Transport for Towns

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:18 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury) 5:18 pm, 19th February 2019

I agree, but buses and towns will also play a part in that fund. Most of us have spoken about buses. We all have a role in ensuring that buses are part of that project and that, when local communities put in plans to transform transport, buses are not seen as something to add on at the very end.

One of the issues raised was how people can access buses and get information about what tickets are available and when services are running. The 2017 Act puts in place bus open data. That will require bus services to make public information about timetables, fares and tickets, which at the moment are not that easy to understand, in real time so passengers can make decisions about how and when to get the bus. That information will be available from 2020. Those improvements aim to remove uncertainty about bus journeys, improve journey planning and help passengers secure the best value for money for their tickets.

The hon. Member for Batley and Spen was absolutely right to say that buses are the greenest option. That is why we recently announced a further £48 million for low emission buses, which means that catching a bus is also environmentally friendly. I believe there is also a discussion to be had about how buses are a way for people to communicate with each other. A huge amount of work was done on tackling loneliness on the back of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Once again, buses were seen as a service that some people take up just to have a conversation. I therefore urge all Members present to work with me to ensure that their local authorities understand how important bus services are.

I will touch on taxis for just a moment, because they are a key service in our towns. We recently responded to the taxi and private hire vehicle task and finish group, which put together proposals for ensuring that taxi and private hire vehicle passengers continue to be secure, on the back of the cases in Rotherham and Oxford. Only a few weeks ago, we announced that we will raise the basic threshold for drivers to secure a licence and will have a national database and national enforcement policies.

I was going to talk about walking and cycling, but I seem to have run out of time. I wanted to end with what the right hon. Member for Don Valley said about having a towns conversation and ensuring that we have a transport fund and strategy by touching on the future high streets fund and the transforming cities fund, but I believe she wants to respond, so I have run out of time—forgive me.