September 2: Why transport policy matters

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THE Labour market of today is very different to previous generations when factory workers, and others, walked miles to and from their place of employment on a daily basis.

They had no option – this era preceded the age of the car and came at a time when public transport was still in its infancy. Yet, while some people reflect on this period of history with a degree of rose-tinted nostalgia, many employees today are compelled by circumstance to commute significant distances every day because this is the only way in which they can provide for their family. It would be disingenuous to assume that those concerned do so out of choice.

What the latest study by the University of Leeds does demonstrate, however, is the extent to which investment in transport infrastructure –whether it be roads, trains or buses – has not kept pace with rises in population and the increased expectations of a more transient workforce. This is not surprising – research published 24 hours previously by academics from Sheffield University revealed that more money is now being spent on infrastructure improvements, like Crossrail, in the capital than in the rest of England. The eight years that it is taking to build this 26-mile railway at a cost of £14.8bn is actually quicker than the time it will take to determine how best to improve transport in the heart of Leeds. The contrast could not be more emblematic of the North-South divide.

Of course, it would be misguided to solely blame David Cameron’s government for this state of affairs – Britain has paid a heavy price for the short-sighted Beeching cuts of 
50 years ago – but these reports demonstrate the need for transport provision, whether it be new stations or facilities for cyclists, to be integral to all future decisions regarding large-scale planning applications. Unless this happens, Yorkshire will grind to a halt.

Charity disrepute: Time to end sharp practices

THESE are testing times for the charity sector. Not only does the Charity Commission face serious questions about its scrutiny of the governance failings which preceded the demise of the Camila Batmanghelidjh-inspired Kids Company and hysterical warnings from its chairman of trustees Alan Yentob, a top BBC executive, that there would be rioting if the organisation did shut down, but the sharp practices being pursued by many other charitable organisations are finally being probed.

Benevolent people who faithfully donate money on a regular basis to a cause close to their heart, well-meaning individuals like widower Samuel Rae who now finds himself £35,000 out of pocket, clearly had no idea that their personal details – given in good faith – could then be sold to other organisations, including businesses whose motives were less than altruistic. Just because this unfortunate pensioner forgot to sign a disclaimer box many years ago asking for his details not to be forwarded does not justify the hundreds of requests for donations that the dementia sufferer started to receive each month.

There is no justification for these aggressive tactics; there should be a presumption that information should not be forwarded unless the donor signs a consent form that is then renewed every two years. For, unless the Charity Commission and Information Commissioner take urgent action, these abuses will force some people to think twice about giving money to those reputable charities who do make a difference, and who are able to do so without incurring eye-wateringly large management costs.

The canal revival: A snapshot of social history

IN many respects, the resurgence of Yorkshire’s flourishing canals offers a snapshot of British social history. These are the waterways which powered the Industrial Revolution – landmarks like the Bingley Five Rise locks and Standedge Tunnel under the Pennines remain great feats of engineering – before falling into decline and disrepair with the advent of the motor car.

Having become almost obsolete as badly polluted canals were allowed to become environmental eyesores unloved by many, they have now totally reinvented themselves as thriving leisure locations. Not only is the water quality unrivalled thanks to increased public awareness which has seen boating holidays make a comeback, but the towpaths are now a rich haven for wildlife.

They’re also enjoyed by appreciative walkers and cyclists in numbers which simply could not have been envisaged when the canals were being dug in the late 1700s. Long may this revival continue.