Tuesday 20 October 2009

The Drivers’ Alliance and the BBC

How curious. The BBC, which is no slouch at Flat Earth News and which is passionate about promoting the lunatic and worthless opinions of one-person Safe Speed, and which is happy to act as a conduit for road lobby press releases – such as this one in June from The RAC Foundation - is now happy to regurgitate the same story just four months later:

Jennifer Dunn, policy analyst with the Drivers' Alliance and the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Motorists are getting a really raw deal thanks to the government's misguided transport policy. Drivers suffer a double whammy - they pay huge amounts of tax, and only receive a disproportionately small share of transport spending."

Drivers' Alliance chief executive Peter Roberts said road spending must be prioritised if congestion was to be tackled.

I had never heard of the Drivers’ Alliance until today. It’s an entirely opaque organisation and it would be interesting to know who is funding it. The Alliance has

a small full time staff, but [is] run primarily by volunteers and funded by subscriptions and donations from individual members.

I don’t doubt that Peter Roberts is the Chief Executive in much the same way that I am Chief Executive of the Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest institute. (I am also Chief Policy Analyst, incidentally.)

But spot the overlap between the two Alliances. How interesting. The Guardian recently did a spot of investigative journalism and discovered some interesting vested interests:

a Guardian investigation has established that a large part of its funds come from wealthy donors, many of whom are prominent supporters of the Conservative party. Sixty per cent of donations come from individuals or groups giving more than £5,000. The Midlands Industrial Council, which has donated £1.5m to the Conservatives since 2003, said it has given around £80,000 on behalf of 32 owners of private companies. Tony Gallagher, owner of Gallagher UK, a property company that gave the Conservatives £250,000 in 2007, is a member of the MIC, as is Christopher Kelly who owns the international haulage firm Keltruck, and Robert Edmiston who owns IM Group, a large car importer.

Transport policies influenced by road haulage firms and car importers are unlikely to favour walking and cycling.

I fail to see why the BBC should parrot press releases from secretive organisations which purport to be just an ordinary bunch of citizens but in fact represent powerful and wealthy businesses. But then the BBC is itself inflected with a car supremacist culture among its highly-paid journalists and managers.

The Taxpayers' Alliance may just be a pressure group, but it aspires to represent all UK taxpayers and speak in their name. It is very keen on accountability, so why won't it reveal who its donors are? I am sure there is nothing to hide, so why refuse reveal all donors over the value of, say, £5,000?

A good question.


Road users are in fact being massively neglected.

Sobs the Drivers’ Alliance website. Not in Waltham Forest they aren’t. The council is about to embark on a significant expansion of on-street parking, creating new parking bays on the footway and alongside cycle lanes, degrading conditions for walking and cycling and promoting car ownership and use.

With public spending cuts looming large in the political agenda, this demonstrates the case for prioritising cuts in rail expenditure over road spending in order to keep congestion to a minimum, instead of announcing costly new railway projects as the main political parties have.

These claims are opposed from a rail lobby perspective by another obscure outfit, Greengauge21, although this is more open about who is behind it.

Naturally the BBC hasn’t bothered to consult walking or cycling organisations, who would hopefully be able to put forward someone to point out that transport planning in Britain remains car supremacist to the core, with massive discrimination against walking and cycling, as demonstrated most recently in East Sussex.

Meanwhile those pampered rail passengers don’t seem too thrilled:

Angry commuters were today demonstrating at London Bridge station over "disgraceful cuts" which will lead to worse services for thousands of train passengers.

Southern rail company is slashing by a third the number of services to several stations in the south-east of the capital. The cuts come just a few months after the firm had its franchise renewed amid vows to improve services.