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Bonkers Blog January 2019

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2 January - To pay or not to pay?

TweetEvery year on the second of January I am reminded of the hypocrisy of politicians. At railway stations both locally and across the country we see Labour people complaining about the Tories increasing rail fares in line with inflation. And who was it who introduced that escalator? It was Labour Transport Secretary Maria Eagle in 2004.

Not that it was exactly as it is now, Labour increased fares by RPI plus 1% until 2010 following which the Coalition, after briefly considering a more extortionate formula removed the 1%. Under the Labour formula fares would be ten percent higher now than they are today.

The fact that Labour activists have today been impeding travellers with their leaflets and vacuous slogans is why so many of us have no time for politicians at all. That said, rail fares can be utterly ridiculous. My last rail journey was Haslemere to approximately Surbiton, the Freedom Pass boundary and it cost £16 single. Maybe not so very bad but the train ran 80 minutes late and was terminated early at Woking. From there standing room only to Waterloo.

Over the holiday period I travelled 376 miles in comfort for absolutely nothing. Three months ago I bought an electric car and public chargers are plentiful in London (for the small number of electric cars presently on the road) and mainly free to use. Thank goodness for the supermarkets, Sainsbury’s and Lidl in particular because so far at least Bexley Council has done absolutely nothing to promote greener motoring. Strange when it complains that compared to other boroughs it has poor transport links and therefore needs more parking spaces on new developments than the useless Sadiq Khan allows because Bexley residents need and own more cars per head than anyone else in the city.

To the borough’s tally of no A&E hospital, no maternity ward, no river crossing and no tube stations you can add no TfL sponsored electric car charging points.

TfL are generally well clued up on London’s transport needs - my son who is in the business speaks highly of their engineering staff - and has been keen to install facilities to power the growing number of electric vehicles, black cabs too. London Mayor Boris Johnson’s initiative was to set up Source London in 2011 with an ambition to install 1,300 chargers in the following two years but the map below shows how that was just a pipe-dream.

The plan was derailed in 2014 when Source London was sold off but despite that the boroughs remain responsible for maintenance.

Maybe it is just as well that Bexley was not favoured by Source London because currently the provision of public charging facilities can only be described as a mess. By my reckoning there are about 50 UK bodies providing electric car charging facilities, most but not all of them being private companies and the majority operating some sort of subscription model for payment.

Imagine having to become a member of Esso, BP or Shell and show your membership card, be in credit and own a smart phone - for the app - every time you wanted to refuel but except at the free chargers provided by retailers keen to attract extra custom, that is the standard situation faced by electric car drivers. The one or two chargers that may be found at motorway services are old, frequently broken and in many cases incompatible with the newest electric cars.

Perhaps it is fortunate that Bexley is not caught up in this mess and if it decides to do anything beyond helping its own staff has the opportunity to do something sensible which will not become rapidly outdated.

Source London Instavolt

Map of Source London electric vehicle chargers. Free charging in Basingstoke.

So why was I mad enough to buy an electric car when charging can be such a problem? Several reasons but being able to do more than 300 miles on a single charge serves almost all of my motoring needs. Over Christmas I took note of where the free chargers were and stopped at one for half an hour.

Note: Most of the foregoing does not apply to Tesla cars but if you are anything like me you could not possibly justify the best part of £100,000 on a car - although somehow a certain former Bexley Councillor managed to have access to one.


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