Northern Rail Recycling Revisited

I travelled on Northern Rail trains on several occasions this week, and spotted their latest recycling poster about newspapers, with the quote: “It’s rubbish when you leave it” – meaning you should take your newspaper home and recycle it, rather than leaving it on the train for someone else to read.

This reminded me about my previous post about their last poster on this theme, which I disagree with. They claim that leaving newspapers on trains is littering, while I claim that it saves paper because people pick up newspapers on the train to read rather than picking up another copy of the Metro from the pile at the station. If there were no newspapers on the train because everyone had taken them home (as Northern Rail want) then Metro would have to print a load more copies. That’s hardly very green.

When I contacted Northern Rail about this previously they defended the policy saying they wanted the trains kept clean, however they did let me know that they prefer to collect rubbish from trains and stations and segregate it “off site”, ie. separate it out afterwards. That sounds like a pretty messy job, but I’m glad they’re doing it. Apparently the 2009 figures reveal that 354 tonnes of general waste was removed from trains at the West Yorkshire depot of which 265 tonnes was recycled.

But what about stations? Last year they had one paper recycling point on the whole network, pictured. It’s at Manchester Victoria station which I visit regularly – but it’s on a platform inaccessible to the general public as it’s behind a ticket check point. My trains usually arrive at a different platform so I can’t use it.

So the verdict. On train recycling – good but invisible. Station recycling – could do better.

Gems from the manifesto

My mornings have started with leafleting sessions at 6.15am twice more this week, to get our local election address out in my ward. But last thing at night my reading material has been our manifesto for the general election.

I bought a paper copy to read in bed, and reading through it has reminded me exactly why I’m a Liberal Democrat. What a fantastic set of policies, many of which have been well publicised.

But I spotted half a dozen gems which aren’t so well known. Some of them I wasn’t even aware of and I’ve been to every national conference for several years now.

So, ignoring the big promises, here are my favourites:

  1. Encourage community-owned renewable energy schemes (p.28) – It goes without saying that these would be brilliant in Calder Valley, harnessing the water power that was used by industry here 200 years ago.
  2. Cut red tape for putting on live music (p.46) – Why have Labour made it harder to put on a small gig in a pub or church hall. Seriously. Why?
  3. Strengthen the Youth Service by making it a statutory service (p.51) – Youth services have been cut severely by Tory-run Calderdale council this year, there is now no council-run youth provision in central Hebden Bridge. As a non-statutory service, it is an easy target for cuts.
  4. Change the tariffs used by energy supply companies so that the first energy you use is the cheapest (p.53) – I have changed to a gas supplier that charges the same price per unit for every unit used by every customer. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds insulating my house. Why should someone who hasn’t bothered get cheaper and cheaper energy the more they use. This is the case with all the major suppliers.
  5. Fight to stop MEPs having to travel to the Strasbourg Parliament every month (p.66) – What a waste of time, energy, and money. Surely this is a no-brainer.
  6. Protect free speech […] through reform of the English and Welsh libel laws (p.93) – The case against Simon Singh may have been dropped, but it should never have been allowed to be brought in the first place. Our libel laws need urgent reform.

How good would it be to get all these through parliament?

Speaking of manifestos, Lewisham Liberal Democrats have published their local government manifesto which is an extremely impressive document for a local party to produce, with lots of excellent but serious policies. I wish them all the best in their campaign to elect a Lib Dem mayor and take control of the council, and I hope we can produce something similar, if maybe not quite as slick, for the local elections here next year.

A break from campaigning

Campaigning for the general and local elections has pretty much taken over my life at the moment. Yesterday I was out at 6.15am delivering target letters, so I thought I deserved a break. Working on the assumption that a change is as good as a rest, today I turned my mobile phone off and spent most of the day planting raspberry bushes in Nutclough woods. A group of us go up there on a fairly regular basis to help out with various jobs, and today’s main task was to install the revetment in the photo, and plant the raspberry bushes around them. I will be going back on a regular basis to check for vandalism and, hopefully, one day, get a small punnet of fruit, although I think it’s unlikely to be this year.

Nutclough woods have a variety of owners, including Calderdale Council, British Waterways, and several private landowners. They are managed by the Friends of Nutclough Woods, ably led by the ever-enthusiastic Kate Berridge and assisted by her partner, family, and other local residents. They are easily the best managed woods in the Hebden Bridge area and are well worth a visit at any time of the year.

