Net Zero Targets and Decarbonising Transport — [Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:16 am on 4th February 2020.

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Photo of James Daly James Daly Conservative, Bury North 10:16 am, 4th February 2020

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Damian Hinds on securing this important debate.

I am going to talk about the X41 bus service. When I was elected, the major issue in Bury North was a bus service that connects the north part of my constituency in Ramsbottom with the centre of Manchester—a service that has been withdrawn because of losses suffered by the provider. That service is the only public transport link between central Manchester and the north of my constituency. In London, it would probably take 15 minutes by public transport to cover the same geography to get to the centre of London. I have one bus that takes the best part of an hour, or an hour and a half when it is busy.

When the bus provider gave notice of its intention to take off the bus service, Transport for Greater Manchester shrugged its shoulders. There was no proactiveness from local authorities to try to save the service. I give that as a practical example of a bus service that takes motor vehicles off busy motorways and A roads. Local authorities and other relevant bodies are not doing enough to support public transport, which is critical for connectivity. Although we may talk nationally—I have noticed in this place that we talk generally about money—on the ground, that bus service matters and continues to matter in my constituency. I am glad to say that the Government supported local MPs to provide assistance to make sure that the service remained.

Buses are crucial in my constituency as a link to other areas in Greater Manchester. The debate about buses must be at the forefront of transport discussions in our area. Kate Green spoke about franchising; all Members representing Greater Manchester want a better bus service. I spoke to Transport for Greater Manchester about that. It answered that franchising would guarantee the level of bus services that we have now. The bus services in Bury North are rubbish, so I do not want that. We need a public transport system that encourages people to get out of their vehicles and use the services of good providers such as Transdev. We certainly are not there at the moment.

I will touch on another of the hon. Lady’s points: the clean air charge, which is affecting Greater Manchester. Some £116 million of funding has been provided to assist the region’s freight and logistics, taxi and other operators to upgrade their vehicles. I have many taxi drivers in my constituency who operate in the area. They will not be provided with the funding required to upgrade their vehicles and they cannot afford to do so. This is an important sector—probably the largest self-employed sector in my constituency—and we Conservatives do not wish business to be burdened, so I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to see whether there are ways to provide moneys to support taxi drivers who need their vehicles to be upgraded and are barely scraping a living as it is.