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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall 6:18 pm, 5th February 2020

Transport is the most carbon-emitting sector of the economy, with emissions higher now than they were in 2010. Under the Tories, road traffic growth has soared while support for public transport has been stunted. We are now one of the most car-dependent countries in the whole of Europe. If we are serious about stopping the climate crisis and creating a future fit for our children and grandchildren, we must do more to promote sustainable forms of transport and active travel.

My constituents in Ealing, Southall are heavily dependent on public transport. I am strongly supportive of the local campaign to enable step-free access at Northfields, Boston Manor and South Ealing stations. The Government and Transport for London must do more to ensure that access can be improved for disabled passengers, which will help build confidence and safeguard independence.

Although those working in the public transport sector have worked tirelessly to improve services—I must declare an interest at this point, as I started my working life as a bus conductor for London Transport, so I am quite familiar with this work—they are hamstrung by the Government and a privatised system that is failing them. Rail fares are up by over 40% since 2010, having risen twice as fast as wages. Over the same period, 3,000 bus routes across the country have been cut or withdrawn, leading to soaring fares and crowded buses. That has had a corrosive effect on our high streets and local communities. It has also reduced the independence of the groups that are particularly reliant on public transport, including older people, women and those with a disability.

The Conservative Government have demonstrably failed in their aim to create and maintain a fit-for-purpose public transport system. Instead of paying lip service to looking after our planet, the Government must reverse their cuts to help reduce our damaging dependency on cars. The case for a substantial programme of investment in public transport is clear.

I was shocked to discover that just 2% of journeys in the UK are made by bicycle. A chronic lack of investment in active travel has led to our becoming one of the worst-performing countries in Europe. Increasing investment and reshaping our cycling and walking strategies will help to improve air quality and arrest the growing public health crisis caused by an inactive lifestyle. Through a programme of infrastructural investment, we will not only reconnect and restore the fabric of our local communities but tackle the climate emergency—the gravest threat that humanity has ever faced.