I expect normal blogging service to resume after the election, with planned posts on recycling, allotments, and housing.

PS. Don’t forget to vote for Liberal Democrats Hilary Myers (for Westminster) and Nader Fekri (for Calderdale MBC), your earthly representatives of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable.

Car parking in Hebden Bridge

Chris in Garden Street Car Park

There is an ongoing debate in Hebden Bridge about car parking. Is there enough of it, do we have the right balance between short and long-term spaces, and are the charges correct?

Late last year, a group of Human Geography and Urban Planning students from Leeds Met University undertook a project to survey car parking in different areas of Hebden Bridge. This fell under the auspices of the Hebden Bridge Parking Working Party. Lesley McKay and myself introduced the students to Hebden Bridge, and went to Leeds to see the students’ presentations in December. A few students also came with their tutor, Lindsay Smales, to present the results to Hebden Royd Town Council.

The students came up with some interesting results, particularly the responses to questions which they had asked of residents, tourists and shop keepers. Most markedly, those who run the shops want cheap parking, but people visiting town would actually be prepared to pay a bit more. Currently most of the car parks are 30p an hour, which is very good value.

Following the report, the parking working party made a number of recommendations to the Town Council. At last week’s council meeting, the council voted to send those recommendations (with a few minor modifications) to Calderdale Council for their consideration. The main recommendations are as follows.

  • A review of car parking charges throughout Hebden Bridge, and a proportionate reduction in car parking charges for residents of Hebden Royd and surrounding villages
  • Residents protected parking times be reduced so that non-residents can park in residents spaces between the hours of 8am and 4pm [when many residents are at work]
  • The need for Calderdale MBC to work with Network Rail to extend car parking at the railway station, in line with the recommendations of the Department for Transport’s (2009) Better Rail Stations
  • The improvement of long and short-stay parking signage in the town centre
  • An investigation of ways in which local residents can be encouraged to walk or cycle, e.g. pavement displays of journey walking/cycling times to town centre/railway station, and greater promotion of Hebden Bridge as being easily accessible by public transport

It will be interesting to see what comes back from Calderdale. Unfortunately they don’t have a great record at replying to our requests on traffic issues!

A big development which will be happening in Hebden Bridge over the next few years is the redevelopment of the Town Hall, which today passed into the hands of Hebden Bridge Community Association. They have all sorts of exciting plans for extending the building, but strangely no provision for more parking. They say:

Our plans – if we can find the funding to implement them – will mean building on land which is currently used for car parking. […] We don’t yet know whether some or all of the current car parking places are likely to be lost. We anticipate that the seven places at the side will go, and some of those at the rear (facing the old health centre). We may be able to retain some limited parking.

I disagree with this approach and have responded to their consultation as follows.

I think the redevelopment of the Town Hall is an ideal opportunity to get some underground car parking in the new part of the development. If you’re trying to attract small businesses, people working in them will in many cases need somewhere to park, especially if they’re coming from rural areas not easily accessible by public transport. Your approach misses a golden opportunity to get a few more car parking spaces in a central part of town. Improving parking elsewhere would be welcome, but if you’re removing existing spaces, I really think you should look at providing an equivalent number elsewhere on site. Underground car parks work well in other places and can be built as part of a new development but not retro-fitted afterwards!

I’m all for encouraging use of public transport, but the fact remains that many people in rural areas rely on their cars to get to places. It will be interesting to see how things develop.

I can’t write a post about parking without mentioning Hebden Bridge’s most controversial proposed development in 30 years – the Garden Street development. It would put a multi-storey car park on the site of the existing Garden Street Car Park, but pay for it with a massive development on top. Whilst I wouldn’t object to seeing some development on the site, the proposals were simply too big – the Calderdale planners thought so, and their decision was upheld on appeal. Will the developers come back with a revised proposal? Only time will tell.

Recycling (or not) with Northern Rail

Earlier this year, I noticed a number of the following posters appearing on Northern Rail trains. I am strongly in favour of recycling, but they seem to have the wrong end of the stick.

