Dear Mr Weller,
Thank you for your email on recent developments with campaigning for fare-free public transport (FFPT). As you highlight,
the role of fare pricing as a measure in a transport strategy supporting net zero carbon is of great relevance and importance. It is also clearly important in relation to achieving inclusive economic growth. FFPT is important as the carrot to the stick of CAZ. The idea of regional FFPT being extended to all is to minimise travel and to maximise the use of public transport. To minimise greenhouse gas emissions to maximise our future prospects. It's called green growth to counter ruinous, unsustainable, economic growth.
TfWM will be considering the role of fare pricing in the development of the new West Midlands Local Transport Plan –
the region’s statutory plan for transport. The intention is to have public consultation on a Green Paper this summer, setting out the key issues for our transport strategy. We then expect to have a full public consultation on a new draft Local Transport Plan
early in 2022. Over the 53 years I have lived in the Black Country and Brum there have been countless transport plans of all descriptions. All glossy, impressive documents. But nothing ever changes - apart from rising congestion and pollution; and, adding to the shortages to come as we enthusiastically burn up the oil and gas that disastrously change the chemical composition of the atmosphere for the worse.
Fare pricing is also an important consideration in our work to develop our Bus Service Improvement Plan for submission
to Government in October to secure national bus strategy funding. It is also likely to be a measure of importance in overall approach to our negotiations to maximise our share of the national Intra City Transport Funding settlement (ICTS). Mike, please ask Andy to follow Andy Burnham's lead in Manchester in getting full public control of the buses in the W Mids, too. This video, below is Andy B being interviewed in Manchester about "buses being brought back under public control. ... We involve people ... we must have (fare) fairness over the cost of public transport here in Manchester as they have in London." Watch this YouTube interview with Burnham.
As highlighted above, one of the key reasons for a new Local Transport Plan is to ensure that the transport strategy plays
its full part in rapid de-carbonisation of the West Midlands’ transport sector, related to the WMCA’s wider WM2041 carbon strategy for the West Midlands.
We have to rapidly minimise our emissions of all greenhouse gases by rewarding those who leave their cars at home by giving them an entirely free regional bus, train, tram use that I have had for 13 years. Go for equality and fareness so, that as my Dudley Council give free car parking, give the public transport passengers free travel.
PENSIONERS, LIKE ME CHAMPION THE YOUNG AND MIDDLE-AGED, LIKE YOU, MIKE! For reasons of social justice, deprivation and by sensible action to respond to the climate emergency.
In considering fare free public transport it may be useful to frame a response around Objectives, Strategy, Tactics.
Our objectives for transport includes the key objective of rapid de-carbonisation of transport to help achieve a net zero
carbon West Midlands.
Burnham's objective is full public control of fares in the Manchester city region. Let it be Street's and yours, too.
With strategy - the overall long term approach - much current thinking in the transport sector suggests that the way to
achieve transport de-carbonisation is through the widespread use of electric, and potentially hydrogen, powertrain vehicles, alongside major reductions in private single occupancy car vehicle km’s travelled. Yes! This requires some longer car journeys to be replaced
by shorter car journeys, e.g. going shopping more locally; some car journeys to be replaced by working from home; and many car journeys replaced by journeys by public transport, cycling and walking (e.g. mode shift).
Yes! So FINISH competently the major, 22 Kms Black Country Cycle-Walk Mudway so we can use it for business and commuting.
The issue then becomes what measures and tactics are needed for this strategic approach. Fare free public transport (FFPT),
either full, or partial, is a potential measure to achieve mode shift from car to public transport in the West Midlands, alongside other potential measures of increasing the quality of existing public transport services, creating new public transport services
and demand management measures for some car use. FFPT also needs to be considered alongside alternatives such as measures for fares and concessionary travel, including lower fares for targeted groups through wider concessionary travel schemes.
Existing concessionary travel is Fare-Free Public Transport! Extend it. Use CAZ charges and the £15 billion for trams that is totally unnecessary, wasteful and even more climate damaging.
