MSP McInnes slams franchise consultation

THE FUTURE of the East Coast Rail Franchise is of vital interest to everyone who uses the train - but you might have a lengthy trip to attend one of the Department for Transport’s consultation events.

Now North East Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes has written to the UK Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers MP, to ask that she overturn a DfT decision not to hold a consultation event in Aberdeen on the future of the franchise.

The DfT is holding a series of consultation events on the franchise replacement which it claims: “represent the geography of the franchise area”. However, it will not be holding an event north of Edinburgh.

Mrs McInnes commented: “I am very disappointed by the decision of the Department for Transport not to hold a consultation event in Aberdeen. It is unacceptable to expect people to undertake a 250-mile round trip to attend the nearest event.

“I am not suggesting that the Department for Transport hold consultation events at every location serviced along the route. However, Aberdeen is a major transport hub for the North East and a terminus for the east coast franchise. I am disappointed that this fact has not been properly reflected in the Department for Transport’s consultation process.

“The North East of Scotland is the most dynamic growth centre in the UK and it is definitely in the interest of the UK to make sure that it is properly supported and continues to attract people as well as investment. The importance of good transport links should not be overlooked as they are a key driver of economic development.”

She added: “Transport Scotland’s 2014 Rail Consultation previously proposed that cross-border services stop at an ‘Edinburgh hub’, with passengers forced to change to ScotRail services to continue their journey north. We successfully opposed this flawed plan, yet the suggestion nonetheless demonstrated a lack of understanding of the needs of the North East.

“These consultation events provide an important opportunity for a variety of organisations and members of the public to engage with the Department for Transport and discuss issues of concern, informing and enhancing decision-making.

“The Department for Transport needs to make an effort to engage in face-to-face discussions with stakeholders in the North East if it wishes this process to be rigorous and comprehensive.

“Given that the consultation does not close until 18 September, I would hope there would be time for the Minister to reconsider the DfT’s approach.”

Supermarket labelling

And Mrs McInnes is getting her teeth into labelling items in supermarkets, by supporting a Price Marking Bill tabled by Jo Swinson MP and backed by the consumer organisation Which?

Jo Swinson’s Consumer Information Bill would make supermarkets use clear and simple price labelling to help people save money. Making price labels easier for consumers to understand is one way to keep more money in people’s pockets when they are doing their weekly shop.

The MP said: “The unit price is the price per kg, litre, 100g etc of a product and is provided to help shoppers compare prices between like for like products of different sizes where a direct comparison may not be straightforward. For example, is a 600g jar of mayonnaise for £3.49 better value than a 400g jar for £2.50? With clearer unit pricing the answer would be obvious.”

Mrs McInnes commented: “For a long time now people across the UK have seen the cost of living go up and their budgets go down. With so many people concerned with rising food prices, more and more people are comparing supermarket prices.

“People are more likely to find the best deals when they check per unit price displays and yet half of all people don’t, saying displays are not clear enough.

“I would ask everyone who cares about this issue to visit which.co.uk/unitpricing and sign the pledge. Tweet any bad examples of unit pricing to @whichaction using the hashtag #priceitright”