Roddy Graham's Blog: 15 October 2009 - Transport policy
15 October 2009
Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo
Now that the three major party conferences are behind us I thought it would be interesting to see what they had to say about transport.
Not much really, apart from Labour, which is surprising.
As readers of my blog will know, I've been quite impressed with Lord Adonis and would recommend his conference speech to anyone.
If you don't feel like reading it, here are a few interesting highlights.
More than half of all journeys - including journeys to work, to school and to college - are of five miles or less.
In the Danish capital, Copenhagen, 40% of journeys are now by bike.
In the Netherlands, a third of Dutch rail passengers use bikes to get to and from their final destination.
The figure for Britain is just 3%! No wonder Labour wants to get more of us on our bikes to relieve congestion, improve the environment and make us healthier. No surprise then the announcement of a £14m programme to create cycling hubs at 10 UK railway stations - see my blog dated 1 Oct 2009 for more details and comment.
Other interesting headline statistics from his entertaining speech include the fact that only Wales and Albania do not currently have a single mile of electrified rail. No wonder Labour has outlined plans for the biggest electrification programme in a generation including between Cardiff and Swansea.
In Continental Europe, there are 3,600 miles of high speed rail. In the UK, just 68 miles.
No surprise then, the 20-year North-South high speed network project announced earlier in the year. Again, see my blog dated 16 July 2009.
So much for party conferences, what do the parties say about transport on their websites?
Again, for some, astonishingly little. The Lib Dems prefer smoke and mirrors over substance.
I quote: "The transport system should empower individuals to make sustainable choices about the way in which they live, while offering modern, affordable, accessible and reliable means of travelling around Britain."
That's actually their opening statement.
Contrast that with Lord Adonis's statement in his speech that "we face a challenge: how to reconcile personal mobility for all, one of the foundations of social justice, with tackling climate change in our generation".
The LibDem's idea of substance is: "We would invest in a proper public transport system, taxing lorries and domestic flights to invest in high speed rail. By cutting petrol duty and Vehicle Excise Duty and introducing a revenue-neutral motorway and truck road pricing."
The woolliness goes on. Hardly surprising, they have fat chance of being elected!
The Conservatives are all for a high speed rail revolution and reforming Network Rail. It's worrying they start becoming political again by talking about transforming the Rail Regulator so that they can block the bonuses of Network Rail senior executives. We're concerned with a transport policy, not scoring cheap pot shots!
The Tories want to tackle congestion by building new roads and providing an improved public transport system.
They propose delivering a national re-charging network to boost greener driving through electric and plug-in hybrids.
Of note, as a topical aside, the Climate Change Committee stated earlier this week that if Government was to meet its carbon emission reduction targets, among other measures, 1.7m electric vehicles would be required by 2020, supported by a proper re-charging network infrastructure.
The Tories would also say 'no' to a third runway at London Heathrow, ensure foreign trucks contributed properly to road maintenance and would seek to create a Transport Carbon Reduction Fund to which local councils could apply for green travel initiative funding.
In summary, the Tories outline a transport approach combining some firm proposals with politically motivated actions. Not exactly a structured totally-integrated transport policy.
Labour seems to come closest to the latter, firmly having tied its colours to a green mast by centring its policy on carbon emission reduction. Interestingly, it states categorically that it will act on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change - see above.
The party claims that for the first time in a century there is a fully funded plan for the rail network, which will double passenger and freight numbers over the next 30 years. It will give local councils more power to ensure local transport meets the needs of local people.
It claims key recent achievements include an extra £1bn investment in major transport projects; £5.5bn for Thames Link; £600m for railway station improvements at Birmingham New Street and Reading plus a further £150m for refurbishing a further 150 rail stations; funding for Crossrail; and the introduction of free-off peak travel on local buses in England for the over 60s.
Specific future targets include delivering over 1,300 new carriages (close to an extra 100,000 seats) for the rail network by 2014 and a simplified structure of rail fares and ticket types across all rail operators.
More substance on their transport policy then than any other party.
Don't think I have any political axe to grind. I don't.
As regular readers know only too well, I have little regard for any MP of whatever political persuasion.
The on-going "expensesgate" saga merely underlines my view.
However, we are entering an important period for those interested in seeing a joined-up, integrated transport policy for our country as we run-up to next year's general election.
We all need to start lobbying our local MPs now, and hard.