When looking at FFPT, it is interesting to note that international research, such as that by UITP, the international association
of public transport, highlights increased public transport use with FFPT for some towns and cities, often as part of wider improvements to public transport. However, research also highlights potential draw-backs of FFPT such as low mode shift from car, with
higher public transport use coming from induced demand (principally those previously using active travel modes and increased trip frequencies from existing public transport users). There are also issues of high ongoing revenue costs which can lead (for example
in Hasselt, Belgium) to the schemes being stopped. International research also highlights the need to weigh-up whether investment in improvements to public transport are a better way to secure long term mode shift, as part of a wider transport package.
Investing in improvements to public transport always means enormous, climate-damaging and costly infrastructure projects like Sprint and Metro. These have resulted in a WORSE public transport for every single passenger on the eleven bus routes that can no longer use Five Ways underpass and Broad Street. Except, for those lucky people in Edgbaston village who can walk to their new tram stop for a superb, smooth and stately ride into Brum city centre.
Dudley town centre residents can never again have their railway station back for a quick ride by TRAIN into Brum Snow Hill station. Dudley will, forever, be the largest town in the UK without a railway station. Yet, it was well used for about 100 years. This is a scandal.
It is also relevant to note that areas that have introduced FFPT have had low farebox recovery rates prior to introduction
- where most of the operating costs were not paid for by the fares recovered, but through public subsidy. This is a very different situation to the West Midland in which fares do cover a relatively high proportion of the costs of the public transport, with
overall cost to the public purse being relatively lower. Therefore basic affordability must be taken into account and potentially additional alternative public revenue sources to pay for any FFPT policy. In this respect it is interesting to note that the
Deputy Mayor of Tallinn questions whether fare free public transport is suitable for urban areas with much higher farebox recovery ratios than Tallinn. Deputy Mayor of Tallinn
Andrei Novikov said :
“We have seen that budget implications are crucial," said Novikov. "Here [in Tallinn], where the lost revenues have amounted to just
20 per cent of the public transport budget, it was justified. "For cities that depend on ticket sales for a larger share of their public transport budget, free public transport would be more difficult to support…”.
HOWEVER, there is never any problem with giving FFPT to old men like me who are on our way out, losing our former activity to places all over the W Midlands and spend more time at home. You lot must have it and need it much more than me. There is simply no excuse!
There is no conclusion on a policy position on fare free public transport in the West Midlands. This is ultimately a political
decision which will be informed by the work to refresh and consult on a new Local Transport Plan. That work producing the new draft LTP is considering different measures for the overall West Midlands transport strategy. TfWM will then hold public consultation
on a draft strategy which will set out a combination of measures for the West Midlands to de-carbonise transport in the West Midlands, as part of one overall urban transport strategy.
TfWM would like to encourage interested groups to participate in the consultation and engagement for this when that goes
live later in 2021 and to formally contribute to the process. Brilliant! Tim
Director of Policy, Strategy and Innovation
FARE FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORT – THE LATEST
As part of its carbon emission reduction agenda, the Climate Action Network West Midlands (CANWM) recently held a successful local and international meeting on the subject
of introducing FFPT in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
The meeting was led by an expert on the international situation, Wojciech Keblowski, from the Free University of Brussels. He related his research into this growing phenomenon,
with 100 cities around the world now implementing FFPT schemes. Although the experience is specific to every area, the general view is that increased use of public transport and a reduction in car use usually follows. There are other social benefits.
While the nearest example to the UK is Dunkirk, the most long-lasting and largest example is in Tallinn, Estonia. The loss of revenue from ticket sales was eventually more
than overcome by savings elsewhere. That was, even more the case in Aubagne, France.
There was representation at the meeting by people from Glasgow, who are pushing for FFPT in their area as well.
Soon afterward, there was a large national meeting hosted by Manchester activists, outlining how they had pioneered the move to re-regulate the bus service. Glasgow, Birmingham,
and the West Midlands were also represented at this meeting. The links are growing.
For CANWM, the next stage is for a feasibility study to be undertaken regarding FFPT in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Birmingham City Council has refused to take this
on, and Transport for West Midlands (T4WM) have proven even less receptive. This negative outlook needs to be challenged, but in the meantime other partners are being sought.
It is no good waiting until post-Covid to make the preparations, the planning should start now. The biggest source of Carbon Dioxide emissions in the UK and the West Midlands
is now from transport. In Birmingham it takes second place to buildings.
The climate will not wait for us to get our act together. This campaign needs as much support as it can get.
The 25-minute video of the event is here,