transport and politics… and my latest…

i was honoured to be invited to be guest editor for Progress for their ‘Transport Day’ 9 days ago.  here is the link to my editorial for the day – the contributors brought great variety but all excel in their thinking on transport policy and ideas for the future.

it would be churlish to ignore the amount of debate currently taking place – not just on HS2 but across the transport sector.  What is the future for our railways – I have written in the past about a unified InterCity operation running the West and East Coast Main Lines plus the Great Western, East Anglian and Cross Country Main Lines.  It’s great to see Labour really push on with this idea.

I would also like to see the devolution agenda really pushed ahead with in the transport sector.  The City Region networks need to be developed, enhanced and invested in.  Powers for strategy development and investment decisions need to be moved from Whitehall to our regions.  As a matter of urgency.

Back to HS2. It is good to see the support for HS2 take the lead now and for the opponents of HS2 to be properly scrutinised.  The 51M councils (reducing in number of course) must be taken to task over the amount of taxpayers money they are spending in order to prove their opposition for their own political purposes but knowing it is an utter waste of that finite resource.  Their clear support for the roadbuilding agenda is also now obvious to all and they must also be scrutinised on their policy thinking and its connection with the real world.  Investment in broadband infrastructure is happening now and is unaffected by future high speed rail investment; meanwhile it is simply unrealistic, in fact pure fantasy, to think that our long term strategy can be based on major road building over all other modes of transport.

In the mean time, there is plenty more politics to be mulled over.  Transport, well a big chunk of transport policy, is relatively apolitical compared to other policy areas.  While methods for funding and decision-making are relatively political, pure transport strategy is focused on a much more human aspect.  Improving transport is based on improving opportunities, accessibility, connectivity and, ultimately, the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of everyone.  So, for example, when we discuss high speed rail, it is well-known that all 3 political parties support HS2.  Likewise, the broader policy environment means that transport policy is looking to reduce carbon and support wider economic benefits for minimal expenditure.

So, in the transport debate, what big things can we do?  Well perhaps the biggest is over the place of transport in policy discussions (as well as in the planning and funding decision-making environments).  Major reform is required in terms of the role and place of transport across wider economic, social and environmental policy development and decision making.

I know it isn’t a small ask but, ultimately, when you keep finding the same problems or a lack of resolve in pressing the solution required, then perhaps radical reform really is the only option.


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