Why? Because we can!

Posted in transport by allovermcr on July 7, 2009

Metrolink respond to a few questions raised by their recent decision to increase penalty fares (‘standard fares’)

-Why did Metrolink/GMPTE decide to increase the penalty fare?

GMPTE has introduced a new standard fare scheme to target persistant fare evaders and provide more of a deterrent for ticketless travel. For the first and every offence the standard fare is now £100, or £50 if paid within 14 days.

-What evidence do you have that a £100 maximum penalty fare leads to less fare-dodging than the £80 upper fee that was previously in place?

We are currently monitoring fare evasion since the implementation of the new standard fare. The previous standard fare ranged from £10 for the 1st offence if paid on the spot to the £80 you mention for the 4th offence. The escalation steps in the previous standard fare have been removed and replaced with one level for all offences to provide a more effective deterrent to people intending to travel without a valid ticket or pass.

-How much extra revenue is the increase expected to raise?

We don’t know how much revenue this will generate but all money from Metrolink fares, including standard fares, is reinvested in the system to make improvements and enhance the service for passengers.

-Why are the Metrolink penalty fares considerably higher than the respective fees charged, for example, on national rail journeys and on all modes of public transport in London?

GMPTE’s standard fare is not regulated by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) and as such GMPTE is able to change the standard fare level on Metrolink. The Penalty Fare Scheme, which is regulated by the ORR, is used by other transport systems in the UK such as heavy rail.

Er, so that’s ‘because we can’, then.

And, whilst removing ‘escalation steps’ might conceivably help cut fare evasion, there’s no real evidence that a higher upper penalty fare – that will hit low earners the hardest – will have the significant effect tackling the persistent fare-evasion they hope it will. That must be a great relief to anyone who gets clobbered for £100 after accidentally losing a ticket or not noticing their season ticket has gone out of date!


Fare’s fair?

Posted in transport by allovermcr on June 30, 2009

Slightly (okay, very) slow to blog this, but last month Metrolink penalty fares (‘standard fares’) increased from £80 to £100 (or from £40 to £50 if paid within 14 days).

Now as much as anyone else AOM is unhappy with the idea of people travelling on the trams for free with the cost shared by the honest majority. A financial penalty seems a good way of encouraging those who might be tempted to try their luck to buy a ticket. But this increase raises a few questions.

Firstly, will it really help reduce fare-dodging? How much more effective a deterrent is a £100 fine compared to an £80 fine? The press release announcing the increase quotes GMPTE’s Metrolink Director Philip Purdy as saying “The new £100 standard fare sends out a strong message to passengers – buy a ticket or face the consequences”. But surely in most people’s book the possibility of getting an £80 fine is a pretty strong message – it seems hard to believe that this is going to make potential fare-dodgers think long and hard about their actions any more than they did when the fine was £80.

At the same time, the increase raises the question of whether the penalty fare is proportional – whether the punishment fits the crime. As with all fixed penalties, the fine is regressive, in that the same amount is paid regardless of whether the recipient is on a salary of £100k or claiming £64.30 JSA a week. The nature of this offence means there are always going to be a few people who genuinely make a mistake – whether forgetting to buy a ticket, losing their ticket or not noticing that their season ticket has gone out of date. For someone on a low income who made this kind of mistake, a £100 fine, or even a £50 one isn’t to be sniffed at.

A comparison with penalty fares elsewhere also suggests that those unfortunate enough to make this kind of mistake in Manchester are being hit harder than in other places. The penalty fare for London buses, tubes, overground, tramlink and DLR is £50, reduced to £25 if paid within 21 days, whilst on national trains “The penalty is £20 or twice the full single fare from the station where the passenger got on the train to the next station at which the train stops, whichever is the greater.” As the maximum single fares on the Metrolink is less than a tenner, if that policy were implemented here it’d mean penalty fares of only £20.

So why does the message that GMPTE sends to potential fare-dodgers need to be so much stronger than elsewhere in the country?

And can they justify what looks simply like a revenue-generating measure, and one that hurts the least well off the most?

An email has been sent to Metrolink to try and get answers to a few questions this raises.

Mock the vote

Posted in politics by allovermcr on June 3, 2009

With more time it’d have been nice to have been able to give a thorough dissection of the crap forced through our doors in the name of tomorrow’s north west Euro elections.

Sadly, AOM’s been too busy following the expenses revelations of Greater Manchester MPs to hit the keyboard, but as a token gesture, an award for the worst Euro election flyer seen in these parts.

Never ones to lose a contest to a bunch of pansy, left-wing nonces (like Ukip…) without putting up a good fight, the BNP made a valiant effort with their imaginary voters. In the end, though, they had to be disqualified from the contest under regulation 4.3: that the prize can’t be awarded to far-right boneheads.

So, with the field wide open it was for No2EU to step up to the mark with their poor, poor rip-off of the Saatchis’ famous  ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ poster. Under an ever so original slogan – ‘The European Union Isn’t Working’ – an image that frankly looks more like the queue outside a city centre Greggs than a dole line.

Your election material isn't working

Your election material isn't working

Congratulations then to No2EU, who win a copy of Desktop Publishing and Design for Dummies in the hope that they might be able to learn a trick or two before the next Euro elections.

