To lose one high placed official would be classed as careless, to lose three in a week would suggest that something in not quite right. The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, the successor organisation to the highly innovative Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive, lost its chairman on Monday, the New Labour Glasgow councillor Allistair Watson. This was followed by the Chief Executive Ron Culley and on Thursday by another serving New Labour councillor, Dave McLachlan, who was the vice chair of the organisation.
On the surface this appears to be an Old Labour expenses and junket’s scandal, the councillors who resigned their posts at the SPT do represent very much the old municipalist wing of Labour. This comes a year after the resignation of Transport Scotland’s finance director Guy Houston over his conflict of interest during the extension of Worstgroup’s Scotrail franchise, and the deliberate blocking of any scrutiny by any MSP’s into the decision citing that “the agreement was price sensitive… public disclosure about the review and negotiations could influence market activity”.
Public transport is still a joke which anyone who uses this service finds anything but funny. We elected New Labour in 1997, partly because they promised some joined up thinking about public transport. But that was before the lobbyists and the business interests took hold. We would like to think that we elected the SNP at Holyrood for similar reasons, but the truth is they aren’t remotely interested in sorting out our useless and at times conflicting public transport infrastructure. Obviously this is the price of Brian Souter's 2006 donation to the SNP.
The high profile corruption at the top of our public bodies overseeing our transport systems shows that much heavier regulation of public transport is required. It also raises the question of why these people have to go abroad on junkets to see the world. The most ambitious public transport programme these people put forward was the late, and in some circles lamented, Glasgow Airport Rail Link which was presented to the public as some sort of fait-acompli. If these people were doing their job they would have put forward proposals which would have been of better advantage to the people of Strathclyde. Possibly a train line from Glasgow taking in Braehead and Renfrew or maybe a Mono-rail from Gilmour Street.
Like much of Scottish civic life, the Public Transport sector has shown itself a hive of self interest and preservation of the Status Quo. All the paying public can realistically do in the meantime is continue to swallow the bad medicine.