Rail shake-up bad for passengers

WHEN I first heard all the rail franchises in East Anglia were going to be combined, I had serious doubts about how good it would be for passengers from Ipswich.

WHEN I first heard all the rail franchises in East Anglia were going to be combined, I had serious doubts about how good it would be for passengers from Ipswich.

It gives me no pleasure to find those doubts have been confirmed within six weeks of One taking over.

The fact is that leisure passengers from Ipswich – especially those with children – will lose out seriously because cheap Great Eastern fares from the town are being abolished from next week.

In two week's time it's half-term. If mum wakes up one day and thinks it would be nice to take Johnny for an outing to London it would, at present, cost her £20 – including the tube.

However by the time the next half-term is here, the Great Eastern fare will have gone. She'll have to buy herself a saver ticket at £23-60, and then pay £11-80 for little Johnny. The tube fare will be on top of that.

I know there are cheaper book in advance fares available, but they really aren't appropriate for a short day-trip.

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Of course the Great Eastern tickets have been discontinued by One, but I don't really see the company as the villain of the piece.

That honour belongs to the Strategic Rail Authority which made no stipulation that these fares should be safeguarded when the franchise rules were drawn up – even though the anomaly was flagged up by the official watchdog body in advance.

One could have continued selling it from Ipswich anyway, but it's a commercial company and you can understand it wanting to simplify its fare structure – and if the SRA won't regulate fares why should it worry?

I must declare an interest here, my family uses the family travelcard most times we travel to London.

We shall continue to do so when we travel to London – the difference is that we will drive right past Ipswich station to get to Manningtree from where it is still available. That seems daft.



ON JUNE 10 we are all going to the polls to vote for our new MEPs – or to be more accurate we're all going to be given the chance to go to the polls.

Past evidence suggests that only about one in four of us will actually take the opportunity.

There are a number of reasons for that: people don't see the European parliament as relevant to them, they cannot identify with MEPs who have to represent about six million people, they cannot understand the voting system, and as the count isn't until three days later, why get excited?

Some who are voting couldn't give a fig about the European parliament, they just want to make a point.

I've spoken to one Labour campaigner in Ipswich who told me he's voting for the party in the local elections – but will vote for Martin Bell or the Liberal Democrats in the Euro elections because he wants to make a point about Mr Blair's closeness to George Bush.

Frankly most people who vote aren't that sophisticated. What will happen this year is that Labour voters will stay at home if they feel unhappy with their government while Tories and Liberals will go out and vote.

What is truly appalling about the election is that we won't be able to vote for individuals – only parties – with the exception of the two people standing as independents.

And a vote for either of them effectively means you have no say in who the other six MEPs for the giant region should be.

Many people who were supporters of a form of proportional representation have been completely put off the concept by the method adopted in Britain.

I rang one senior council officer to ask him how the voting would work. He knew no more than me and we had to search the internet before we came across a very convoluted description.

Frankly I'm still not entirely sure how the system works – and if I'm confused and a senior council official is confused, what hope is there for the the average voter?

I've heard politicians say it doesn't matter if people understand the results, just so long as they know who's won.

That is rubbish, and it's the first step on the road to dictatorship.

The first past the post system might not be fair – but it's always clear who has won!

I WAS at the Ipswich match on Saturday when some idiot campaigning for fathers' rights decided it would be clever to run on to the pitch.

I'm sure there are fathers who feel unfairly treated by the courts when it comes to gaining access to their children.

But when this chap ran on to the pitch he looked totally ridiculous in his cartoon character costume.

I couldn't help feeling that his action was so childish he probably wasn't mature enough to take care of children anyway!

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