Bikes, Trains and Clean Water

These are hard times, and dark times, and most of the time our output reflects that. But once a week for the next month, we’re going to experiment in publishing some good news.* Here’s three positive stories.

First up, the Dutch Cycling Embassy – a network for bicycle inclusive mobility who represent the “best of Dutch cycling: knowledge, experience and experts” tell us that: “More than 50% of all inner-city motorised trips in Europe could be replaced by a cargo bike.” They are profiling Cargoroo, a start-up offering e-cargo bike sharing in European cities.

The project combines the ideals of the Provos White Bike Plan with the concept of Usufruct.

Cargo bikes are the classic bit of kit to share. In nay city there are many thousands of people who need a cargo bike every day, but even more people more who only need one now and then. We don’t all need to own stuff.

Support their Crowdfund here.

Second up, Peter Allen, a journalist based in Paris reports: “Beyond the doom and gloom, great to see le Parisien splashing on swimming in the Seine today. More than €1billion spent on making it happen.”

Can you imagine that happening here? Me neither.

As rivers and clean water campaigner Feargal Sharkey writes: “Paris spends €1bn to clean up the Seine so people can go swimming in it while last year alone, meanwhile Thames Water spent 7,000 hours dumping sewage into 31 of London’s rivers all of which ends up in the Thames.”

Third up, affordable rail travel for all. No not here silly – we’ve got too much Brexit-Freedom for that sort of nonsense.

Way back in 2019 the German Greens launched plans to boost railways, make domestic flights obsolete by 2035, and strengthen European rail travel by a network of night trains. It involved lower VAT for rail, higher jet fuel tax, and €3 billion annual investment in German railways.

Now you can travel all over Germany for €49 after German lawmakers voted in favor of the so-called ‘Deutschlandticket,’ which entitles to use local transport and regional trains all across Germany for under 50€ a month.

DW Politics tell us: “Building on the popular 9€ ticket from summer 2022, the ‘Deutschlandticket’ simplifies travel by eliminating the need to buy new tickets when crossing state lines, making transport more seamless.”

“Politicians are praising the ticket agreement as a climate protection initiative and a milestone in the state’s effort to transform mobility. German states and the federal government will equally share the expected annual costs of €3 billion.”

Now the sharp-eyed among you will have realised that all of these stories are from mainland Europe. Yeah will thank your lucky stars you’ve got nothing to do with that lot any more.

*Normally the idea of ‘good news’ is a sort of sickly-sweet liberal idea, that’s mostly terrible, we know. 


Comments (14)

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  1. Sue Robertson says:

    Excellent idea to post such stories, joining Positive News

  2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Sadly, you are adopting the similar colonial British/English mindset of the Guardian and Feargal Sharey in lumping publicly owned Scottish Water with the privatised water companies in England and Wales. As well as having more than 80% of the U.K. water – fresh and sea – the quality of waters in Scotland is significantly higher than in the rest of the U.K. and is getting better.

    Why is the idea of swimming in the Clyde or Kelvin dismissed with a sneer?

    1. I didn’t mention Scottish water in this article at all?

    2. John Wood says:

      Sory to make a serious point here when we are trying to lighten up, but it has to be said.

      Alasdair, the truth about Scottish Water is that it is simply a cash cow for the private water companies. The system here is corrupt from top to bottom.

      Scottish Water sources, treats and delivers all the water in Scotland, and it treats and disposes of the wastewater too. It has a better track record than the private companies in England, but it’s not that great . When it was set up, the water companies somehow persuaded the Scottish government they had a right to deal in water in Scotland. So was created a ‘retail market’ in non-domestic water. This means that all non-domestic water is billed by private water companies with the usual ethics free corporate mindset. All non-domestic properties were simply ‘allocated’ to these companies without the occupiers’ consent or even knowledge. As chair of Poolewe Village Hall, I discovered that FIVE separate water accounts had been set up for a single building. Many of these related to individual rooms with no water or drainage connection at all. One such space, occupied by a little card shop, a micro-business, was receiving threatening letters from Anglian Water demanding payment of over a thousand pounds for ‘services’ neither requested, nor agreed to, nor delivered. I enquired what these charges related to, and was told they were for ‘roads and premises drainage’. It so happens that in this rural area, there is virtually no roads drainage and very little premises drainage, and in any case they are not provided by Anglian (or Scottish) Water! In fact the village suffers continual flooding because of the lack of it. In my case, as the owner of a house and a small cafe connected to a private septic tank, the only roads drainage outside my house is provided by me! Perhaps I should be charging them. I had already suffered persistent abuse through the first lockdown from a water company in England demanding money from me, although no water was being used at the time. I was receiving a flood of (mostly automated) abusive texts, emails, letters and phone calls. As it happens I am currently almost back there at the moment, but have taken the precaution of cancelling my mobile account altogether, and putting a call minder on my landline to filter it out. All the threatening letters are being rejected and reported. But it’s OK, I’m now used to it, and am no longer locked down, so I can laugh.

