Although I didn't get an invite to the SENRUG hustings - I have been asked to supply a piece for their 'elections newsletter' - along with the Red, Yellow and Blue candidates. This is what I've sent them - note it was written before the Yellows made their policy announcement about funding the railways. I think it just points up my last paragraph about parties 'stealing' our policies, though as usual they don't have the nerve to do it properly....
We need major investment in public transport – and in rail even more than buses – to encourage people to switch from using cars. Apart from the carbon emissions argument, good quality rail travel is healthier, less stressful and more sociable than car travel. The Green Party proposes to reallocate the £30bn earmarked for road building over the next 10 years to investment in public transport, which incidentally will create considerably more jobs. At the very least, transport budgets ringfenced by mode makes no sense if you are trying to develop an integrated transport network.
Locally, this re-allocation of investment would allow:
• opening of the ABT line to passengers including links to Morpeth and Woodhorn
• opening up of the Leemside line
• and various other loops to increase the capacity of the ECML
Increased capacity would enable improvements both in local and long distances services, and in also intermediate services such as direct links to Durham and Hexham. I am also keen to see a new semifast service between Newcastle and Edinburgh stopping at all the principal stations. There would also be investment in rolling stock to make best use of the capacity of the existing network.
We also need considerably increased capacity if there is to be any significant shift of road freight back to rail. Again, rail freight and railhead freight depots will create more local jobs than road freight does.
Public transport overall needs to be more coherent, with simpler, more transparent – and integrated – fares. It may be that the only way to do this effectively is to follow Green Party policy to re-regulate bus services and return the railways, both track and operations, to public ownership. At any rate, successive governments’ use of fare increases to manage demand must end.
I realise that I am rather unlikely to be elected as MP for Wansbeck, but the other parties have been stealing policies from the Greens since we were first formed. A strong Green vote would encourage them to steal these policies too.