In his first blog as Campaign for Better Transport's new Chief Executive, Darren Shirley explains what the future holds for the organisation under his stewardship.
There has been one consistent feature over the last 12 years of my working life: the commute on public transport. Trains into London. Trains out to Surrey. Different combinations of London transport. When it works, it can be a joy to commute.
When it goes wrong, it can be painful: Overcrowded platforms; packed like sardines in carriages; stuck on trains in the middle of nowhere as signals fail or trains break down; snow, sun, wind and rain ceasing journeys; or buses caught up in congested streets taking considerably longer than necessary.
At one point in my career the daily train service became so ghastly that, with a car full of colleagues, we drove to work from home in South London to the depths of Surrey. I had a choice, but the cost and unreliable service left only one answer at that time.
This morning I joined the thousands of commuters on the London Underground as I headed to start as the new Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport - an organisation that has been driving improvements that have impacted on my day-to-day life for many years.
Over the last 30 years, under the leadership of Stephen Joseph, Campaign for Better Transport has helped thousands of local campaigners oppose bus cuts and destructive road building; helped reopened rail lines and secured new stations; put a stop to above inflation rail fare rises, and started to make Government recognise cyclists and pedestrians as part of the transport mix.
In the coming decade there will be major challenges that will shape the transport sector well into the future. The way we work, shop and travel is changing, and this will bring profound changes to the way we move around and between our cities, towns, and villages.
The next few years will be crucial for the future of transport. Decisions will be made that will shape the future of mobility and these should be focused on bringing benefits to the wellbeing of communities, quality of life and the environment.
But for now, there is a crisis brewing in public transport, and appalling levels of air pollution from road transport that are damaging to people’s health and the environment. The changes of tomorrow will be meaningless to those who have struggled to get into work for weeks as train services are cancelled, who face damaging road schemes in their community, or who are isolated due to unaffordable or unreliable public transport.
It’s a real privilege to be taking over from Stephen, and working with the fantastic team at Campaign for Better Transport. I look forward to leading the organisation in its vital work and to influencing what the future of transport looks like.
Darren Shirley takes up his post of Campaign for Better Transport's Chief Executive on August 8th. Follow Darren on Twitter: @darrenshirley