/ Travel & Leisure

Get your travel irritations on the Government’s action list

Cartoon of man, train and plane

The House of Commons Transport Committee wants to hear your travel concerns and how it can improve the roads, rail network and aviation industry. So what’s your top travel concern that you’d like addressed?

The Committee has agreed to consider any of the comments shared here as part of their review of things to address in 2014. The Government is obliged to respond to the Committee’s suggestion so your irritation could become the next innovation.

Now, the committee ‘only’ look at the work of the Department for Transport and associated organisations. I say ‘only’ because that’s still a big list – anything the Department itself, Network Rail, Highways Agency or Civil Aviation Authority work on.

In recent years the Committee has looked at subjects as diverse as the cost of motor insurance, modernisation of the Coastguard Service, sulphur emissions by ships, high speed rail, and aviation strategy.

From safety to travel savings

Last year, several of their enquiries were suggested by members of the public: transport in isolated communities; safety at level crossings; the consumer perspective on motoring agencies, particularly the DVLA; and the work of the British Transport Police.

We’ve some ideas ourselves that we’d like to put forward – particularly when it comes to transparency for train ticket prices and conditions of travel. And we’re also keen for the changes to terms and conditions to be more transparent so changes which could cause detriment to travellers don’t go unnoticed.

But we are also keen that the Committee hear directly from you. Some of our most popular Conversation debates have been transport themed – from speed limits, cameras, road tax, flights costs and cancellation rights. So what would you like the Committee to look into?


Smart traffic lights would be a welcome addition to the roads. How many times do you get to a junction and you’re the only vehicle there, and you wait and wait and wait. A smart traffic light could sense you’re the only vehicle there and change accordingly.
My local council replaced a roundabout with traffic lights presumably to ease rush hour, yet on Saturday or Sunday or late at night when there’s almost zero traffic from 2 of the 4 routes, one’s to a university sports field the other to a business park and hospital, you can still wait for ages whilst the lights go through a predefined cycle.

And as always, doing something about pot holes. Councils seem to have lost the plot on this one.

And FYI there’s no such thing as road tax any more it’s now Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)

I agree. I lived in Switzerland in the mid-1990s and the traffic lights turned to green automatically when you approached them. On the other hand, if you drove at over the speed limit, they would all turn red! Almost 20 years later, the UK still hasn’t caught up.

Also concerning traffic lights, we should have an automatic right to turn left on a red light while giving way to all other road users (unless signs indicate to the contrary). This right exists (for turning right) in the USA and parts of Eastern Europe.

I personally don’t think that it would wise to reinterpret a red light as “potentially proceed if it is safe” rather than “stop”. Arguably there are situations where a signal to this effect could be shown (but please not red), but these would not apply to all left turns, and might additionally apply to other exits. A separate light phase would be more helpful than lots of “this turn is/isn’t permitted in this situation” signs.

If the junction involves pedestrians crossing then allowing this would be extremely bad; for example the pedestrians might not yet have started to cross the road, but they see a green light for them to cross, but there would then be potential for collisions with vehicles. So not only would red not mean stop, but green also would longer mean go.

One also has to bear in mind visibility. Often there may be obstructions that prevent drivers from being able to see the whole of the left exit clearly enough to be able to determine whether it would be safe to proceed.

I believe it would be much better to fix problem junctions on an individual basis than applying your suggestion, and this could be through re-timing, smarter sensing, adding extra filter lanes etc.

We should also remember that an amber signal means STOP; the red light only means “don’t go”. I also am against a permissive left-turn at a junction where traffic is held at the signals. Just as visibility is sometimes impaired to the left by pedestrians and street furniture, visibility to the right is often blocked by vehicles in the parallel lane. A good technique employed at many junctions in the UK is the provision of full crossing control by means of pedestrian signalling, modern safety barriers with the vertical bars set at an angle to allow through vision [thus preventing young children from being obscured], and filter lights for the left-turning traffic. This is not suitable for all junctions, of course, so elsewhere drivers will just have to wait a few more seconds which is not too much to ask [all motorists are pedestrians sometimes but not all pedestrians are motorists; moreover, pedestrians don’t have accelerators so time spent in the rain is a pain]. It annoys me when I see banners and placards fastened to the pedestrian guard rails at road junctions by adjacent traders; perhaps they don’t understand the safety features incorporated in the barriers.

I am another one who is opposed to allowing vehicles to turn left when a red light is showing.

‘gg’ suggested that traffic lights should have a countdown timer to indicate the time remaining before the lights change. Modern traffic lights consist of a matrix of LEDs, so it would be easy to show times in seconds. I suspect it would just encourage motorists to speed up to beat the lights. 🙁
I wonder how well this works where the system has been tried.

