Bristol’s buses

Darren asked three Written Parliamentary Questions about Bristol’s buses, focused on finding how to improve them in light of several recent route changes and closures.

1.

Darren Jones, Labour, Bristol North West

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether he plans to replace the service on a bus route when an operator removes it; and if he will make a statement.

Nusrat Ghani, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury)

The bus market in England, outside London, is deregulated and most services are provided on a commercial basis by private operators. Where there is not enough demand for a bus route to be commercially viable in its own right all local authorities have powers to subsidise bus services.

Local bus services have to be registered with the Traffic Commissioner. When an operator wants to vary or cancel a registered bus service it must provide relevant local authorities with a copy of the application at least 28 days before it makes the application to the Traffic Commissioner. Once the application has been submitted to the Traffic Commissioner the service can be varied or cancelled after 42 days, or less in certain prescribed circumstances if agreed by the Traffic Commissioner.

This system provides local authorities with time to consider the implications of a service variation or cancellation and in particular whether they wish to procure and subsidise a replacement service.

2.

Darren Jones, Labour, Bristol North West

To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on funds for the new powers to bring about change and unlock the potential for the bus industry to achieve more for passengers as set out in the Bus Services Act 2017.

Rishi Sunak, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Secretary of State meets with ministers, including HMT ministers, regularly to discuss a range of issues relating to local government. Local authorities in England outside London spend over £1 billion a year on bus services. Over the five year period from 2015-16 to 2019-20 councils will have access to more than £200 billion, after the Autumn 2018 budget.

3. 

Darren Jones, Labour, Bristol North West

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will provide sufficient funding to local authorities to enable bus subsidies to return to their 2010 levels in real terms

Elizabeth Truss, The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Government support for bus services has averaged £2.2 billion a year since 2010/11, which is 23 per cent more than the average yearly spend between 1996/97 and 2009/10 in real terms.

Note: Darren is asking a follow up question to this one, because bus subsidies in 2009/10 (last year of Labour govt) was £2.47 bil (see DfT statistics here https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/666804/bus0502.ods).

 

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Darren shares concerns about Portway Park and Ride

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, has shared updates on the First Bus service that runs from the Portway Park and Ride to the city centre following complaints from constituents.

Darren said:

“Buses are fast becoming one of the key issues in my inbox. The West of England Combined Authority Mayor, Tim Bowles, (who is responsible for regional transport strategy and funding) has pledged to review the region’s bus services in the New Year, so I recommend constituents share their concerns and experiences with him, as well as First, so they can be fed-in to the consultation. I say this because, I don’t want any of the issues my constituents are facing on a daily basis to be forgot or drop down the agenda.

In the meantime, I shared some feedback on behalf so users of the Portway (902) Park and Ride Service, here is First’s reply:
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As the Manager responsible for the operation of service 902 may I firstly offer my sincerest apologies for the poor customer service that the constituent refers to within your email. It is essential that we receive feedback from our customers whether this be of a positive or negative nature so that we can make continued improvements to not just our service but into how we train our driving staff.

There is no doubt that there a some area of improvements that are required to the punctuality of service 902 with the month of September showing punctuality performing below the 95% expected journey levels at 88% with the remaining journeys 12% operating behind schedule.

Although we always aim to be 100% on time, some of the journeys mentioned within the email fall within the Traffic commissioners guidelines of no more than 5 minutes behind schedule.

As you will be able to appreciate the delayed works at Temple Meads is having a negative impact on not just the 902 service but a wider number of service throughout the Bristol area.

The journey that is mentioned where by the an empty bus returning to depot had passed was as a result of a defect with the vehicle on route to the P&Ride site which needed a mechanics attention, although it was safe to return to depot it would not have been suitable to use in service at the time.

We have a member of staff who is employed to regulate all the Park&Ride service and we have made the 902 his priority at the moment due to the impact of the Severn Beach line closure and the impact this is having on additional traffic and customers.

As a customer service provider we expect our staff to put the customer at the heart of everything that they do and clearly those standards on this occasion fell short of expectation.
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I know I said this about the 3 and 4 services last week, but I do hope bus riders start to see some improvements soon – especially as the price of day rider ticket purchased on the bus has now jumped again to £5. If constituents don’t see improvements- I strongly encourage them to send complaints to First and the Regional Mayor and be sure to copy me in so I can keep a track of what’s going on locally”.

To follow Darren’s work on Transport click here.

