Public Transport and Public Health

The “inverse care law” is the principle that the availability of good medical or social care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served. Proposed by a GP, Julian Tudor Hart in 1971, it is a pun on the “inverse-square law” a concept from physics.

This is hardly a new idea. It was published by another doctor, St Luke, 2000 years ago. In a conversation with Zacheus the taxman, Jesus concludes a story with the pithy comment,

‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’

The Inverse Care Law is alive and well here in North West Leicestershire. According to statistics released by Rail Minister Claire Perry on June 8th, the East Midlands received the lowest railway investment per head in 2014-15.

With rail investment of £34 per head of population the East Midlands received less than a tenth of the funding given to London (£353) and a third of that invested in Yorkshire and Humber (£98) and the North West ( £93). Even the East of England did better (£71) leaving the East Midlands languishing at the bottom of the table even lower than South West (£35).

This is not due to a lack of need. In 2013 the RAC Foundation reported in ‘The Car and the Commute’ that, outside London, 60-70% of workers need a car to get to work. With severe pockets of income deprivation, scarce bus and rail services and slow journeys even where public transport is available, both North West Leicestershire and South Derbyshire are in the top ten English and Welsh local authorities for car dependency with 80% of working adults having to travel to work by car/van.

With air pollution causing 40,000 deaths a year and fossil fuels driving global climate change, surely something must be done?

Continuing to lobby

After receiving a report from consultants AECOM, Leicestershire’s cross-party Environment & Transport Scrutiny Committee recommended to Cabinet that Leicestershire County Council “should continue to lobby nationally and regionally for the upgrade of the Leicester to Burton Line”.

Should we be surprised then that, despite this advice, the Conservative Cabinet decided on the 17th June that “the County Council will undertake no further investigatory work on the proposal at this time.”

Leicestershire’s determination to quash the heightened “interest amongst the general public, local elected representatives and many other stakeholders about the proposal of reopening the Leicester to Burton Line to passenger traffic” is in direct contrast to our neighbours Lincolnshire County Council.

Expressing disappointment at the low level of rail investment in the East Midlands, Lincolnshire have spotted an opportunity.

The East Midlands rail franchise will be re-let by the Department of Transport soon. Lincolnshire will be using that opportunity to lobby for better rail services for their County. According to Andrew Roden (Rail Magazine) their shopping list includes “a bridge over the East Coast Main Line near Newark to allow more services to run on the Lincoln to Nottingham line.”

It appears that North West Leicestershire doesn’t just lack investment in rail infrastructure. It also lacks a ruling elite with the political will to go out and fight for it.