      The so-called ‘retail market’ in water in Scotland is not exactly in the public interest. In fact it is a criminal fraud, a legalised protection racket. Private companies (mostly based outside Scotland) provide nothing at all except ‘billing’ and customer abuse. They are responsible for nothing, and to no-one. There is only one ‘wholesaler’ – Scottish Water. The companies try to get the cheapest price possible from Scottish Water and pass on this saving to their volume using corporate mates. This deprives the infrastructure of investment, and forces Scottish Water to increase domestic water rates ( which are non-negotiable) to compensate. The volume users get cheap water; the small businesses and community facilities who can least afford it, get enforced ‘deemed’ contracts that are nothing more than criminal extortion. There is no real shopping around for a good deal. It’s all just violence. These include standing charges even where there is no water supply or drainage provided. They just sit there and bully the poor into subsidising the plutocrats. It was, I suppose, ever thus. So what do these charges levied for ‘drainage’ actually pay for? The Highland Council receives no revenue and cannot put in roads drainage because it says it doesn’t have the funds. It took months to discover that they supposedly cover connections in urban areas between Scottish Water and local authority drains. Somehow, that is not something to be sorted out between Scottish Water and the local authority bilaterally: we are expected to fund it. In reality of course, standing charges just subsidise cheaper water for the corporate volume users. The biggest corporations have even been given permission to ‘self-supply’ and strike their own hard bargains with Scottish Water. As usual, it is private affluence and public squalor. The exploitation of the commons for private profit. As a result f my experience I refuse to accept any ‘deemed’ contract or to participate in this scam.

      One final point, I have taken complaints about this to the Ombudsman, who declined to investigate; to Scottish Water, who passed the buck to the Scottish Government; to the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, who merely hold the ring between the pirates – the public interest has no ‘stake’ at all. “licenced’ water providers seem to be above the law and can do as they please. The Scottish Government in response to enquiries just re-state that this is the way it is, get use to it. In other words, they too seem to be bought and sold for the water companies’ gold.

      So please remember that while Scottish Water is indeed a public body, it is bullied into pouring the money of those who an least afford it – into private pockets at public expense. From a single supplier, they buy as cheap as possible and sell for as much as possible. And the difference goes to the international hedge funds that own them, while the public actually pay to maintain the infrastructure. We are all being ripped off by the very same crooks that are poisoning rivers down south.

      1. Donald McGregor says:

        That’s a pretty damning critique and info I wasn’t aware of. I’m off to investigate our company supply; until now I’ve been happily thinking of Scottish Water as an inefficient bumbling public servant.

      2. Jim Stamper says:

        That is incredible – although sadly not these days. How can this be justified and allowed to continue to happen?

      3. Wul says:

        That’s shocking John.

        It echos my own experience of running a small charity from a local authority owned industrial unit and receiving threatening letters and phone calls from obscure companies, based in England and acting as “agents” for water companies who had no presence or contract with anyone.

        On a “constructive criticism” note; could you use paragraphs more frequently in your very informative posts please? I find it very hard to visually digest text which is all run together like the above. My tendency is to just skip reading it.

        1. Wul says:

          And yeah. Excrement is being flushed into Scottish rivers by our national water company. Just less of it than down south, with more rivers to hide it in.

          1. Derek Thomson says:

            So it’s the same, and as bad as England and Wales, aye?

        2. Ann Rayner says:

          I agree with, that having done research into making information more accessible. One acknowledged method is tp present it in ‘bite-size’ chunks!

  3. Ann Rayner says:

    i was at Remagen on the Rhine last summer and enjoyed the 9Euro ticket for a few journeys as it was possible to go up and down the Rhine from there on either side. Bonn was the best one.
    The trains could be quite busy but everyone was good-tempered.

  4. Donald McGregor says:

    ScotRail peak rail fare suspension experiment for 6 months. Coming in October, courtesy of the Greens working ‘with’ the SNP. Some cost relief for all who are shackled to early morning jobs and/or inflexible afternoon travel.

  5. Niemand says:

    Nice idea for a series. The bike thing is great.

    One thing: ‘Normally the idea of “good news” is a sort of sickly-sweet liberal idea, that’s mostly terrible, we know’.

    I know what you mean but if you invert this, ‘news’ actually pretty much means ‘bad news’ (and I suspect this has been the way forever), so the issue here is not so much the idea of ‘good news’ as sickly-sweet but that ‘news’ is misnamed in the first place.

    The Paris article is interesting too as it chimes with an article in The Guardian the other day, written by a recently naturalised French citizen (an Englishman I think) who pointed out that despite the ‘catastrophist discourse’, France is actually doing quite well and that the discourse can be quite unnecessarily damaging and is rooted in a politics of nostalgia (left and right). Food for thought generally I think so I think it a bit of a shame this article has to add caveats about ‘good news’ and ‘never going to happen here’. Such things can be self-fulfilling prophesies.

    1. Yeah, fair point. I think ‘bad news’ is more addictive – but we are also surrounded by ‘banal news’ that isn’t newsworthy at all.

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