Political Ramblings of @AndyKinsey,
Labour Candidate for Hyde, Tameside
As someone who works with local communities around Tameside, and works for a living in Manchester, I travel across Greater Manchester by train almost everyday of the week. As such I know the good, the bad and the ugly stations across Manchester, I know that in Tameside we’ve got a few stations needing attention for reasons such as making them accessible for disabled or elderly residents. But I seldom would consider a train station to be unsafe, I don’t usually find myself thinking “I wouldn’t use that station”. So the words “unsafe station” don’t come easily, and I don’t use them lightly - but here is the story as to why I feel that Fairfield Station is today an Unsafe Station.
On 17th Oct I first noticed that the lights at Fairfield train station were not working on one platform - this just a few days after their newly installed cctv had been ripped out by vandals. - https://twitter.com/andykinsey/status/390897010246946816
A few days later I noticed the other side had gone out, leaving just one light on the platform toward guide bridge lighting the station. (21st) - http://twitter.com/5404092/statuses/392348963749527552.
Northern replied that evening saying it would be looked into.
A few days later (24th) the lights appeared fixed, i gave them applause on twitter for acting to make the station safe. On the 28th once again the lights were out at the station on both sides - http://twitter.com/5404092/statuses/394891191634132992
The next day they were back on … but then the following day lights again were out at the station. On the 1st Nov lights were still out and I declared the station to be an #unsafestation - I don’t get off there as i live in hyde, but i spoke to a few people who were regulars at the station and they said that it felt uncomfortable walking in the dark up the path “anyone could be hidden in the trees” and one elderly lady told me she would be getting off at guide bridge and getting a family member to drive them home when the lights were out they felt so unsafe.
I then tweeted again on the 6th with the lights still out at the station.
And again on the 12th, and again for the past few days.
Northern Rail tell me on twitter that they have had engineers out, which is good stuff but following a month of less light than light at the station, cctv ripped out and customers feeling unsafe - I now feel the need to reach out and ask for some help in pushing northern to not only fix the lights but make the station feel safe for all in the community.
So this evening I’ve reached out to ask for help in getting this station fixed once and for all.
If you would like to help us ensure the Northern Rail make Fairfield station safe for all of it’s users - simply tweet the message below.
”.@northernrailorg please make #fairfield a Safe Station by fixing the lights at the station // cc @andykinsey”
Fairfield Station c. 1905 - Today only the two central tracks remain. Photo by Disused Stations
After around a week of one side having lights back on (guide bridge bound) this evening both sides are yet again out of action. Dark nights are drawing in I have once again alerted Northern Rail of this - who in turn have let me know ISS (northerns engineers of choice) are no longer dealing with the issue and it’s now in the hands of Network Rail - hopefully this means there will soon be a solution.
The saga continues and it will be at least 30th December before the lights are fixed properly by Network Rail. I suggested Temporary lighting again and was told to email them, I have and as promised on twitter they will be public and can be found by clicking “northern rail fails" in the sidebar.
It isn’t often that you will find me supporting strikes from any train operator, but today I feel the need to speak out in support of the drivers of the First TransPennine Express franchise who backed by ASLEF are looking to strike on Tues 5 Nov and Sat 9 Nov.
Current status of RMT in this regard is unknown.
For me this is a matter of public safety and how public funds are spent… And no this isn’t a call to renationalise the railway.
When a TOC is given a franchise they obviously have to make some kind of profit (else why would they bother) and that I am fine with, but when that profit comes first priority instead of safety and the public purse I do have an issue.
TPE entered franchise agreements and rest day agreements which were designed to ensure that customers who travelled with the company were safe, they also ensured there was enough staff cover for the franchise to run every train expected of them. This strike is (to be simple) because TPE want to break the rest day agreements and tried to beg drivers to do so with a £1000 bonus.
Breaking this rest day agreement will risk customer safety - rest days are there for our safety. Imagine if your driver never had a rest day, they would be tired, become complacent and wouldn’t spot potential problems as quickly as they would otherwise. It’s a risk to everyones safety on those trains. Rest Days are Vital!
The reason they are doing this is to save a few quid, and bolster their profits because they (TPE) do not want to hire more drivers - it would cost more and yup eat into their profits. So all this moaning in press releases of “its not good for out customers” isn’t right, well it is but not for the reasons they think. It’s correct because ok some people won’t travel that day and it maybe bad for them and a business, but it could be worse and thats what they omit, what if someone dies because a driver has skipped too many rest days thanks to pressure from TPE - that would not be good for customers. A missed day at work is nothing compared with that.
Conclusion: TPE need to realise that as customers we do not care about their profits in any way shape or form. We care about getting between A and B safely and quickly. They need to realise this and if they fail to do so I hope that the franchise is stripped from them. They are a good operator in general but customer safety should always be the priority.
