Those of you who know me will know how passionate I am about good transport.
Public transport is about more than just getting from A to B. It’s about connecting communities; ensuring that working people can get to their jobs; that families and friends are linked. It is a precious resource, and one that the Government needs to ensure is fit for purpose.
It’s for this reason that I was so angry about the Government’s bizarre decision to award the failing rail company Avanti a six-month contract extension. This is despite the fact that Avanti broke records during its so-called ‘improvement plan’ for the highest proportion of trains running more than 15 minutes late.
Sadly, this decision is the latest in a long line of transport blunders which are causing massive disruption to local people.
In November 2021, the Government scaled back Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would have been a real game-changer for northern communities. Despite the Government pledging a high-speed line from Birmingham to Leeds and another between Leeds and Manchester, Northern Powerhouse Rail will now be made up of half a new high-speed line, and the other half solely consisting of upgrades to existing infrastructure.
HS2 has been delayed, and there were fears it wouldn’t even reach Euston until the Chancellor was forced to step-in.
All of this speaks to a fundamental neglect of transport links for northern communities. I constantly speak to constituents who just feel like nothing works.
For the time being, the only cloud on the horizon is the Bee Network, which would integrate public transport across Greater Manchester. After intense negotiations with the Government, Transport for Greater Manchester has also secured support for the network to be integrated with existing rail infrastructure across Greater Manchester.
This is a big win, and will help residents move freely around the city in the same way that you can in London. Once this network becomes a reality, it will be a real vindication for local leaders who have worked tirelessly to bring our local transport system back under public control.
I want to see this kind of ambition matched by the national Government.
We shouldn’t have to put up with shoddy inter-region travel. It shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to squeeze yourself onto a train which inevitably runs late anyway.
Enough mismanagement and neglect. Let’s create a transport system fit for the future.