Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport annual dinner
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Covering economics, local transport and HS2.
Thank-you Matthew for that introduction (Matthew Lugg - ADEPT President).
And thank you also for inviting me along.
ADEPT and its members don’t just help to shape the transport debate in this country - you also help to set the transport agenda, so it’s a real pleasure to be with you this evening.
Now there are 2 important lessons I’ve learned since going into politics.
The first is that the words, “I wish the minister had gone on longer…” are rarely on the lips of an audience at the end of a speech.
And the second is that you don’t win applause, or for that matter any votes, by keeping people from their well-earned dinner.
So, with both of those lessons in mind, I promise to keep my speech brief.
Good transport equals good economics
I am honoured and proud to be the Transport Secretary, just as I was honoured and proud to serve as a Treasury minister.
And, in each of these roles, I have come to understand the crucial importance of a certain equation.
Now, as equations go, it’s a pretty straightforward one. But it drives my policy approach at DfT.
The equation I’m talking about is this: good transport equals good economics:
- cutting commuting times and speeding up journey times
- moving people and products faster
- connecting our businesses and wealth creators with the global economy
That’s how you generate growth and put people back to work. That’s how you make Britain’s competitive edge razor sharp.
The plain truth is that we cannot afford to sit back and look on while other countries invest in world class transport networks.
In the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America, In the Middle East and Africa, and even in the United States and the European Union, nation after nation is upgrading and expanding their infrastructure.
They are our competition in the international marketplace, in the race to win the future.
Every bridge they repair and every road they improve, every rail track they lay and every global gateway they open drives their growth and increases their prosperity.
So, if Britain is to out-produce, out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world, then we too must update our transport infrastructure and make it fit for the 21st century.
And that’s precisely what this government is doing.
A different choice
We know that ageing, past their best transport links are a tax on British businesses and British families. They cost them time and money.
Which is why we made a different choice.
Instead of taking the axe to capital investment, as previous governments did when the fiscal going got tough, we looked long-term and chose to invest in transport.
Take last year’s spending review - over £30 billion for road, rail and local transport across the country.
We set up the £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund - a fund to give local communities more power to design and deliver local transport schemes.
We put in place a Growing Places Fund - half a billion pounds worth of support to help kick-start infrastructure projects.
And, in the Chancellor’s ‘Autumn statement’, a multi-billion pound investment package in which transport took centre-stage - everything from electrifying more of our rail network, to easing congestion on our motorways.
This government made a different choice about transport investment because we were looking well beyond the horizon.
Taking decisions to improve our national well-being, not just for the next four or five years, but for the next four or five decades. And not in spite of the economic challenges we face, but as a means to overcome them. And it’s that same long-term national interest which motivated my recent decision to give the go-ahead to HS2 - a national high speed rail network
HS2 will slash journey times, shrink our country and radically improve the connections between our cities and regions.
It will help to create jobs and generate growth, promote social mobility and spread prosperity.
That’s why I am absolutely convinced that pushing this project over the finishing line is the right thing to do for our country’s success and our children’s future.
But it’s not just the big-ticket national projects that can make a difference.
Improving our quality of life and enhancing our economic prospects also means investing in transport at the local level.
Nearly all journeys start, or end, on local transport networks. And those journeys can shape your entire day, for better or for worse.
It only takes a late bus, a packed train or a congested road and a short commute becomes an endurance test and a good day turns into a bad one.
So, as the members of ADEPT know better than anyone, local matters.
And, because it matters so much, not only did we announce 20 local transport schemes in the ‘Autumn statement’, just before Christmas I gave the green light for a further 21 local major transport schemes. That’s an investment package worth £854 million.
Modernising local transport networks, getting the very best out of them, isn’t simply about putting in the resources, as crucial as that is.
It’s also about devolving power - giving local people a real say over the transport services and issues that affect their lives.
It’s what I call smart localism.
Smart because it recognises that a one size fits all approach cannot work in the modern, consumer focused world.
Smart because it enables local services, like transport, to be tailored to local needs.
And let me walk you through just a few of the ways we’re making smart localism an everyday reality. We’ve simplified funding, cutting the number of separate local transport grant streams from 26 to just 4 and transferring some funding into formula grant.
And the end result of this radical reform? Local communities will have greater flexibility and freedom to decide their own priorities.
We are cutting red tape and ending pointless top-down bureaucracy.
One practical example: after the biggest review into Britain’s traffic signing system for 40 years we published a new framework that will free up local councils to remove expensive and unsightly clutter from our roads - a reform that will save money and improve the local environment.
We’re looking at ways to devolve more responsibility for commissioning local and regional rail services - a move that could increase transparency, strengthen accountability and, by doing so, improve the passenger experience.
And we are also committed to implementing a more devolved system for local major schemes beyond 2015 - enabling local communities and businesses to take real decisions about the transport improvements in their areas; constructing a system that’s much more responsive to local economic conditions and needs.
And with greater devolution must follow greater local accountability.
For example making sure new schemes achieve genuine value for money. We are ready to work with individual transport bodies to put in place a system that works for them.
I hope to publish a paper soon and invite views on early proposals for a new system and I look forward to seeing your response.
Concluding remarks - productive partnership
Investment, reform, localism.
These are all important ways of transforming our country’s prospects by transforming its transport system.
But so is productive partnership - government and stakeholders coming together and working together, pulling in the same direction to bring about real and positive change.
And I’m pleased to say that partnerships don’t come more productive than the one between my department and this association.
Whether it’s helping us improve winter resilience in the transport sector; leading work streams in the highways maintenance efficiency programme; or assisting us to review future options for the integrated transport block allocation, ADEPT and its members have shown that they are sector leaders as well as productive partners.
So, before I conclude, and more importantly, fulfil my pledge not to keep you from dinner for too long, there’s one final thing I’d like to do - and that’s pay tribute to the work you do and the difference you make.
For decades, you have been at the forefront of the transport debate, both as the County Surveyors’ Society, and more recently, as ADEPT.
In particular, you have played a vital role in managing and maintaining our infrastructure, and strengthening the links between transport and other drivers of sustainable growth and development.
Today, you are helping to shape the agenda on many key areas of government policy - including planning, waste management, housing, and climate change, as well as transport.
And it is precisely because these issues are all closely connected that makes your work so valuable, and your contribution so appreciated.
Thank you for listening and I look forward to taking some questions
(This speech represented existing departmental policy but the words may not have been the same as those used by the minister.)