"Renationalisation is neither a sensible nor sustainable way forward"by Bob Neill / November 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
We’re going to be hearing a lot about transport over the coming weeks, and for good reason. Being able to get easily from A to B—whether that’s to the next village for the weekly shop or to China and back for work—is massively important, not only as a stimulus for businesses and local economies, but also as anyone who has a daily commute will tell you, for our quality of life too. That is why transport will quite rightly remain one of the key issues on which the forthcoming election is fought.
And yet, in spite of the near universal acceptance of its importance, governments of all colours, at the local, regional and national level, historically and now, have been notoriously bad at delivering transport infrastructure. That is, in part, as a result of a tribal, insular politics in which different constituent parts of our country compete with each other for finite funding, leading to vital projects falling into the “too difficult” pile. At other times it is also, I believe, due to a lack of pragmatism in the consideration of potential solutions. While Heathrow may now have been given the green light to build its third runway, there are some of us who, due to a mixture of legal challenges and planning conditions, remain unconvinced that the project will ever properly take off.
So how do we make the UK ready for 21st-century travel? I approach this dilemma as a Londoner born and bred who has represented a London constituency in parliament for the last 13 years (and, for that matter, hopes to continue representing it after 12th December). Although my thinking is unashamedly London-centric, I believe the logic behind it is applicable UK-wide.
First, we need to devolve responsibility for transport to regional government. In our capital, that means allowing Transport for London, which has a successful track record of delivering real benefits for passengers, to take over the reins on rail. That would ensure greater alignment with tube, bus and tram services on fare levels, ease of interchange and timetabling, ticketing and passenger information systems. It would also end the inevitable conflict in geographically large areas that sees the needs of suburban passengers pitted against those travelling from further afield.
Second, we must update legislation to ensure it remains fit for purpose. That is particularly important in terms of the regulations governing private hire vehicles. In this rapidly changing market, reform is urgently required to both protect customers and to create a fairer playing field for traditional cabbies and their app-based competitors.
And third, we should harness technology to not only deliver green solutions to the problems of today, but also to improve the experiences of communities. That involves, for example, addressing the current deficiency in charging points for electric cars, as well as modernising our airspace and making better use of more accurate satellite technology to reduce noise pollution.
What is clear to me is that renationalisation is neither a sensible nor sustainable way forward. Instead, we should look to secure more private investment, including from pension schemes, focussing that cash on holistic, evidence-based improvements that deliver the greatest benefits for the greatest number of people.