David Thornhill of Nottinghamshire Campaign for Better Transport has been campaigning on environmental issues for over 40 years.
David explains: "Back then, to be an environmentalist meant you were considered to be a very strange person! But now there are a large number of organisations, groups and individuals campaigning on environmental issues, which is great."
But what is David’s motivation to keep campaigning? David believes that transport is an extremely important issue: "A good transport system is key to a socially equitable society, whilst the wrong transport policy is environmentally destructive and adds to climate change. Campaigning for the right transport policy is essential – it’s not about being totally anti car, it is about getting that balance right and we seem to have lost that balance in society."
David volunteers with Nottinghamshire Campaign for Better Transport, a local group which campaigns on transport issues that affect the Nottingham area.
"A good transport system is key to a socially equitable society."
Personal touch wins timetable success
David led a very successful campaign challenging a change of timetable. David explains: "The train operator stopped a key commuter train which was many people’s only way to get to work. The removal of this service had a profound negative effect upon commuters".
David’s first step was to talk to the passengers. As an occasional user of the service, David travelled on the train letting passengers know of the imminent timetable change and telling people what they could do to get the service reinstated. David encouraged passengers to write letters to the train operator and to send a copy of the letter to the local MP.
David also designed an A4 poster which he prominently displayed on the station notice board. The poster clearly outlined how the new timetable would affect passengers' travel.
As well as engaging passengers, David also contacted local media; he sent press releases to the parish council and local press. The story generated a lot of interest, as David explains: "We even got the local BBC down to the station one morning and as well as interviewing me the broadcaster spoke with the passengers about how the cut would affect them".
David reflects that such personal accounts can be very effective: "The rail company was completely unaware of the profile of the passenger and totally oblivious to customers’ needs. Highlighting how the service cut really affected passengers sent out a very strong message".
"Campaigning against a change of timetable is really rather annoying," David says. "Changes can be made to timetables without informing anyone, and there is very little you do about it once the new timetable has been decided upon. Even though we successfully campaigned for the old timetable to be reinstated, we had to live with the new timetable for six months! It’s a ludicrous situation; consultation with passengers should happen before any decisions are made."
David is now putting a case forward for stakeholders to be involved with the consultation process when deciding upon a new timetable.
How to brew up a high-profile campaign
But it's not just railways and buses that the group campaigns on. Campaigning should be fun and it's good to 'think outside the box' when considering what local transport issues to tackle. The Nottinghamshire group did this, together with CAMRA the Campaign for Real Ale.
This unlikely partnership arose from the threatened closure of a local brewery. Nottinghamshire Campaign for Better Transport got involved as the closure of the brewery would mean that beer would have to be transported further, adding to 'beer miles'.
This has proved to be a great relationship and David has received a lot of support from CAMRA, who are promoting the group at the Nottingham Beer Festival. The local group's name and logo have also gone on all publications and publicity materials!
David urges anyone who feels strongly about local transport issues to get involved with local campaigning: "It is vital that people get on board."