Get Transport Moving, Darling

In the wake of Stephen Byers long overdue resignation, Alistair Darling has been appointed the new Transport Minister.

Byers’ successor needs to get transport policy moving in the right direction, and moving quickly. Road and rail users want to see a sensible transport strategy that delivers long-term improvements not piecemeal measures and knee-jerk reactions.

The new Transport Secretary must get Britain moving again. To help Mr Darling, the Conservatives have published the top five priorities for transport policy:

To adopt a serious transport strategy: In recent weeks the Transport Select Committee, the Commission for Integrated Transport, and the Social Exclusion Unit have all attacked Labour’s Ten-Year Transport Plan. The Transport Select Committee called it ‘incomprehensible’. This must be addressed.

To address the problems on the rail network: Stephen Byers’ decision to place Railtrack into administration had a disastrous effect on the rail network. Delays and cancellations are up, while the cost to the taxpayer of keeping the company in administration is around £1 million a day (The Times, 20 December 2001).

To reverse the worsening congestion levels in our towns and cities: Five years ago, Labour’s first Transport Secretary, John Prescott, said: ‘I will have failed if in five years time there are not far fewer journeys by car’ (The Guardian, 6 May 1997). Since then, congestion has increased on all roads, despite the fact that running a car is now the most expensive item in a households’ budget.

To work constructively to deliver a secure future for the London Underground: Labour have spent considerably less on the Tube than the Conservatives, and performance has got worse. Now, they need to rethink their botched public-private partnership proposals, and work with others to secure a good future for the Tube.

To take action to restore the air traffic control system to good health: In opposition, Labour promised that our air was not for sale, but we are now paying the price for their botched part-privatisation of air traffic control. Failures in the air traffic control system are becoming increasingly common, resulting in delays and cancellations. Labour ignored expert opinion and pushed ahead with their plans. Now they have to take action to restore the system to good health.

Speaking about Byers’ resignation, Shadow Cabinet minister Damien Green said:

“His long overdue departure will do nothing for our crumbling transport system. The real scandal of the Byers era has been the failure of the government to implement a sensible plan for improving our railways and easing congestion on the roads”.