During my travels on Saturday I saw a set of traffic lights with a countdown for the pedestrians. First time I’d seen that, my daughter said I see those quite alot .

And sorry if this is late to the party but what’s with traffic lights with grills over the green light Given the number of faulty lights I’ve come across in my driving life its not until I’m about 2 feet from them that I can tell their working. So not very useful.

And can highway planners at least be drivers, all too often when a new junction is added it takes about 6 weeks for the correct filters to be added giving the impression that its an after thought. Things like the main road has a filter for turning right yet the that road there’s no filter for turning left when there’s clearly going to be no traffic coming.

I believe that the grilles are intended to restrict the viewing angle, so that they cannot be seen as a green light except by those in the relevant queue of traffic. For example, grilles were installed at light controlled crossing soon after the traffic lights at a major junction near where I live. These grilles are sometimes set wrongly and cannot be suitable for both drivers of low sports cars and lorries with a high driving position.

I expect that a move to LEDs that provide a directional beam could be a better approach.

Traffic lights with filament lamps have very carefully designed lenses to give the directional beam specified. However, most traffic lights now are LEDs – they provide the colour without light-absorbing filters, and have long life and efficiency ; you can tell by how quickly the light is on and off – no decay. LEDs need lenses to concentrate their light intensity correctly – some are a part of the encapsulation, others are added to the front of the chip.

Stop HS2 – there is no need to travel at the speed this represents, and anyway, existing lines still have peak time capacity. Spend the money instead on existing railways, new links at reasonable (cheaper) speeds and integrate road and rail freight to relieve congestion on the roads. Oh, and release the report that contains honest opinions on HS2 that has been blocked by the transport minister – because it would give the public ammunition to show the flaws in the arguments.

Stop HS2 – there is no need to travel at the speed this represents” – I disagree with your reasoning. High speed trains are the norm in other Western European countries and the UK has fallen behind significantly. We need to get people off planes and on to the railways instead, and we can do this only if the overall journey time is comparable or better.

We are a fairly small country, with towns relatively close. Work out how long it takes you to travel to a station, wait for your train, and travel to your ultimate destination at the other end when you’ve spent 80 minutes getting to Birmingham. It reduces the value of ultra high speed. Do the same for intercity air travel – how long does it take you to get to the airport, through security, and again at the other end – having landed well out of town. It’s a vanity project resting on a myth. And look ahead 10 years – supposedly we will do much more from our offices rather than having to travel. For most people we need reliable affordable and fairly quick rail travel. They will not be able to afford HS2.

Improve clarity of rail ticket conditions, perhaps by including the key terms on the reverse side. E.g. “not valid to board any train before 0930”. Or, unless the customer requests otherwise, print an additional ‘coupon’ with those terms on together with every ticket sold.

Prevent selling of more expensive train tickets that are valid on exactly the same, or less, services (i.e. remove need to mess around with split tickets, or buying tickets beyond the destination and breaking the journey).

Make railcards available to all those on low incomes, not just young and senior persons.

Make trains more affordable.

Prevent train ticket barriers from stealing tickets at the end of a journey.

Improve train tickets so that they can actually be read by ticket barriers, even if stored in the same pocket as a cellphone for the duration of the journey.

Improve information available at rail stations and on trains, perhaps by providing free wifi for accessing at least National Rail, TOC websites, opentraintimes.com and realtimetrains.co.uk. ‘Free’ meaning without having to disclose one’s name/address/date of birth/mother’s maiden name/credit card number etc.

Add platform doors at stations (similar to those at some underground stations).

Declassify first class whenever passengers are forced to stand, or refund 90% of the fare for passengers forced to stand.

Increase luggage capacity on trains.

Force train operators to improve Delay Repay schemes so that all delays of 15 minutes within the rail industry’s control qualify for compensation, and such compensation should (optionally to the passenger) be payable electronically rather than in the form of rail vouchers that cannot be spent online or at ticket machines.

Force bus operators to implement reasonable Delay Repay schemes.

Make buses more affordable to students, without forcing them to buy a pass for a whole year/term.

Improve traffic lights (including pedestrian crossings) such that those which are on timers (rather than more reasonable mechanisms) are required to display a countdown of the number of seconds until the lights will change.

If pedestrian crossing “request” buttons are merely placebos, then always illuminate the “WAIT” light, without requiring the button to be manually pressed. Abandon use of the newer-style pedestrian crossing request buttons, which are much more difficult to press.

In places where pedestrians frequently cross the road, or walk alongside the carriageway, require consideration of the provision of crossing facilities and pavement respectively.

