THE CHALLENGE OF SUSTAINABILITY 11 June 2015 | Author: Stephen Joseph OBE, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport
The Transport Secretary faces a range of challenges to get this country moving and craft a transport system which is sustainable, efficient and fair. Patrick McLoughlin must make the right decisions on the important issues of rail fares, rail franchising, buses and roads which all have a strong impact on people’s everyday lives.
Investment in the rail network must continue without the financial burden of funding being solely placed on hard-pressed rail users. After ten years of inflation-busting rail fare rises the promise to halt above-inflation fare increases is a step in the right direction but much more needs to be done. This Government must ensure passengers are always sold the cheapest ticket available and stick to their promise of introducing flexible ticketing for part-time workers.
Local authorities should be given greater control over rail services in their area, especially over failing suburban rail services, and the programme of rail re-openings must grow.
The Government needs to do more to save essential bus services which are being lost all over the country and which are good value for money. Since 2010 more than 2,000 routes have been reduced or cut entirely, severely hampering many people's ability to get around, particularly in isolated areas. We need to see an end to year-on-year cuts in bus funding and greater devolution of control over buses in urban areas.
The Government should also build on the recently announced “total transport” pilot projects to bring services together at local level.
With funding tight, the Government needs to reconsider its roads priorities. Under existing plans, huge sums are to be spent on big new road projects which will increase traffic and pollution, while there is a £12bn backlog in maintenance of local roads. The government should sort out local roads, give people real travel choices and review the big road projects. Road projects threatening important sites such as Stonehenge and our national parks should be reassessed and alternatives properly considered.
On freight, HGVs cost taxpayers £6.5bn a year in pollution, congestion and road maintenance, and this subsidy makes it difficult for rail freight to compete. Roads will be safer and the air cleaner if more freight goes by rail and water.
Regarding aviation, people should be encouraged out of planes and on to trains for domestic travel. Increasing airport capacity is incompatible with a sustainable transport system and cutting air pollution.
The Government must hold to its commitment to double the number of journeys taken by bike, as cycling has shown to have real benefits for physical and mental wellbeing as well as reducing absenteeism costs for employers and costs to the NHS.