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Adonis shows the way on transport, and debates

Posted on 12 March 2010 | 12:03pm

It was inevitable that the sight of three Labour MPs and a Tory peer walking into court would dominate the news agenda yesterday. Of course it was a real story, but of far greater lasting significance to Britain’s future was the announcement of the plans for a high-speed rail network.

Meet virtually anyone in the transport sector, and they will tell you that Andrew Adonis has been a terrific transport secretary, and his enthusiasm for this project for very sound economic and environmental reasons has been one of its principal drivers.

We are way behind the likes of France and Japan with regards to rail, but anyone who ever sits in traffic on the M1, and watches the trains (even at today’s pace) whizzing by, must surely realise rail is the future, rather than building more and more motorway capacity.

Eurostar, for all the difficulties of a few months ago, has been a fantastic example of how a good service can transform people’s perceptions and behaviour. I would no more think of driving or flying to Paris or Brussels now than I would think of voting Tory.

Talking of which, I understand Andrew and Tory transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers recently did a debate together in front of an audience which was asked to give their views on the two parties’ policies before the debate, and after. By the time the arguments had been heard, a Tory lead had changed to a big Labour lead. Andrew may not be the most classically telegenic politician, and alas he is in the Lords not the Commons. But he really knows his stuff whereas it seems Theresa Villiers did not, and resorted to platitudes and attack lines.

Across the policy board, Labour has nothing to fear from such debates and ministers should be challenging their oppos to them left, right and centre, and encouraging the broadcasters to cover as many as they can fit in.

  • John McShane

    I work for one of the major rail companies and can confirm Lord Adonis has widespread support and respect in the sector. it is not an easy brief, but he has shown as you say expertise and enthusiasm and that gets you a long way

  • Colin Harper

    This is exactly the kind of big ticket item we need to show that even with all the problems in the economuic situation, government still has big ideas for the future.

  • Gemma Ford

    I had the misfortune to watch ITV News last night. It was a party political broadcast for the Tories. Is it really just boredom with Labour that makes the broadcast media so one-sided, or are there other forces at play I don’t know about?? It was a disgrace. Fair enough, cover the story, but please do not turn it into an ad for the Tories

  • Charlesm186

    I am a conservative by nature but completely agree with your comments on Lord Adonis who has been the best transport secretary for many years. Rail is the future and he has driven through several big improvements – the electrification of the Great Western Line, Crossrail as well as the start of HS2. Whatever happens at the election if it is based on performance he should remain as transport secretary based on this alone

    Theresa Villiers is weak.

    It is just a shame he is not able to do something about the dreadful unite union and the way their militancy is killing British Airways.

  • Alan Quinn

    Ally, rail has a great future, not only the high speed links which must unite all of the country (Labour’s plans go to Scotland, the tories does not) but also light rail networks like Manchester’s metrolink. We need to get large amount of freight onto the railways to free the motorways and, as a 40 tonne lorry causes up to 150,000 times the damge of a car it would ease the repair bill too.
    I did think that the tory plan to link Heathrow was a good idea as it could ease congestion at the airport and cut down on emissions.
    There is one thing you could influence though AC and that is to get UK ltd making the rolling stock and trains to go on the high speed links as well as the light rail networks. It’s embarrassing that thanks to Thatcher the country that pioneered the railways dosen’t make trains anymore. The latest high speed engines, the St Pancras bullet trains were made by Hitachi of Japan. We only have one rolling stock maker left and that’s Bombardier of Derby. If we want to get manufacturing things again as even the tories now realise, we can’t keep importing things we used to make and make well (the Pendolino’s of the West Coast line area based on the Advanced Passenger Train built by the old British Rail) . The Manchester Metrolink’s new trams are made in Austria, they run alongside ones made in Italy. Have a word with Mandy and let’s get engineering again.

  • Patrick James

    I don’t own a car and I use a bicycle and public transport to get about.

    I feel that public transport touches so many people and yet it often gets sidelined as an issue.

    Lord Adonis is a terrific transport minister.

    Labour ministers at all levels should be challenging their respective opposition to debates in the media because although the different areas of government are not in the headlines they all touch people in various ways.

    I do agree with Alan Quinn that it is such a shame that the rolling stock is now imported. The destruction of our manufacturing industry was a truly terrible act by the Conservative government. If we still had our manufacturing industry I think we would be less susceptible to the ups and downs of the financial sector.

  • Robert Jackson

    Around about the time the Conservatives gained political control of the West Midlands transport executive (I’ll call it Centro) I noticed that the main bus provider in Birmingham stopped telling passengers getting on the bus that they could buy a combined bus/train/tram ticket that would take them throughout the West Midlands County.

    I took this up with Centro as it’s quite helpful to visitors to know the best ticket to get around the area. My Labour MP Gisela Stuart (Fireball!) also took up the cause for me.

    Centro’s replies were as obscure as they were circular.

    Reading between the lines they’d been told by the bus company that they wouldn’t advertise the Centro tickets any more.

    Wouldn’t find space to say: All day bus/train/tram ticket £6.50 (£5.20 after 9.30am). Period.

    Now who’s the dog and who’s the tail here? Who allocates the contracts to run bus services?

    When the Tories took control of Centro it seems telling passengers about useful tickets went straight out of the window.