This article was published in 2017, in Newsletter 132.
As Shadow Transport Minister, I’ve spent the last eighteen months holding the Government to account on cycling and walking. Their much delayed Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy is strong on good intentions, but weak on investment, and outside key places, spending will fall to a woefully inadequate £1.39 per head per annum by 2019.
Labour will do much more – one of the strongest barriers to cycle uptake are fears about safety. Those killed or seriously injured rose by a third during the last Parliament and 64% of people say they consider it too dangerous to cycle. We will restore the national road safety targets foolishly abolished by the Government. And we will make the National Roads Fund budget available for local transport projects. The funding streams available for cycling are complicated, being a mixture of local and national funding, but this should enable us to move towards the long-sought £10 per head per annum, and then further still.
I want cycling to be the transport mode of choice for everyone, and getting more women cycling, as is the case in other countries, is a key goal. As a regular user of an electric bike myself in Cambridge, I know that there are huge opportunities, and I will continue to work with Camcycle to protect and champion our vibrant cycling community.
Beyond cycling and walking, Labour will make London-style bus franchising powers available to all areas and end the pointless ban on councils establishing municipal bus companies. Re-nationalising our railways will be at the heart of Labour’s transport policy.
In Cambridge, we need better ways to tackle congestion. We should not impose a charge on those who live outside the city but have to travel in to work – effectively, a tax on the poor. I will work with the newly-elected Mayor to rationalise the over-lapping City Deal and devolution plans. We should be encouraging people to use the Park & Ride – and undo the foolish cost-cutting changes which have led to a steep decline in usage. I have been at the centre of Parliamentary debates over how to tackle air pollution, and support Labour-led Cambridge City Council plans for a Clean Air Zone, with a swift transition to electric taxis and many more charging points for electric cars. With rapidly developing technologies, we are on the cusp of a transport revolution – and I want Cambridge at the forefront.