Before I even begin to pass comment on David Cameron’s attempt to block porn and prevent child abuse online, I want to make clear that I am a supporter of stopping child abuse and I support certain known websites being blocked to under 18’s by ISPs. That in any reasonable mind is fine, but lets examine what Cameron is doing here.
Cameron, by the end of 2013, family-friendly filters will be automatically selected on all ISP connections (in addition to blocking some sites completely). He’s also called for certain search terms to be blacklisted entirely. He intends to create a database of all known child porn images to compare with websites / pages to trace content to it’s origin. And finally, he wants to give the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)more powers and responsibility.
As I say I support family filters held by ISP’s - as someone who works in the web industry I have to say yes to this type of content because certain things like gambling sites or even blogs talking about gambling and porn are blocked. These filters, today, are not the best thing in the world and often catch pages they shouldn’t. However, for me thats not a problem - but for someone not in the industry is there going to be a stigma attached to unblocking that content - will it suddenly add you to some kind of watch list. Also who says what goes on that list, if it works on keywords will blogs which have comment spam (about gambling) get blocked - perfectly innocent websites. This needs to be vetted in some way manually, and that can’t be the job of CEOP as we will see later. The cost would be large to say the least - but its a semi-workable solution.
I would call on David Cameron to rethink blocking of search terms. Yes push things into “safe search” mode or something similar but by blocking a term you make a rod for your own back and begin to close the open internet for everyone. If you block the words “child abuse pictures” then do you really think that the people responsible for websites hosting them won’t find some kind of phrase to replace it - maybe “cute tiger pictures” will soon mean something completely different. Then what will he do, block every keyword or phrase - i think not. By blocking a website in a country because it breaks the law it will automatically fall from search engines, that is what we need to be doing not blocking a search term which will just be replaced. We currently have enough problems tracking down and following up on illegal porn without driving it underground, which is all this would do.
Also in blocking websites via ISPs and blocking search terms are we not in danger of approaching a downward spiral and becoming filter happy. Anyone in tech will tell you about the complaints of China being so heavily filtered that the tech and web industry has problems. We cannot allow this country to begin that approach without due consideration, do we want an open and free internet where every opinion counts or do we want to live in a country where the items you see online are checked to be “accurate” according to another source - because that is where we will end up. I personally will be calling on this Goverment and subsequent governments to maintain a free, open and full internet.
Something I think is a good idea is to have a database held by the police or perhaps search engines with illegal porn listed. This then can be compared against any website or web page, for the police this would be far too time and energy consuming - maybe working with Google they can run scans or look for traits on these websites and bring them to the attention of any country who wants to block this kind of thing. And they could alert the country of origin / hosting such that they can remove the offending content and take action - after all child abuse is illegal in many countries, this could remove much child abuse globally if done right and not restricted to just this country.
Giving CEOP more powers and responsibilities, this sounds like a great idea - and it is. But my problem is CEOP’s budget was cut by around 10% this year, so giving it more responsibilities will mean it gets stretched further and further and will likely do less than it does today. Unless that budget is reinstated and even increased then CEOP will fail in its duties, things will fall back to the police and they have had huge cuts too - and if they can’t cope then what, we just stop chasing? It’s unworkable to give them more power but not more resources! One place resources could be found is key donations such as just over £3 from Google to the cause - however, it appears that will be at the low end of the pricing scale for either the database task and the ISP filtering, never mind funding CEOP.
So today, Ed went to speak to Google at the Big Tent. (see picture above). He went on the offensive talking about how we need to reform international tax and how tax avoidance is wrong. And he, of course, is spot on with that - but I want to focus on something Ed skipped passed in someways - The future of the web in the uk.
Ed spoke about how the government’s favoured ebacc doesn’t cater for tech, creativity or anything vocational like engineering. He spoke about how this could mean that in the UK we may not see another Sir Jony Ive and how we are unlikely to founding a company like Google.
Ed also spoke about the “digital divide” and how it excludes the potential designers, innovators, entrepreneurs of the future. Much the same as with the ebacc. Ed also said that we need to ensure everyone in this country can benefit from the internet and everything it offers - but what Ed missed here was the chance to call on Google to help with the role out of superfast broadband across the country. Asking them to do what they are in America and beginning to role out fiberhoods (superfast broadband connections in cities). Maybe it’s just me the tech geek speaking here, but more likely it is that I want to take Ed’s vision of ‘an internet for everyone’ and push it further and faster than anyone in the country can right now - If we can roll out superfast broadband it will mean more high-end tech jobs, it will mean more opportunities for everyone (including young people) and most of all it means that in a world where speed can make or break a deal that we as a country are ahead of the game. It would be great for the economy, it would be great for industry and it would be great for the people of this country too.
Just one final note, you can read Ed’s Speech to Google here. Though I want to point out that “don’t be evil” is not Google’s founding slogan, it was said once in a regular friday meeting and stuck as a mantra.