Improve pavements for users on wheelchairs and pedestrians with prams or trolleys by requiring dropped kerbs at every new junction.

Provide free/cheaper drinking water at airports once past security.

Improve online access to driving licence services without requiring a recent passport.

Support making compensation for delays usable online where the cheapest tickets are to be had.
Never been able to use any of my vouchers obtained for cancelled or delayed services.
Even more important with more ticket offices up for closure.

Get the Civil Aviation Authority to have a webpage where the consumer can enter their flight details to see if compensation for a a delayed flight has already been paid out, to end the practice of airline companies paying out for some claims and not others.

This is an excellent idea, but it would be better implemented at a European level so that all eligible delayed flights are included.

If you want to improve the UK transport system I would suggest The Committee pay a visit to Japan whose system is arguably the best and most efficient in the world. Their high speed Shinkansen has been operational since 1964 and currently runs 250 on a daily basis. We are still in the dark ages by comparison. Question is can we afford it? Japan also an island(s) is one and a half times the size of the UK with a population double the size. I visited there in 2005 and was in awe of the whole system.

Many companies advertised the cost of the flight to X which includes the relevant taxes etc. but when you try to book the flight the cost advertised is simply not available. or if the advertised price is when you go to pay on line the price increases as you are completing your details.

Why should the airlines and their agents be allowed to get away with this. If you went into a supermarket and the price on the shelf or product is X and then when you get to the checkout the price had gone up you would not accept this and beable to take this up with the staff or manager at the time but on line it is impossible.

This practise should be made illegal..

This is already mandated by Article 23 of Regulation (EC) No 1008/2008 of 24 September 2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community, which states “The final price to be paid shall at all times be indicated and shall include the applicable air fare or air rate as well as all applicable taxes, and charges, surcharges and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication“.

I would ban parking on main roads where the carriageway would be obstructed, particularly for loading and unloading. Roads should be for moving traffic. Shops, businesses and local authorities should have to make parking provision off-road, or in laybys, to allow for this (and, perhaps, for the disabled).

I agree with that but would also ban parking on the footway in such places. Where we live the county council has spent a fortune lowering the kerbs at road intersections to improve road safety and make life easier for people with mobility difficulties, pushchairs, etc, yet people are constantly having to move off the footway into the carriageway to get around cars parked partly or wholly on the pavement. These manouevres are precarious as there are usually no dropped kerbs at these points and drivers can suddenly confront a wheelchair or mobility scooter about to topple into their path.

I would also ban the practice of traffic wardens going round parking bays and making a note of the time the ticket runs out so they can pounce the second it has and actually make them target intersections.

Where I worked overlooked a roundabout and on one corner was a bank with a cash point , people would pull up blocking the roundabout to use the cash point and not once did I hear of anyone getting a ticket probably cos the wardens were too busy going round all the legal parking bays checking times, no doubt it is easy pickings for them.

Ron Reg says:
7 February 2014

CRUISE PRICING: An increasing number of people are taking Cruise Holidays. The price paid includes PORT TAXES and often a FUEL SUPPLEMENT. On a number of occaisions the cruise ship is unable to complete a port call due to a range of reasons. What happens to the cruisers’ prepaid Port Tax that will not be paid to the port that has been bypassed? Air Passenger Duty is refundable to the passenger, thus why not Port Taxes?
The Fuel Supplements levied by both Air and Cruise Lines should be able to be related to the publicly available price for each such fuel. So that if the fuel price reduces customers should be able to see and expect a reduction in their costs. At present we do not know the base price against which a Supplement maybe incurred or a decrease expected.

There is no need for fuel supplements. The price of the ticket should account for the fuel costs, whether they be high or low. Charging a fuel supplement in addition to the main fare is simply a way of giving a misleading indication of price.