 

 

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Darren shares council and government response on HGVs and trucks using minor local roads

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, shared his concerns about the on-going problems of lorries and trucks getting stuck under/damaging the iron bridge in Shirehampton (see below picture of incident on 25 10 18) and causing traffic chaos on minor roads whilst they find their way back to the main roads with the council. Darren has now received a reply from the council and news on repairs to the Iron Bridge.

The council said:

“There is already a 7.5 tonne weight limit in place along Kings Weston Lane both on the section from Long Cross to Kings Weston Road (where one of the photographs has been taken) and from Long Cross to Campbell Farm Drive.  Therefore, heavy vehicles above 7.5 tonnes should not be using Kings Weston Lane to gain access to Avonmouth.  There is also a height restriction on the Iron Bridge in the other photograph.  These restrictions do not apply to Long Cross so vehicles could legitimately use Long Cross and Kings Weston Avenue to travel from Henbury to Avonmouth. 

The main difficulty is that these restrictions require enforcement from Avon and Somerset Police, and as these restrictions have to allow for access (the weight limits are for environmental purposes and not because of any weak structures) then they would have to prove that a vehicle has deliberately driven straight through them from one end to the other without stopping and with no intention of accessing any property contained within the restriction.  The Police find it extremely difficult to enforce any such restriction because they need to see it take place, follow the vehicle through and prove that they were not trying to access somewhere along route. So whilst we have the legal orders in place to be able to stop heavy vehicles from using this road, in practice it is very difficult for the Police to stop this from happening”.

In response to the above incident, and concerns about large vehicles being told to use the wrong roads by Sat-Navs, Darren asked the Government the following Parliamentary Question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether his Department holds discussions with Satnav companies on the suitability of roads for certain vehicles due weight and height restrictions?

The Secretary of State replied:

The Department has had no such recent discussions.

The Department is aware that manufacturers produce special satnav devices for lorries, in order to provide them with routing information appropriate to their vehicle.

The Government has invested £3 million to help create a digital road map, with one aim being to ensure traffic keeps moving efficiently and safely on suitable routes. It includes information such as road widths, which could be used in satnavs to improve the quality and accuracy of routing advice. The map is available online at: www.os.uk/highways.

Routing guidance provided by satnavs should only ever be considered as advisory. It is for individual device owners to ensure that they use their satnavs responsibly and with a proper understanding of their limitations. It is for individuals to determine the best route for their journey.

Darren also commented on news regarding the Iron Bridge:
“A process and timetable for re-opening the Iron Bridge has now been shared by local councillor, Don Alexander, who has been working hard to push this up the council’s agenda. I am pleased to see plans set-out that will ensure the bridge re-opens for pedestrian use. Whilst I know some constituents have expressed concerns about the possible raising of the bridge, these plans will be independently scrutinised by Historic England and via the council’s usual planning process. I strongly encourage anyone with concerns or comments about the proposed bridge reinstatement to submit these at the appropriate time”.

To follow Darren’s work on Transport click here.

 

 

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Darren shares concerns about 3 and 4 bus routes

Darren Jones, MP for Bristol North West, has shared updates on First Bus services that run from Cribbs through Henbury, Lawrence Weston, Shirehampton, Sea Mills, Coombe Dingle and Stoke Bishop to the city centre.

Darren said:

“I’ve been made aware of a number of on-going problems affecting the number 3 and 4 First bus routes. I shared those concerns with First and have been advised:

Having reviewed the recent performance of the service, it is evident that it has been affected by driver shortage, traffic congestion and vehicle breakdown. To address the shortage of drivers we have recruited additional staff to plug the gaps which should be demonstrating improvements from this week.

The congestion is a more difficult problem to solve, especially on the run up to Christmas. However, I have identified common sections of the route that get delayed regularly and fed this information into the commercial team that develop the timetables. They have taken this information and will take it into consideration when providing new timetables for January.

With respect to the vehicle breakdowns, our Engineering team have put an action plan in place to improve the reliability of the current crop of vehicles.

There are no immediate plans to replace the vehicles, but given the Engineering plans, I expect these to be just as reliable as a new vehicle.

Finally, please accept my apologies for the difficulty in raising concerns with First. The team that handles complaints has a new leader and location which is aimed at simplifying the process and improving response times. This is relatively new, but is already having an impact.

Hopefully bus riders on the 3 and 4 should see an improvement soon. If not, get in touch with me by emailing darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk”!

To follow Darren’s work on Transport click here.