As chair of the Transport Committee, I would take a holistic approach to transport
In 1965, Burt Bacharach recorded Trains and Boats and Planes. If he was to compose that song today, he would find himself having to add autonomous vehicles, EVs, drones, robot delivery vehicles, buses and many more!
Granted the 2022 version wouldn’t be as easy on the ear, but as a self-confessed transport wonk, I’d find it a much more appealing offer!
Transport is one policy issue that doesn’t normally resonate much for many, until things go wrong. Most people rely on the vast web of connections to move ourselves and the goods we need around. It often does, and should, hum away without much thought on our part (unless, of course, like me you are someone who derives great pleasure from a comfortable train journey!). But when there is disruption, everything from the irritation of a late-running train or flight to major supply chain distortions which lead to a dramatic drop in car parts, it quickly rises to the fore.
From the day I was given a Hornby train set for Christmas as a wee boy, I have always had a fascination for transport
Calls are made for something to be done to rectify the problem. But much of what happens in the transport world is governed by longer-term planning and decision making. In addition, transport planning cannot be viewed in isolation; it underpins so many other policy areas.
I am standing to be chair of the Transport Select Committee because I wish to see a greater focus on addressing these longer-term issues and examining them holistically in the wider policy context.
Technological advances, post-pandemic changes in passenger and freight demands and environmental requirements have and will continue to challenge and disrupt the status quo in transport. There is also the role of transport infrastructure investment in meeting long-term business and housing needs; and the appropriate balance to strike between strategic national transport connectivity and that determined at the devolved level.
There has been, perhaps, too much of a tendency to look at modes of transport in isolation of each other; there are “rail issues”, “road issues”, “airline issues” and so on. In reality, most journeys that people and goods make involve more than one mode. An individual wants to get from their front door to their place of work, to the shops or any other individual destination that is important to them. A product departs the factory to where their customer wants it. It is therefore vital to consider how each mode of transport can interact with the others most efficiently. I would like to see greater oversight applied to this.
Effective select committees exist, of course, to scrutinise and hold to account government departments, agencies and operators. There will be times when the committee will need to investigate when something has gone wrong, to shed light on who has made mistakes and to see what lessons need to be learned for the future. But they should also conduct forward-looking and constructive inquiries into the future challenges and opportunities.
Under my leadership, I want the Transport Committee to be authoritative in both types of inquiry. From the day I was given a Hornby train set for Christmas as a wee boy, I have always had a fascination for transport. I have devoted much of my time in Parliament to the matter; having six years of experience as a member of the committee and holding a range of government roles connected with Transport.
I believe I have the experience, skill, knowledge and vision to lead the Transport Committee, and achieve the balance on looking back and looking forward. I very much hope that my colleagues will give me the opportunity to “join the dots” and help the country think more holistically on transport.
Iain Stewart, Conservative MP for Milton Keynes South.
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