I am not sure about this but I think cruise lines reserve the right to add a fuel supplememnt if there is a significant upward movement in the price of oil between the date of booking and the date of sailing. A lot of cruise passengers tend to book a year or more in advance (a) so they can make sure they get their choice of cabin, and (b) to take advantage of early booking discounts. Over that time the price of oil could move significantly and there is presumably some formula for calculating the supplement. As the date of sailing gets closer the prices change, first upwards and then downwards as they try to sell the remaining places. These prices probaly incorporate the current and forecast fuel price so they might not be subject to a supplement. I certainly agree that the supplement formula and calculation should be transparent; I don’t know whether any fuel supplements have actually been applied in recent times or whether it’s inclusion in the terms and conditions is more of a hedge against unforeseeable events like a Middle East war. I also agree with Ron Reg about the refund of any port taxes if a port call is cancelled for any reason. I have no idea how much a cruise ship pays in port taxes but there must be considerable expense for the port authorities, police, customs, and immigration control. If a call is cancelled many of these costs ought to be avoided [depending on the amount of notice given] and passengers should be entitled to a refund. Obviously, the cruise company has other port expenses [like excursion coaches, tour guides, ship handlers, stevedores, and so on], and some perishable stores that were going to be taken on might have to be abandoned but still paid for; nevertheless, some of those various costs and charges might also be avoided enabling a refund. The unavoidable costs should be absorbed in operating expenses as part of the risk of running a ship on the high seas. Unfortunately I cannot see the likelihood of any campaign to achieve transparency and refunds gaining much traction since overall there is not much sympathy for the woes of cruise passengers; the crusie lines themselves project the image of a privileged class even if that is not entirely representative.

No, this is incorrect. Large commercial users of fuel can buy their fuel in the forward market for future delivery or at least hedge against price rises using derivatives. Therefore the price of the fuel is known, or certainly can be fixed, well before the time of booking. If a travel company fails to hedge or buy its fuel in advance, then it, and not the passengers, should bear the loss.

What you describe could equally apply to energy companies couldn’t it? Apart from, we all know who bears the brunt of their buyers not doing their jobs well enough.

The energy companies do buy forward to help even out price fluctuations, and to provide a hedge for fixed price contracts. It happens in lots of industries.

I went to my little sisters birthday do on Saturday, picking up my daughter and then parents on the very round about way. What I noticed on the 2 motorways and several A roads were:

1) mobile phones being used
2) people not moving into the near side lanes when they’d overtaken people.

How about letting police forces set and keep the main bulk of motoring related fines. They can pay the government the same amount for each penalty notice but keep the excess. That money to be spent on recruiting more police personal.

If you watch these motoring programs on TV when they’ve needed 3 police cars and a helicopter to catch someone that person gets a very small fine, which wouldn’t even cover wear and tear on the machines or the time involved by the officers in the case. So why not let them recoup those costs and more?

Why not? Because letting individual forces profit from the penalties they impose would lead to prioritising easy pickings and encouraging catching minor misdemeanors for revenue, rather than concentrating on more serious offences. Just as happened with loacal authority enforcement officers (is that what they are called?) when traffic wardens were abolished – parking fines at any opportunity, with some councils setting targets with incentives.
However, middle lane hoggers seem to abound on the M25. Travelling round it on Saturday I was astounded at how many cars stayed in the middle lane, and 3rd lanes on 4 lane sections, quite oblivious to the new law and to motorists swooping round them when overtaking.

Chris A says:
31 March 2014

William and Malcolm R, I quite agree. So my points would be:
* Really enforce no use of mobile phones when driving (and smoking, as this also takes a hand away from the process of driving);
* As there is now a law about mindless, brain-in-neutral lane cruising, let’s enforce that too; what those drivers don’t appreciate is that they are actually less aware of their surroundings because they have “turned off” – if they have to keep monitoring the road to facilitate overtaking they remain more alert. Overtake – pull in; it’s a very simple process that we are all taught at driving school.
* Please can we take a lesson from the continent and confine lorries to the nearside lane between 06:00 and 20:00; our motorways are more congested than a lot of those on the continent (with the possible exception of the Northwest corner of Belgium/Netherlands) and the HGV overtake crawl just reduces the available space for other traffic (as do the lane hoggers) and causes traffic crowding and tail-backs.
* Can we please do something about the epidemic of red-light crashers that we seem to have in this country? Simply install junction cameras and book them; 3 points and a fine. Perhaps surprisingly, some of the worst offenders are professional drivers like buses, taxis and vans; a professional driver should set a good example to the rest of us lowly mortals!
I think those are my main items that I think need addressing as far as road travel is concerned.

Transport Committee says:
11 February 2014

Thanks for all your suggestions, which we will be considering in a couple of weeks time. We will announce our future programme shortly after that.

I notice a couple of weeks have elapsed since you posted this, so we must be getting close to having an announcement. Any idea when ?

I am concerned by the lack of durability of repairs to minor roads. Vehicles often have to veer off the road when meeting oncoming traffic and this progressively damages the edge of the tarmac, resulting in serious damage and potholes. The tarmac should have a firm concrete edging to help avoid damage.

Another problem is patchwork repairs of potholes when it is clear that repairs are likely to survive for a short period of time.

