Author:EVENING STANDARD COMMENT
Earlier this week, the Evening Standard’s health editor Ross Lydall reported that London hospitals have been banned from hiring more than 80 doctors and therapists because of visa restrictions. Now we learn that the problem for the country’s public services and businesses is far wider, affecting an enormous range of skilled occupations.
The Campaign for Science and Engineering obtained data from the Home Office which shows that more than 6,000 Tier 2 visa requests for workers from outside the EU were refused in the four months to March, including 1,518 doctor roles, 1,226 for IT and technology, 392 for engineering, 361 for other health professionals and 197 for teaching.
The monthly quotas fall far short of demand for skilled workers, from finance analysts to IT specialists.
It is impeding growth and damaging firms’ international competitiveness.
Ironically, one reason for the shortage of visas is because more of them have been given to nurses from outside the EU since fewer from inside it are coming to work here.
But unemployment is low, especially in the sectors affected by the cap; there are, in some areas, simply too few skilled workers to go round. We need a pragmatic immigration policy; right now we don’t have it.
Check your journey times. The very good news is that there will be hundreds of extra services for London’s commuters in the biggest modern reform of train timetables.
GTR, the parent company of Southern Rail, Thameslink and Great Northern, will run 400 more trains a day from Monday; that amounts to an increase of 13 per cent and, at some times, a service every 24 seconds.
On Southern, many trains will increase in size from five to eight carriages, an obvious and overdue reform which almost doubles capacity.
There will, moreover, be a new South London Metro service and improved peak services.
On Thameslink there will be a significant increase in the frequency and length of trains between Bedford and St Pancras.
There will be inevitable changes to regular train services: some will start and end at different stations.
And because the operators will have to redeploy a large number of trains and crews, services may not run at normal times during the introductory phase.
This will inevitably cause confusion, maybe occasional chaos. But it will be worth it in the end. Our commuter services desperately needed extra capacity and now they will have it; trains will be less overcrowded and there will be more of them.
Bear with the teething problems… there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.