Fragmented local government has failed us. Industry, academia and smart technology are vital partners for the future.
Fixing transport infrastructure in this region is not easy – ask any leader of the three Metro local authorities. Population growth ensures that congestion is not absolutely curable, but we can have plans for the mitigation of wasted time and the effects of gridlock. I spend far too much time in my car driving into work every day from South Gloucestershire because we do not have the public transport services in place to support people moving around as well as across the territory. I live and run businesses here and like everyone I have been frustrated by a failure of fragmented local politics to just get on with it. We boast about the work of our businesses, institutions and academia but we fail them when we do not have the right infrastructure in place to support their growth and development.
The role of Metro Mayor means we can change this, but not if we follow old paths. Problems cross the boundaries, but in the past concerns about territorial sanctity have over-ridden wonderful opportunities. The new combined authority eases that concern. We must be radical with how we tackle one of the most important issues in our region. It requires vision, ambition and boldness. To come up with solutions we need to work with government and our excellent businesses and universities and bring in wider expertise, resource and investment to find the strategic solutions.
I am committed to ending the culture of attacking drivers when we do not have adequate alternative forms of transport in place. I want to provide incentives for people to switch to environmentally friendly forms of transport. Clearly, if we are to build for the future we need transport infrastructure that is reliable, less polluting and environmentally friendly. I have four targets that will start the process of transforming transport in the West of England.
1. Reduce congestion in the region by 15%: that blissful condition that appears naturally during summer holidays but for a few weeks only. I am committed to reducing the number of cars on the road. I will introduce a new scheme that provides a discounted fare for one day per week in every week for anyone who opts to take a peak time return bus into his or her place of work.
2. Develop a super tram network: We have failed to be innovative and bold – 20 years ago we had plans ready to go for a tram system that was scuppered by infighting across boundaries. We need to look at places like Bordeaux and try to emulate what they have in the West of England. I will commit to begin the process of building a modern tram network with three key routes; one that connects Bristol City centre to Cribbs Causeway and UWE and another two that link Bath and Bristol to our world class Bristol Airport.
3. Switch to Smart public transport: Devolution is all about bringing people closer to decision making. Public transport is a service and I will ensure that consumers have a much greater say and input into what they receive. This will be achieved through e-ticket technology, which will allow paperless travel and also the opportunity to rate each journey so that we will measure and monitor the performance of the public transport providers. Where it doesn’t work I will press for improvement using both the resources and powers available to the Metro Mayor.
4. New ways to get into Bath and Bristol: Park and Ride is a helpful way to tackle congestion. There is a crying need for more provision and an immediate first step must be one on the M32. I will find ways to reconcile this need with the protection of countryside. User and non-user constituents will have due consultation but a practical compromise must be found if we are to be serious about supporting an efficient local economy.
Local government, with its current remit cannot provide all the answers; it faces challenges in education, health and social care that have spiralled out of control in recent years. I will take a collaborative approach, working with central and local government, industry and academia to develop ground breaking and innovative solutions including electric and autonomous vehicles to tackle our transport problems. We have the skills here and we now need to use them.