Friday, 28 July 2017

Bus Services in Orton: Not a Fair Fare

Julie standing by a Stagecoach bus
Stagecoach is the bus company that serves Orton

***UPDATE*** Stagecoach Dayrider prices in Peterborough to increase to £4.50 on 29th April 2018.

Peterborough is becoming horribly car-centric. I'm not anti-car. There are some journeys where a car is more than desirable, it's essential. But if you don't drive or if you choose not to drive unless it's absolutely necessary then you rely on a safe, convenient and affordable local bus service.

The problem facing people who live in the Ortons is that we don't have an affordable bus service. The lack of an affordable bus service is becoming a big problem, not only for local people but for the independent businesses in Peterborough that rely on our custom.

Many (not all, but many) of the people who rely on buses have lower incomes. The price of a return ticket to central Peterborough from anywhere in the Ortons is £4.30. This is the price of a Dayrider, which is the ticket that will allow you to make unlimited journeys in the area on a single day. Put like that, the price sounds like good value for money. However, if all you want to do is travel into town and back, it's expensive. For some people, prohibitively so.

It is little surprise that local people are turning to each other via 'buy and sell' sites on Facebook rather than travel into town by bus to pick up the items they want to buy.

It is also little surprise that people give, trade or sell on their Dayriders when they no longer need them. For some people £4.30 is the price of a daily meal. People should not have to choose between food and fares.

I can think of many occasions where I've decided not to travel into town to go shopping or attend an event as I cannot justify spending £4.30 to do so. If I'm not the only person faced with this decision then it's clear that the shops and events in Peterborough are missing out on custom. I wonder whether they are even aware of it.

Julie reading a bus timetable
Our bus services are infrequent, unreliable and expensive

Does this sound reasonable to you?

If you think £4.30 for a return into Peterborough from anywhere in Orton is reasonable, I wonder what you think of this....

Bus ticket
My 1.3 mile return journey cost £4.30.
I only had a fiver on me and was thinking I could buy a paper 
and a drink after the litter pick with the change.

I take part in a voluntary litter pick group one Wednesday morning per month. I do not drive, so to get to Orton Waterville I need to take the bus. The closest bus to me is the hourly 23/24 from Lynchwood and I get off the bus outside The Windmill pub on Cherry Orton Road in Orton Waterville. This is a journey of 1.3 miles.

I have multiple sclerosis, and while I can walk 1.3 miles, it's a little bit too far for me to walk to then walk a few more miles carrying an increasingly heavy bag of litter. The journey by bus takes three minutes to take me there and a further three minutes to take me back. The price? £4.30. So it costs me exactly the same for a ticket that allows me to make unlimited journey across the city in a single day as it does for me to make two 3-minute journeys of just 1.3 miles. This is not reasonable.

It is costing me the best part of a fiver to volunteer in my community. £4.30 flat fare for a return of less than 2 miles each way is not a fair fare.

Map of bus journey
The blue line shows the 1.3 mile journey that takes just 3 minutes but costs £4.30 return

The private bus company that operates in the Ortons is Stagecoach. As passengers, we can't choose a cheaper bus company because their isn't one. There is no competition between bus companies in Orton (there is in other parts of the city but not here), so prices have been allowed to climb and climb.

This is all about profits over people. Yet if the bus was more affordable surely more people would use it.

I don't expect to ride the bus for free at my age. But smaller journeys should be affordable. A journey of 6 minutes total journey time should be £2.50 tops in my opinion.

Do you rely on the bus service to get from Orton to Peterborough? Do you find it prohibitively expensive? Let me know what you think.

On 18th July 2017, I gave an interview to BBC Radio Cambs about the problems created by expensive bus fares in Orton.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Elections, Elections and More Elections

With Peterborough Green Party members Roger Proudfoot & Carolyn English on General Election night
With Peterborough Green Party members Roger Proudfoot & Carolyn English on General Election night

The last time you heard from me, I was standing for the position of Mayor of Cambs & Peterborough. That election was held back in May and the result for the Green Party was absolutely terrific.

How is coming 5th terrific?!

