RECENTLY other columnists have covered the really big issues of the UK wanting to legislate for us, or Brexit, so I will focus on two domestic issues.
The first relates to buses – in particular the proposed new fares for round-island routes 91 and 92.
One of the issues is that cruise liner passengers use these routes as an inexpensive island tour, filling the seats so that often there are few places for other passengers.
The solution proposed by Environment is to increase the cost of a round-island ticket to £5, if the journey starts and ends in Town. A solution which has the downside of possibly catching some local bus users, but one which may work, so is worth trying.
However, I have a simpler solution.
Scrap the two round-island routes and replace them with buses travelling up and down the west coast; from the Bridge or Pembroke to Pleinmont, and return.
Stopping the around-the-island routes may seem a bit radical, but bear with me.
I think there are two types of passenger. The first is the commuter who will have a time critical approach to travel – wanting to get to work on time. The second is the leisure bus user, somebody who has no, or minimal, time constraints – perhaps taking the children for an afternoon bus ride, as indeed we did when our children were younger.
I think it’s a safe assumption that the time-critical passengers will choose the most direct and quickest bus route into Town.
Looking at the timetable, there are direct routes from all along the west coast into Town, so those time-critical users are well served by buses other than the 91 or 92.
What the 91/92 routes do offer, which is not catered for by any other route, is the run up or down the west coast, which is why I suggest a new route from the Bridge or Pembroke to Pleinmont.
Of course, I do accept that such a change would not fully replicate the 91/92.
For instance, there would be no direct route from the north of the island to the airport. But just how serious a loss would this be?
How many people going on holiday actually use the bus to get to the airport? I may be wrong, but I am guessing not many.
Possibly the biggest loss from this suggestion would be for the leisure passenger – somebody who wants to go sightseeing, like we did when our children were small. They would not be able to go around the island without changing buses.
Would this be a big problem? I think not, on the basis that such passengers tend not be time-critical so the small inconvenience would have an almost immaterial impact, especially when you remember that at the moment you have to change buses in Town unless you happen to start/finish your journey in Town.
As with all changes there are pros and cons, and on balance the pros of the change must out-weigh the cons.
I think that the losses from scrapping routes 91 and 92 are immaterial, especially when we consider that the replacement north/south route, being half the length, would free up a bus and driver for around nine hours per day – quite a resource to re-deploy more productively.
The second subject is the issue of air links and the long-awaited report from PWC – in particular whether to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds investigating the costs and benefits of extending to 1,700 metres.
Not surprisingly, businesses are confident that there is an economic argument to extend the runway, as are some deputies, so this would be money well spent and the States should proceed with the review.
Policy & Resources are taking the opposite view.
With this issue I could be seen as reverting to ‘deputy mode’ since I am going to agree with both sides.
It is fair to say that at this moment we do not know enough about the costs nor benefits of extending to 1,700 metres, so from the business community’s perspective it is quite correct to call for the review to be undertaken in order to make an informed decision.
However, you may be surprised that I also take the side of Policy & Resources – I told you I was agreeing with everybody.
The reason is that this is a subject where the world of politics clashes with the real world in a very emotional way.
P&R has the view that the implications for the surrounding area outside the airport’s current perimeter – filling in a valley – will not be acceptable to the States or public no matter what a review says.
I think that their view has merit.
I fully expect that when the States debates the existing PWC report, an amendment will be placed to commission PWC to undertake a further report into a 1,700-metre runway.
I would not be surprised if it was approved.
The cynical side of me thinks this is because there is no down-side for any deputy who supports such an amendment. The funding does not come from any of their own committee budgets, so has no impact on them, while they would be seen in a positive light of seeking more information and supporting business.
The question each deputy has to ask themselves is: if a report were to recommend extending the runway, would they vote for it to happen, irrespective of the known environmental issues?
Only if they can hand on heart answer ‘yes’ should they support spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money on a further review.