Consider how much time (and fuel) is wasted on overcongested roads – particularly for commuters and commercial vehicles. Consider how much time commuters waste on poor train services. Think of the state of our roads – full of damaging potholes being patched up for the short term. So why not spend money improving transport (and productivity) for the great majority of the British traveller rather than on the HS2 vanity project for a group of elite travellers? It makes no sense to me.

NukeThemAll says:
12 February 2014

Not a single word about cycling? This has tremendous potential to reduce congestion, but cycling provision in the UK is pathetic. Local councils adopt a ‘tick-box’ mentality and provide useless ‘cycle paths’ which are in the wrong places, too narrow (especially the disaster of shared cycle- and foot-ways), poorly-maintained and no thought given to junctions: ie all designed and implemented by people who have never, ever cycled in their lives (and if that’s not the situation, I’d love to hear their excuses for what they’ve done). And then motorists park in the cycle lanes and our council says ‘yes, it’s a problem but no, we won’t/can’t do much about it’. Even when money is available via government grants, our council decided that a new river-crossing bridge would be shared peds+bikes; the crashes, collisions and problems are already hitting the news……For many folks, cycling on-road is just too scary and dangerous, given the speed/congestion/aggression of traffic, but ‘educating the motorist’ is a huge task, possibly doomed to fail. So much more could be done within reasonable cost but…….

Transport Committee says:
31 March 2014

We have now published out future programme ideas – http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmtran/1143/1143.pdf

Future. programme 2014 – Article 3

I am pleased The Transport Committee are forging ahead with HS2 Project in as much as it will provide fast and efficient connections between Northern and Southern Regions, spreading industrial and economic links and easing congestion at air terminals.

Beryl, have you thought of the actual time saved? How long will it take you to get to the HSs2 station, and how long to get to your final destination after leaving the train at Birmingham or Leeds. So the 40 mins travel time saved will be insignificant. Just get up a bit earlier. Spend the money on improving existing rail lines, freight terminals and commuters to reduce congestion. It’s just another Concorde vanity project that will be of no benefit to most people. Can’t we think of better ways to spend £60 billion? I can.
The best way to develop the North and Midlands is to encourage industry and business to locate there, then to make use of the cheaper and more abundant housing opportunities and relieve the pressure on the south-east. HS2 will only add to the pressure.

Yes Malcolm I have thought of the benefits which are incalculable. We have to look ahead to the future and provide for our grandchildren who will be the beneficiaries of this project. We are a densely populated and congested small island with a tendency to resist change but with increasing competition in a global market we cannot allow other countries to push ahead and progress while we sit back on our laurels and just hope it will all come good.

To answer your question I would suggest you log on to http://www.mlit.go.jp/common/000127999.pdf where you will see some of the many benefits of the excellent high speed rail system which has been in operation since 1964 in Japan and has contributed to the success of not only their economy but to the advantage of the environment and the populace in general. I have been there and found the whole experience quite awe inspiring.

Beryl, The Major Projects Authority prepared a report on the viability of HS2. I asked why this had not been made public. In reply – a “rarely-used veto” prevented the publication of this report raising “very serious concerns as to the content of the report;we can only assume that the conclusions reached are not ones the Government wishes to share with us”.
This suggests it is a politically-motivated project, not one with a robust commercial case.
I do not like secrecy when it comes to spending my taxes. Projects such as this should be subject to proper and public scrutiny.
There are better uses for my money if this project is not commercially viable.

I accept there is always going to be democratic opposition to a project of this magnitude as was the case when railways were first built in the 1800′, some of the reasons then being:

* Shareholders in turnpikes and canals
* Those whose livelihoods depended on coach travel
* Landed gentry who feared the destruction of their estates and livestock, or who said they did so
they could claim more money for the land that the railway companies wanted.
* Farmers who might lose land.

Nimby was a word unheard of in those days but thank goodness the opposition lost out!
There has to be political intervention in order for MP’s to study proposals and objections which is part of the democratic process before reports are placed in the public domain.

The Concorde project was an unfair comparison as it was a noisy and dirty pollutant which serviced only the privileged wealthy and was never commercially viable but nevertheless a beautifully designed aircraft. I lived under it’s flight path and the windows would shake and rattle as it flew over my house. High speed trains on the other hand are fast, efficient, reasonably quiet and environmentally friendly, they will ease congestion and pollution on motorways, encourage tourism and will eventually pay for themselves over time as more people will be encouraged to use them.

I hope I will still be around to enjoy the ride!

Jeremy White says:
16 April 2014

how about tackling airlines and their approach to passenger luggage? Jet2 recently denied me compensation in respect of a damaged suitcase. They broke off and lost one of the wheels and refused compensation on the basis that a wheel is a protruding item which is more prone to damage! They further claim that the case is still fit for purpose!