Recycling is just as much about reuse as it is about reprocessing materials and making something new. Leaving newspapers on the train (especially copies of Metro) is a perfect example of recycling in action. If everybody took their own copy of the Metro home to recycle, then they’d need to print twice as many.

Of course, at the end of the day, all the day’s newspapers should be recycled. However, I have never seen a recycling point (for newspapers, cans, bottles, or anything for that matter) on board a Northern Rail train, or at a Northern Rail station in West Yorkshire.

To that end, I have written Northern Rail the following letter:

Dear Northern Rail,

I am writing regarding the recycling poster that has appeared recently on your trains around West Yorkshire. It states:

“Please recycle your newspaper. Leaving it behind is littering.”

As a keen supporter of recycling, I am glad to see that you are taking the issue seriously.

The poster encourages people to recycle newspapers that they have been reading on the train, many of which will be the free papers provided in your stations.

Could you let me know what facilities are available for recycling on board your trains and at your stations?

Also, do your cleaners recycle items (eg. newspapers, cans, bottles) found on board trains when cleaning them?

I would challenge your assertion that leaving a newspaper on the train is littering. I almost never pick up a copy of Metro from the piles available at your stations, but regularly pick one up that has been left on the train. If everybody took home their own copy of the Metro, then you’d have to print twice as many, which isn’t very green.

My suggestion for addressing this issue would be that you provide areas in each train carriage, and at each station, where people can leave their newspapers. This chould be a shelf clearly marked “Leave your newspaper here”. It should not be a bin, the idea being that other people could pick up a newspaper from the shelf to read, then replace it when they’ve finished. At the end of the day, your cleaners could clear the shelf straight into a paper recycling bin. This would encourage both reuse and recycling of the newspapers, which is surely better all round.

I look forward to hearing what you think.

In London with Nick Clegg

Chris Sawer with Hilary Myers and Nick Clegg

Last week a group of us from Calder Valley went on a day trip to London to The Wave climate change protest. It involved getting the first train out of Hebden Bridge in the morning, and the last train back in the evening, but was a great trip for several reasons.

Firstly, the train down was organised by the Co-op, and apart from being very cheap, was full of others going to the protest so there were balloons galore, plenty of banter, and leafleters for every environmental campaign going wandering up and down the train. Not to mention some great musicians.

Secondly, we arrived at the protest at the same time as Nick Clegg, and we grabbed the chance of a quick chat with him about the campaign in Calder Valley. It was great to meet up with Lib Dems from all over the country to hear Nick’s speech, along with those of Susan Kramer and Simon Hughes. I recognised many faces from conference, and chatted to some new people too.

It was extremely important that we put pressure on the government ahead of the Copenhagen summit to make it clear that if we don’t do something drastic about CO2 emissions pretty soon, it will be too late for millions of people around the world – most of them in the poorest countries – who will die as a result of flooding, crop failures, or wars caused by the mass migration that will result.

In the light of recent speculation about e-mails at the University of East Anglia, it was also important to have a big demonstration to be shown on the news, and keep people informed that global warming is real, and that we must do something about it. It is clear that the overwhelming scientific consensus backs the hypothesis that the planet is heating up because of the greenhouse gases, principally CO2, that mankind is pumping into the atmosphere at ever increasing rates. There are a few sceptics, of course – critical thinking is essential for good science to be separated from bad – but pretty much everyone who has actually studied in a related area has come to the same view.

One analogy I heard and rather liked is that you’re about to get on a plane, and suddenly the pilot and an aeronautic engineer come running out and tell everybody not to get on board as the plane is too dangerous to fly. A vet and a dentist stroll to the front, announce that everything’s ok, and get on board. Who would you trust?

The march itself passed off well, although it was a bit slow getting started so it was more-or-less dark by the time we actually got to parliament. It was hard to get an idea of how many people were there, but estimates ranged from 20,000 to 40,000 which is not bad for a cold December day. I had my home-made Calder Valley Lib Dem placard, which attracted comment from a number of people.

One week on, I think Ed Miliband is doing a reasonable job in Copenhagen. Not as good as Simon Hughes would do, of course, but not too bad considering. I just hope he is able to persuade the other industrialised countries that it is our responsibility to lead on this issue. I know that China are building huge numbers of coal-fired power stations, but they’re only following our example. We led the industrial revolution in this country. Now it’s time for us to lead the green revolution too.