With the election dust beginning to settle, there is still much confusion on what happens next. Certainly the Parliament will be dominated by Brexit (the civil service has been told that there will be no legislative time for anything else), but that won’t mean that transport will be a backwater; there are a lot of challenges and potentially interesting initiatives coming up.
The Government will publish its outline rail strategy on 20 July, and is working up its next roads strategy for next year. However, the lack of a majority in Parliament will lead to increased pressures for extra road and rail schemes, and will also allow coalitions of backbenchers to push new ideas. We will be pushing for new and reopened railway lines and stations, and simpler and cheaper ways of delivering them. As a first step next month we’ll be publishing a guide to Expanding the Railways setting out how the current system works. On roads, we’ll be pushing for more emphasis on local road maintenance and on schemes benefiting all road users, rather than big trunk road projects. Using new evidence, we’ll be suggesting that putting 'roads' money into railfreight upgrades might actually help road users too.
We’ll also be working with others to get a stronger air quality strategy, rather than the weak one set out in the consultation. If there is money around for a diesel scrappage scheme, it needs to help people use public transport and invest in safe and high quality cycling and walking routes in areas with high pollution, not just hand out cash to diesel car owners across the country.
The dawning realisation that young people do actually vote may bring forward ideas like a national youth concession scheme for bus travel; again, all parties have talked about something along these lines. However, discount bus fares are no use if there are no buses to use them on. We’ll want to keep the pressure up for the Bus Services Act implementation and for proper funding for local bus services, to avoid the spreading 'transport deserts' (Cheshire East has just proposed [PDF] the withdrawal of all evening and Sunday buses and links to sizeable communities in the area).
On the railways, fares simplification will be unavoidable (all parties are committed to it), and poorly performing rail franchises will face additional Parliamentary pressure for improvements or the sack. There will be increased pressure for more devolution of rail services (several of the new city mayors, four of them Conservative, have made commitments on this. We’ll keep up the pressure for passenger interests to be at the centre of rail policy.
Wider change may come through housing policy, where there will be pressure for focusing on higher density developments near rail stations rather than in greenfield sites. Again, we’ll be using our research to make the case for this.
For big projects, the Heathrow third runway looks vulnerable to pressure from lots of MPs in and around the South East, and also from those in the North unwilling to pay for the surface access costs (we hope to do research exposing these).
Above all, what Parliament does will matter more than in the past, so all-party groups will make a difference. Pressure on your MP will matter more than ever.
Get in there early! Why not arrange to meet with your new or returning MP and tell them how important transport is to you? You can check who was elected in your constituency on the BBC website.
It's plain to see that transport faces some interesting times! Here at Campaign for Better Transport our vision is a country where communities have affordable transport that improves quality of life and protects the environment. We will continue to press for this as we have done for more than 40 years. For all of the latest developments, please sign up to our monthly e-bulletin.