Happy 2013, catch up, baby daughter, predictions – 1st blog of the year!

It would be fair to say that the last month has been somewhat hectic!  Tomorrow our little daughter, Camille Mathilde, will be 4 weeks old – unfortunately she will be staying in hospital for a while longer, but she is putting on weight and starting to build up her strength and she is adorably tiny!  Mrs B is also recovered after all of this drama.  We have pretty much missed Christmas and New Year so I will offer a Happy Holidays to everyone now.

Anyway, I am undertaking a normalisation process to get out of the bubble we are in and back into the real world. So a blogpost is always a good start.  Reviews of 2012 are all the rage but looking forward and plotting i much more fun so I shall endeavour to do that.  I want to highlight some interesting tales that will develop this year and also some of my favoured issues…

1. High Speed Rail – an easy one to kick off, with the Judicial Reviews having been heard we will soon find out the results.  We will also get the Phase 2 line of route announcement as well as full details re Environmental Assessment, safeguarding and property issues, further station plans and designs, potentially also service patterns and classic rail network opportunities.  By the end of the year the Hybrid Bill for Phase 1 is due but will it just be Phase 1 or will it make it this calendar year?  I suspect that things are going more to plan now and there is more discipline and institutional focus on making this happen so i predict fast-track rather than off the rails.

2. Rail fares/franchises and public transport – at present the Coalition parties are maintaining their policy of fare rises to hit passengers rather than all taxpayers.  At the same time, franchise policy continues along the familiar path.  This year we will see a move to encourage more local/regional participation in franchises and specifications.  I suspect that 2013 may see Labour start to strengthen policy on how the railways and public transport generally are a public good that need to be treated differently and in a more socially-focussed manner.  With sufficient pressure, the Tories and Lib Dems may recognise that appealing to car drivers alone is not a sensible tactic.  Implicit there was also another strong year for the cycling community and hopefully the beginning of a dramatic shift in how public space converts roads into social goods and conveniences that do not prioritise the private car over everyone else.

3. The aviation debate turns into a battle – Heathrow will become more robust in their lobbying, as will Gatwick and Stansted and Birmingham.  A number of actors in the debate will not let it be kicked into the long grass (good!) and we may see a pitched battle start with some odd coalitions forming where mutual objectives meet from opposite ends of the spectrum.  Boris Island will surely be booted into touch and the real debate begins on expanding Heathrow versus spreading the load across existing spare capacity around our other national airports.

4.  DfT to move out of Great Minster House – I have heard several rumours now about the DfT moving out of GMH altogether.  We know that the corner entrance and offices closest to Marsham Street are being converted into flats – could the whole block go down this path???  Could DfT cohabit with another shrunken Whitehall department???  Unlikely but not impossible.

5.  London to start to pick up and accelerate ahead once again leaving behind the regional cities – sadly I fear this will be inevitable.  My current home city of Birmingham appears to be going backwards with cuts really starting to bite badly and the Coalition Government seemingly intransigent in wanting to ease the pain.

6.  London Midland to bounce back from an appalling 2012?  This is certainly a wish of mine and all other commuters in the West Midlands. LM’s 2012 performance was utterly abysmal, no 2 ways about it.  But they are in place until 2015 and I am sure their parent companies that make up Govia will be keen to ensure that LM does not destroy their credibility any further in advance of the next round of rail franchises.  I do think LM will make a better fist of 2013 – for their sake as well as for all of ours!

7.  AFC Wimbledon to stay up in League 2 – i am very confident that the Dons have the ability to stay up and with Neal Ardley at the helm I am sure he will be able to develop our squad and their confidence and ability to get the results we need to retain our place in the Football League.

8.  Me to actually take part in proper sporting events in 2013 – I am still getting out doing early morning runs and determined to get the prep done to take on at least 1 triathlon and maybe a bike ride in order to raise money for my favourite charities – Macmillan (cancer support) and now Bliss (for very premature babies) – and prove I can still do something vaguely sporty… 🙂

And finally, 2 areas of personal interest (1 philosophical, 1 practical) that I am keen to promote further in 2013:

1.  Continuing to develop the narrative of the vital role of transport in all aspects of our lives and our communities – investing in transport as a public good can support wider social, economic, environmental and health benefits and as such is better value for money when well designed and incorporated within wider policy development.

2. South London Metro – I have discussed in the past that South London needs a decent rail network that is treated, branded and presented in a similar vein to the London Overground.  I will come back to this in due course i’m sure!

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