“As you know, *** ******* and I have had a long term common purpose, that the elderly and disabled residents of your constituency, West Lancashire, should achieve the equality promised us in the Equality Act 2010, the provision of a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. It provides Britain with a discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.
“What the Act also covers is the denial of victimisation. Sadly the lack of equality for off peak travel between the residents of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) and West Lancashire is victimisation purely and simply on economic differences in how the two groups are funded by central government.
*** ******* has given me a copy of the letter to you dated 13 February 2020 from Baroness Vere of Norbiton
on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. It is simply a regurgitation of the old denial of equality that the 2010 Act included, the protected characteristics that we campaigners all have, age and disability.
“There is a glaring statement of positive discrimination in the letter from Baroness Vere. She states “The policy on concessionary travel locally is also determined by the Combined Authority and implemented by Merseyrail, within the boundaries of Liverpool City Region (LCR) over which it has jurisdiction”. But that jurisdiction extends outwith the LCR into West Lancashire, otherwise how could it provide its train service extended into Town Green, Aughton Park and Ormskirk? The Merseyrail Franchise is a 50:50 joint venture between Abellio UK and Serco and is described as crucial to Liverpool and the surrounding area. That includes West Lancashire.
“Merseyrail claims “We’re also launching a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains on the network from 2020, as part of a £460million investment in the railway”. Perhaps Baroness Vere could let us know, under Freedom of Information Act 2000, what are the central government grants included in the £460million investment? As we all know, in 2003, the SRA (Strategic Rail Authority) handed over the Merseyrail Electrics contract to Merseytravel and delivered by a Serco/Abellio joint venture of up to 25 years and with enough funding attached so they could quietly get on with it. Could Baroness Vere revisit that 2003 date, also under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to tell us what capital funding has been awarded in those 17 years for getting on with it?
“We in West Lancashire suffer from permanent and blatant indirect victimisation, which can happen when an organisation puts a rule or a policy or a way of doing things in place which has a worse impact on someone with a protected characteristic than someone without one, as the Merseyrail Franchise does.
“Baroness Vere mentions a levy from the local authorities within the City Region. Whatever any levy might be I can assure her the Band D council tax for West Lancashire is almost aligned with any of those local authorities.
“So, just for clarity, as Baroness Vere would have it, the “provision of support for similar concessionary fares would be a matter for the respective local transport authorities to consider and fund” but Lancashire County Council does not receive parity with LCRCA capital funding that not only allows free off peak rail and ferry travel but enables circa £14million annual Merseyrail profits to be paid to Arbellio/Serco overseas shareholders.
“In November 2019 Boris Johnson referred to “ending the dither, delay and paralysis in Westminster”. And in December as Prime Minister he decided for those who are “left behind in the North” that “We will repay your trust”. Is it too much to ask that Merseyrail should include West Lancashire pensioners and disabled holders of a Free Bus Pass on a concession on off peak trains by a small enhancement into the annual capital grant arranged by the Secretary of State for Transport,
or is positive discrimination still alive and well?”
Regards as ever
Cc Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Cc Cabinet Office
PS Baroness Vere tweeted, March 3rd ” Fabulous evening discussing opportunities in #transport for women of all ages. We need to drive real culture change this #IWD2020″.
And recently “Today we welcomed Baroness @CharlotteV @transportgovuk with Mayor Tim Bowles @WestofEnglandCA , Mayor @MarvinJRees @BristolCouncil & @SLCouncils to launch the @IEJGov campaign in Bristol, aiming to help create a more supportive environment on public transport for disabled people”.
What does it take for the Baroness and Grant Shapps MP to recognise the lack of a supportive environment for the elderly and disabled people of West Lancashire to enjoy free off peak rail travel that first her own local Tory party and now the local Labour party have denied us for ten long years?