As in so many key policy areas Labour have promised much but delivered very little. Their transport plans have been a dismal failure. We have still got by their own admission ‘the worst railways in Europe’, they have frittered away millions on administrative costs at the Department for Transport and road congestion is getting worse not better. British business and the public are being badly let down by a Government that has not a clue on how to deal with transport issues in the 21st century.
Under Labour rail services have got slower, less punctual and more congested. Their aim of getting commuters out of their cars and onto public transport has been a total failure. Public subsidy for the railways has been substantially increased but more trains run late than they did ten years ago and passenger overcrowding is worse.
Labour’s pushed through a legally complex Public Private Partnership for the London Underground maintenance that squanders hundreds of millions of pounds and gave Londoners the Metronet shambles. Overcrowding on the tube is getting worse with travelling conditions in summer it which it would be illegal to transport live stock.
Labour have through stealth taxation such as fuel duty and. vehicle excise duty, grabbed more and more cash from motorist without delivering any meaningful road improvements. For many drives Government imposed tax has pushed fuel prices up to more than £1 a litre. The speed ‘safety’ camera network has been dramatically expanded as a means of raising revenue. At the same time there has been a reduction by one third in the number of dedicated traffic police. The condition of our roadways is a disgrace with maintenance reduced to a level that will not sustain roads in the medium and long term.
The congestion tax has damaged London’s economy and has done little to cut congestion. Its only effect has been to drive the poor off of central London roads. It should be scrapped.
It really is a time for a complete change in the direction of our nations transport policy. Transport schemes must be locally led not driven by imposing central Government targets. Local councillors and local people are in the best position to decide how to meet an areas transport needs. Excessive Government interference in local transport issues must be minimised wherever possible. More of our transport network needs to be opened up to private initiative and finance.
Britain’s transport network must provide efficient, safe and cost-effective services for the travelling public. We must work towards to integration and co-ordination of services across all the means of transport.
There needs to be fair pricing and competition to ensure efficiency in all transport services. The deep cuts in the road maintenance budget must be reversed. Realistic schemes to cut car use such as trams or light rail must be given a priority. The taxes raised from transport should be invested in transport which will ensure that we are putting sufficient resources into our future transportation needs. We should use the tax system to reward those who drive less polluting vehicles.
We must give greater powers over service provision to the train operating companies so that they are able to respond to the needs of their customers. Their franchises should run for longer periods to encourage them to make realistic and necessary investment.
We need to look at air travel to ensure that we are taking concerns for the environmental fully into account. A first step must be the elimination from service of older more environmentally damaging aircraft. We need to look carefully at the near monopoly of airport control by BAA in the South East.