By Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central and Shadow Rail Minister
If we are serious about social mobility, then we have to ensure that transport is accessible for everyone. If we want to address air quality and climate change, then we have to understand that we have to make different transport choices. If we want to revitalise our economy, then we need the infrastructure to enable the movement of goods and services; and if we want to put public service and the needs of passengers at the heart of our transport system, then we need to ensure that there is good connectivity, affordable fares and facilities that meet the needs of the modern-day commuter or visitor.
For these reasons, Labour has invested in developing a different approach to transport, not relying on the failed models of the past, but a new form of public ownership which brings the networks together while ensuring that decisions are made locally. We need one body, no longer a fractured system, where the shared interest is to provide a safe and functional transport network.
It is no secret that the North has been short changed when it comes to infrastructure and transportation investment. This is why Labour has said that our first priority will be to deliver Crossrail for the North, with full connectivity to the great cities across the Pennines and beyond. This is the way that we will reconnect our economy and ensure that we maximise opportunities for goods and passengers to move at speed and with ease throughout the region.
While rail forms the main arteries of our transport system, we see buses playing a significant role in connecting people and places. This is why we have offered all 25-year-olds and younger the opportunity to travel by bus for free, while maintaining free bus travel for older residents. Developing opportunities like these enable young people to get to college, work and be able to afford a trip out, while at the other end of the scale will keep people independent for longer.
Accompanying our plans, we have placed active travel (cycling and walking) centre stage. Not only is it better for the environment and local economy but for ensuring that we are a fit and healthy nation too. Changing the way that we think about transport will be key to seeing the modal shift that we believe will benefit people up and down the country.
We have amazing assets in the North that have been forgotten for far too long. It was where rail was birthed, and it is where we want to see the high-tech solutions of the future developed. We have listened carefully to the aspirations of businesses and residents, to the ports and airports, as well as people working right across the rail and bus sector, and we know that our shared vision will help Labour deliver the kind of sustainable transport system which will put the forgotten towns and cities of the North back on the map. The best years are ahead: we just need the chance to deliver.