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Emissions from the transport sector are higher than any other – Labour will transform our systems to tackle climate change and deliver social justice

3 min read

We need serious investment and integrated planning to make our transport systems work for people and planet, writes Rachael Maskell MP

When 33% of all the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 emanated from the transport sector – higher than any other – it is staggering that the Government fails to grasp their responsibility in mitigating such risk. The most ecologically damaging road building programme for a generation will accelerate climate decline, while the replacement of planned rail electrification with diesel simply reinforces current failures. Add to this the lack of a plan for an integrated transport system and the failure to secure train reliability and it is no wonder we have seen recent shifts from rail to road.

In contrast, Labour’s proposals put climate at their heart, as we know it is our responsibility, our obligation, to stop the burning of our planet’s resources and the degradation of our air quality. Our politics necessitates action since we know that those worst hit by emissions are those from the poorest communities, whether in the UK or globally.

If we are to see a positive move to sustainable forms of transport for passengers and freight, then we have to ensure that modal shift is achieved through an attractive offer demanding reliability, affordability and accessibility. Through joined up planning, sustainable travel will drive social mobility and opportunity, and redress geographical and economic inequalities.

By prioritising connectivity across different modes of transport – rail, bus and active travel – Labour will immediately remove existing barriers, and ensure that that ticketing is simplified, transparent and inclusive in value, enabling everyone to make realistic choices.

Serious investment in active travel will enhance health, wellbeing and the natural environment while significantly cutting toxic emissions. We will return our buses to operations along routes that provide community services, ensuring local bus control, rather than profit for the private companies that are manipulating the network today. Local authorities are best placed to ensure local transport delivers for local people, and under Labour we will give them the power to do this.

As for rail, it is evident to passengers up and down the country that to drive change, you need to bring track and train together, with one maintenance and enhancement programme. Part of this schedule will focus on decarbonisation. Labour’s new model of public ownership will enable sustained investment in retrofitting and building our infrastructure under Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution and mapping this across our operations.

The power of future rail will entice people to move from flying to rail too, further stopping the climate catastrophe and advancing the needs of our planet.

This won’t happen by accident. The bar was set in Paris in 2016 through the agreement to cut emissions by 1.5% by 2050. But this will be far too late for those who are already being displaced. Therefore, we will be even more ambitious. But Labour won’t be about a statement and tick box exercise; we are serious. Our politics means that we have to act. Our detailed carbon budget will challenge every part of the transport sector – land, air and sea – and our funding priorities will map onto this.

Labour will be the transformational force our country is crying out for: Labour’s transport offer will lead the way in the battle against this climate catastrophe.


Rachael Maskell is Labour and Co-operative MP for York Central and Shadow Rail Minister

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