30 May 2007

Why do Tories hate public transport?

Thatcher infamously said 'only losers take the bus' and since then the Tories in power from council to council and in government after government have demonstrated their unbridled hatred of public transport, their hostility to cycling and undying affection for the car.

It is one of the main reasons the Tories are incapable of ever being eco and egalitarian friendly, but what are the reasons the Tory party is so chock full of big car owning 'petrol heads' dreaming of wider motorways, ever higher multi-story car parks and cuts to bus services? We all know them - the type who fly into a rage if they see a cycle chained to a railing but are blind to the 200 car eyesore that is their road, but why do the Tories attract these types in such numbers?

Five immediate reasons spring to mind for this.

1. Being a Tory is all about thinking you are better than everyone else - it is a competitive streak and public transport is incompatible with this - public transport is a great leveller - how are you supposed to be superior, if you all have to travel to work by tube or bus, sitting on the same seats and sharing the same confined space as the lower classes (trains ain't so bad because they are sometimes segregated).

2. There is little room for profit in public transport and (heaven forbid) it might need funding from taxation (and we all know that only the defence budget and law and order should be funded by that nasty horrible thing called taxation).

3. Tories are far too rich to ever dream of travelling in any other way than car and plane (and at a push by inter-city). They literally would rather be seen dead than travelling by bus - it is a totally alien concept to them - so it is no skin off their nose if bus services that the poor rely on are cut back and fares hiked.

4. Cars are about individuals and individualism - public transport is about community and co-operation (and other socialist nonsense like that) and is prone to be affected by strikes - no such problems with unions when it comes to cars.

5. Tories have shares in big oil and car companies - there is a lot of money to be made and they are blowed if they are going to let the environment come between them and their pay cheque - anyway they are largely insulated from the nastiness of cars - living away, as they and their children do, from the nasty main road noise, deaths and pollution that cars cause.

Which brings me to the local Tories, council leader Brian Oxley outlining his transport plans;

"We know people sometimes need to use their cars as well as using public transport and we want to redress the balance in the council's transport policy."

By 'redress the balance' he means more city centre car parks, cutting the proposed limited stop bus route by putting it into 'review' and making it easier for people to get away with parking badly in the city centre. All of this will inevitably mean more congestion, pollution and deaths for city centre dwellers already choked with cars - but what the hell eh - the Tories don't win any seats in the city centre so what does it matter? It will please their voters in the suburbs. As the Argus puts it;

Trying to limit the number of cars in the city was one of the key planks of Labour's transport policies and the Tories' tack could be one of the most notable policy differences.

That is one understated way of putting it!


  1. The why did YOUR Labour colleagues put them in power in Brighton & Hove then?

  2. I think some of the councillors in the Labour party are secret Tories.

  3. Tories, like Boris Johnson, hate bicycles?

    There are other reason why people on the 'right' consider private transport better than public, such as Metcalf's Law. Since the number of end points on private transport networks (walking, cycling, cars etc.) are a lot larger than for public transport the utility of the private transport networks are vastly higher than public ones.

    Plus private transport is much more fault tolerant. If you are a few minutes late getting to any public transport network that's it, you've missed your connection and will have to wait. Potentially missing even more connections down the line. With private transport this cannot happen since it goes when you decide to go.

  4. I knew someone would mention boris - Boris uses cycle paths in Oxford because the Tories don't have a single councillor there - most Tories cut spending on cycle paths.

    "Plus private transport is much more fault tolerant. If you are a few minutes late getting to any public transport network that's it, you've missed your connection"

    Yes but when cities are built for public transport and it is reasonably funded (like in London) then the next connection is only a few minutes away. Public transport is faster than a car at most times in London (this was especially true before the congestion zone).

    Even in the most rural areas - 100 cars can pass before we get a bus - get rid of the cars and we would have a bus every five minutes.