Transport for Towns

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley 4:30 pm, 19th February 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered transport for towns.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Austin. The presence here of so many of my hon. Friends and other parliamentary colleagues shows the strength of feeling on the towns that we represent and on the importance of transport to our communities and their survival. There is no successful town that cannot move people around it efficiently, moving workers from homes to places of work at all hours, visitors to hospitals, patients to GPs, students to schools and colleges and even people on trips to the pub, cinema or leisure centre.

I represent a constituency of just over 100,000 people living in more than 30 towns and villages. Apart from one suburb, all those communities are detached from Doncaster town centre, many with open countryside in between. Undertaking my monthly surgeries across seven wards involves a 62-mile round trip. Reliance on cars is essential for many in those outlying communities, as public transport has failed them. Effective transport is central to revitalising our post-industrial towns and giving new life to our smaller town communities.

We often hear about connectivity, but that is all too often about links—massive infrastructure projects costing many billions of pounds—to major cities such as Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester in the north. No matter how right those projects are for our regions and for the country, they jar with people frustrated by the everyday transport problems that they face.

This is not new. When Tony Benn was MP for Bristol South East, he received a letter from a constituent that read:

“Dear Tony, I see the Russians have put a space vehicle on the moon. Is there any chance of a better bus service in Bristol?”

I want those voices to be heard. Like many of my colleagues here, I have fought against post office and bank closures. I have been exasperated by the last-call attitude to providing mobile phone and broadband coverage to our homes and businesses in towns. I struggle to understand why new housing developments are built without broadband.

The reality of transport for Britain’s smaller towns is very different from our cities. Our communities are often the places travelled past, not to; communities that no longer have rail services, or a bus service on certain days of the week or in the evenings. Last year, Joseph Rowntree Foundation research found that unaffordable and unreliable public transport cuts off the poorest families in the north of England from crucial job opportunities, making it harder for them to attend job interviews or to hold on to paid employment. Poor transport entrenches poverty.