The Green Party was never likely to win that election. We knew this from the off. However, any and every election is an opportunity for us to make Green messages and Green voices heard. I needed a lot of help in the run up to 4th May to get our leaflets out around the county and this meant I needed to grow our army of Green leafleteers and work more closely and collaboratively with other Green Parties in our region. It has been wonderful to make more Green friends over this period and there is a real sense that the Green Party in Peterborough is gaining momentum.

The Green Party's Julie Howell speaks to the PT ahead of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayoral election on why you should vote for her. More at www.Peterborough
Posted by Peterborough Telegraph on Thursday, 27 April 2017

Our local newspaper Peterborough Telegraph was of great support to all candidates, and they live webcast this interview with me via Facebook Live a week before the election.

Overall, I came 5th in the mayoral election, with 12,628 'first preference' votes. The mayoral election was not like a General Election at all. It made use of a different voting system known as 'SVS' (supplementary voting system). Under this system, your have two votes, a first preference and a second preference. You don't have to use both votes if you don't want to. All first preference votes are counted and if one candidate polls more than 50% they are declared the winner. If no candidate polls more than 50% (as proved to be the case) second choice votes for the top two candidates are added to their tally and a winner emerges.

This was a difficult election for the Green Party to take part in as all candidates were required to stump up a £5k deposit just to get our name onto the ballot paper. For me, this meant weeks of fundraising before I could confirm that I was able to stand in the election.

There were seven candidates in the mayoral election. To retain your deposit, a candidate must achieve 5% of the first preference votes. With so many candidates on the ballot paper this is really difficult to do. So I was absolutely delighted when I got the news that I had polled 6.3% of the first preference votes and our deposit would be returned to us (for investment in future elections).

The greatest shock at this election was the proportion of votes I achieved in Peterborough: 9.19%

This is an unprecedented result for the Green Party here. Thank you everyone who voted for me.

Peterborough Telegraph
Posted by Julie Howell on Monday, 8 May 2017

Interview with Peterborough Telegraph

Posted by Julie Howell on Friday, 5 May 2017

Interview with BBC Cambridgeshire

The Conservative candidate James Palmer (now Mayor Palmer) won the election, however, I was very delighted with our result.

With some of my team at the mayoral count
With members of the Green Party team at the mayoral election count in Soham
(L-R Steve, Carolyn, Julie, Flora, Alex)
General Election 2017

Two weeks before the mayoral election the Government dropped a further electoral bombshell on us all with the announcement of a General Election. Given I was standing for mayor I was unable to to stand in the General Election (not because it isn't allowed, but because I believe one election at a time is more than enough for one person!).

There are two Parliamentary constituencies in Peterborough. One is Peterborough and here my colleague Fiona Radic stood on behalf of the Green Party. The other constituency is NW Cambs (this is where Orton is located) and our candidate here was Gregor Gurthrie. The Green vote was squeezed nationally this time around, so we were delighted that both of our candidates polled above the Green Party average (which was 1.6%). Fiona polled 1.8% of the vote while Greg polled 2%.

As well as being your candidate when there are local elections in Orton, I'm also currently the coordinator of Peterborough Green Party. This means I'm involved in all the things the Green Party does across the city. A further two by elections have been called this year with a third expected very soon. These haven't affected Orton. They have all be in wards to the north of the river: East ward (8th June), Park Ward (17th August) and Eye, Thorney & Newborough (TBC).

For a year that was supposed to be 'fallow' (i.e. no elections) we've had FIVE so far!

With Fiona Radic at the Mayoral Election verification in Peterborough
With Fiona Radic at the Mayoral Election verification in Peterborough
(where the votes are checked before counting to make sure they're valid)

Could YOU be a Green Party candidate?

Looking ahead to 2018, there will be city council elections right across Peterborough. Peterborough Green Party is keen to hear from you if you are interested in standing as a candidate. No previous experience is needed. You need to be someone who cares about your community and believes that everyone has a right to be treated fairly and equally. If you're interested in trying what will be a very rewarding experience do drop me a line for a chat.

Read more about our recent success in Peterborough in this article on the Peterborough Telegraph website.