As a former Shadow Transport Minister, and a current member of the Transport Select Committee, transport is one of my key focuses in Parliament. It is a hugely important issue in Cambridge, with many of us spending far too long waiting for buses or trains every day. We’re lucky in Cambridge, as it’s a great city to walk and cycle around, but this is not the same everywhere in the country, and even in our city we can always improve the roads for active travel. I spoke in a debate in the House of Commons about the Gilligan Report into cycling, and called for better bike parking in the city, and more policy focus on electric bikes and dockless bike schemes.
As a member of the Transport Select Committee, I grilled the Transport Secretary in committee hearings and in Parliament over the rail chaos that dominated much of the summer for Cambridge commuters. The government’s confirmation that rail fares will increase by a further 3.1% in January, the biggest hike in six years, is a real kick in the teeth for commuters after such miserable service this year. This increase outstrips average wage rises, and shows a Government and rail companies which are completely out of touch with the needs of passengers. We need a Labour Government, to step in and bring the fragmented rail system back together again, with passengers’ needs at the top of the agenda.
Since July 2017, I have been in the process of bringing a Private Member’s Bill through Parliament, the Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill, which would make taxis and private hire vehicles safer for everyone to use. The Bill would grant greater licensing enforcement powers and mandate information sharing between local authorities, to give councils the powers they need to properly regulate the trade.
Following the publication of the new report, “Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing Steps towards a safer and more robust system“, by the Working Group commissioned by the Department for Transport, I led a debate in Parliament on the report. This powerful report calls for legislation to update regulation and licensing of taxi and private hire vehicles, and it calls for it quickly. Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, the group chair, underlines this in his introduction, stating that “undue delay would risk public safety“. This again proves the need for more robust standards in licensing, as my Private Member’s Bill would have provided – but it was talked out by a Conservative MP. I will continue to press to make the taxi and private hire trade safer, by stopping the ill-intentioned few who want to exploit the system and do down its reputation to the detriment of hard-working cabbies.
It has long been a passion of mine to see reliable, affordable and accessible buses across the country which serve communities, not investors. After having buses as part of my brief when I was Shadow Transport Minister, and taking the Bus Services Bill through Parliament, I have maintained involved in campaigning for better services, including greater accessibility, concessionary bus passes, driver shortages and more. I have asked Ministers in the Commons about a National Bus Strategy, and written an article about this too for CityMetric. I greatly welcomed Labour’s policy announcement this year that we would fund free bus travel for under 25s in areas with franchised or publically-owned bus services.