Editorial....30th January, 2020
There’s a theme running through this week’s Chronicle, which could give cause for hope or despondency, depending if you’re a half full or half empty kind of person.
The theme is public transport and how bad it’s got. It’s depressing that it’s got so bad, but there does seem to be a move to address the issues whether being cynical — because the Tories want to hold onto those Northern seats they took from Labour — or (more optimistically) that there is a groundswell of opinion that better public transport will improve the health and green credentials of the nation.
As with everything, if you cut services far enough you suddenly find out you’ve gone too far, as with NHS (cash starved despite what any politician tells you) or the roads. It’s clear public transport has also been cut too far, or sacrificed to profit. Or both.
A lack of joined-up thinking has been commented upon in this column before. People are getting fatter and less healthy, and we need to cut down on pollution — but what do local councils and the Government often do? Build more roads and provide cyclists with — at best — patchy facilities, and do little to discourage people from using their cars.
Local examples include a cycling access with steps in Sandbach (covered in our Sandbach edition this week), the decidedly dangerous cycle path that existed briefly near the Shell roundabout in Congleton, and the battle campaigners have had to get Congleton’s Link Road even the vaguest bit cycle-friendly.
Walking is no better provided for — I walked over the railway bridge at Astbury this week, and the traffic lights have made the bridge very dangerous for pedestrians, even though a public footpath emerges by the bridge and other paths are close by. Mountbatten Way in Congleton is a beast to cross: a dangerous road dividing a pedestrian-friendly town in two.
Yet walking and cycling would seem to be the answer to both health and green issues, at comparatively little cost.
As a reader points out this week (see letters) it seems ludicrous to build a science campus at Alderley Park yet provide no extra public transport. This would seem to be an ideal place to encourage sustainable transport — lots of smart people who can see the benefit of exercise and low pollution, and also the benefit of not being stuck in traffic every day, chilling out on a bus instead of being stressed in a car. But what do we get? A link road with provision for cycling that had to be fought for, and no extra buses.
This week will probably see the Government renationalise our local rail franchise for being rubbish — even the believers in the free market now able to see that profit and public service don’t always go well together — and North Staffs Tory MPs last week told Parliament that the area’s public transport was “simply not good enough”. (See story, page 19).
That latter debate summed up everything that has gone wrong with public transport, from poor bus services to an entire city — Stoke — where pedestrians and cyclists are “treated as an inconvenience to traffic flow across the city”.
There are grounds for optimism. There is talk of replacing rail lines lost in the 60s — if it scraps HS2, the Government has £100bn to pay for this — and the Government seems keen on supporting better bus services. Biddulph MP Karen Bradley even talked about a tram service from the Moorlands into Stoke and didn’t get laughed at; how about trams along the Biddulph Valley Way, linking Biddulph to, say, an improved Congleton bus hub?
Transport of years gone by included canals and this next bit is just aimed at one person: the man or woman with a drink problem who keeps lobbing empty tins onto a canal towpath.
Anyone who walks the Macclesfield Canal near Astbury will be familiar with bags of empty beer cans that appear, at least weekly, thrown over the bridge near Astbury Golf Club. They’re never in the canal, so are aimed to some degree — someone either stops the car to throw them out the window, or gets off their bike.
Aside from the selfishness — someone has to either pick them up (sometimes me) or report the mess to the Canal and River Trust (usually me) — there’s only one reason someone would be dropping empty cans in the countryside, and that’s because they’ve got a drink problem and they don’t want anyone to find out about it.
If this is you, call Alcoholics Anonymous — 0800 9177 650 or email email@example.com There are meetings in Alsager, Congleton, Sandbach and Biddulph.
And do you recognise these bags? Does someone in your family come home via Astbury and claim to have had “just the one” in the pub on the way home? It could be a young person — there never seems to be any spirits and its not hundreds of cans. Give them the AA contacts above.
Either way: please get help and stop littering the countryside.