In the mean time, please remember: under the proportional representation system used for these elections, every vote for a party other than the BNP (even for a party that can’t come up with an original leaflet design) is a vote that helps keep the far right out. Make the time to vote tomorrow.

Dodson’s doings

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on May 18, 2009

Today was the first day that all local GMG papers were produced from the company’s central Manchester offices. Offices in Accrington, Ashton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford, Stockport and Wilmslow have closed, with reporters holding ‘surgeries’ in their patches.

The man ultimately responsible for this move – a fine example of whatever the opposite of hyperlocal journalism is called – is Mark Dodson, chief exec of GMG’s regional newspaper division.

In a spare moment, AOM tapped Mr Dodson’s name into Google. The second link is what can only be described as a rather fawning profile of the man from a couple of years back, courtesy of the MEN website.

One line in particular caught the eye:

His passion for shaping media markets to best serve their local communities has been a driving force behind the growth and development of GMG’s Regional Division.

No one can accuse the man of not shaping media markets, that’s for sure, but whether his actions best serve their local communities is quite another matter.

Justice unseen; justice done?

Posted in justice by allovermcr on May 7, 2009

Peter Wilby writes in the New Statesman (towards the end of the piece) about the Pakistani men arrested recently in anti-terror raids, several in Cheetham Hill, against whom all charges were dropped. Of the 12 men arrested, 11 are now in the control of the UK Borders Agency with deportation a likely outcome.

The men now face having their cases heard in secret tribunals which demand lower standards of proof than public courts of law. For more on how this follows the failure of ministers to act on the recommendation of the Chilcot report that intercept evidence be revealed in court, read the Wilby piece. But this is hardly a fine example of the British justice system at work .

How local is local?

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on May 3, 2009

The Manchizzle’s latest post contains this nugget explaining how the MEN’s sister papers will operate in the post-cuts environment:

…when I bought my GMG-owned Rossendale Free Press yesterday, it had a notice about how the newsroom was now at Scott Place in Manchester, and if I wanted to talk with a reporter in Ramsbottom I could do so at a 2-hour “surgery” once a week.

Bindy launch isn’t all it seems

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on April 30, 2009

News reaches AOM of an upstart hoping to shake up the media scene in the north of the region and challenge the local monopoly held by Newsquest. The Bury Independent apparently launched earlier this month, with a Bolton sister paper to follow soon. Fantastic news! Nothing like a bit of competition to drive up standards, eh, and greater plurality can’t be a bad thing.

Or can it? Closer inspection reveals some worrying signs. The description on the publisher’s site explains the aims of the new title thus:

The Bury Independent is an up-beat newspaper aimed at providing the people within Bury good, positive and light hearted storys about real people in local communities. The Bury Independent lists and informs on all the local events and goings on in and around Bury. News on local health, educaction, sports and services can also be found in this community newspaper. Lots of great offers and prizes can also be found in every issue.

Hmmm, that mention of “good, positive and light hearted storys (sic)” doesn’t sound ideal, but hey ho, at least there’ll be more coverage of “local health, educaction (sic), sports and services”.

Just out of curiosity then, a wander over to the paper’s website, where we find this:

WELCOME to the BURY INDEPENDENT, folks – your newGOOD NEWS-paper!

Because that’s what we’re all about. GOOD NEWS. At last, you’ve got a local paper that looks on the bright side of life. And we have to say: It’s about time! It seems like whenever you switch on your TV or open a paper, there’s a doom and gloom everywhere. Well not here! Not with your upbeat Bury Independent. We know there’s loads going on in your neighbourhood that deserves to be publicised, stories to put a smile on your face and make you proud. So every month we pledge to bring you YOUR NEWS – stories of what’s happening WHERE YOU ARE. We want to truly reflect the great things that are happening in our communities. So look out for your fab new local community paper every month – we know YOU’LL LOVE IT!

Good news? (sorry, GOOD NEWS). So that’s nothing about crime,  corruption or the crap state of public transport in the area, then. Bloody marvellous. All the residents of Bury are actually going to get is a paper that prints fluff and drains ad money away from the rest of the local media that at least try to cover the less attractive aspects of life in their patches.

Channel M next to face cuts

Posted in TV by allovermcr on April 28, 2009

It seems that Channel M isn’t escaping the cuts affecting other areas of Guardian Media Group, as some had expected.

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It’s a mystery

Posted in policing by allovermcr on April 21, 2009

AOM is looking forward to further details emerging about the release of nine men arrested over a suspected Easter terrorist attack, some arrested in Cheetham Hill.

A Home Office spokesman is quoted as saying:

“We are seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security. The government’s highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country we will seek to exclude or to deport, where this is appropriate.”

This raises several questions. If they were cleared of all charges then what national security risk do they pose? Alternatively, if evidence was found that suggested they posed a threat to national security shouldn’t they face trial here? Presumably we’re supposed to believe that the only thing that prevented charges being laid was insufficient evidence. Unless details of intelligence now leading to their deportation are revealed this risks looking like the Home Office trying to divert attention from more anti-terror arrests that don’t end with charges being laid.

Two men remain in custody.

Some good news

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on April 15, 2009
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