Speech

National Transport Awards

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Discussing future plans and previous milestones reached by Department for Transport.

Opening remarks

Many thanks for that introduction David (Prof David Begg, Transport Times).

And David, looking around tonight I can see that you’re someone who knows how to put on a great show.

But you’re also one of most recognised and respected voices in transport.

So, as well as thanking you and your colleagues for the hard work you’ve put into these impressive awards, I just wanted to express my personal gratitude for your contribution to transport down the years. Long may it continue.

I also want to say a big-thank you for asking me along to an event where I get to share the stage with Jeremy Vine.

Jeremy, it’s great to be on the “bill” with you tonight. Although, having looked at your CV, I am starting to feel a bit like a serious under-achiever.

There’s something important I want to say before anything else.

These awards remind us of the incredible job the people in the transport industry do.

So I just want you to know that this Transport Secretary and this government recognise, value and appreciate everything you do.

While I have the chance I also wanted to say a very quick word about a subject the transport industry is very familiar with - and that’s change.

I realise that changing ministers can be disruptive.

And I know that transport has had its fair share of changes under all governments.

Indeed, there are said to be more former transport secretaries alive than for any other Cabinet job.

So I want to say this:

I am serious about transport.

It’s a job I wanted.

It’s a job where there is much to do.

West Coast mainline

It’s also a job where the challenges come thick and fast.

And, as Transport Secretary, I won’t be hiding from any of them.

There will be setbacks as well as successes.

This month, when we hit one on the West Coast line, I came straight out and confronted it.

The mistakes made with the West Coast Mainline franchise bid were deeply regrettable and completely unacceptable.

So I’ve ordered two independent reviews.

The first will report back by the end of this month, the second by the end of the year.

This is a serious issue, and it’s getting a serious response.

But let me be clear.

This is not about re-winding to a pre-privatisation past.

This is about learning lessons and moving forward with franchising so that future competitions are robust and deliver best value for passengers and tax payers.

And, while I’m on the subject of delivering value for money, there’s another challenge I’ve faced up to since taking this job - and that’s the cost of rail fares.

These are tough and testing times. And I want to help where I can.

So I’m pleased that I’ve been able to secure funds so that we can cut by 2% the planned increase in key rail fares. And not just for 2013, but for 2014 too.

Coming home to the DfT

Now, although I may be the new boy at these awards, this isn’t my first time at the Department for Transport.

I actually joined the Department in 1989, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

I started off as Roads Minister

Then I became the minister responsible for aviation and maritime.

Mind you, seeing as I was afraid of flying, as well as the MP for the most landlocked constituency in the country, “the minister for irony” might have been a more suitable job title.

Well I’m still proud to represent that same constituency

But I’m pleased to tell you that I’m totally cured of my fear of flying.

Now of course a lot of things have changed in the years since then.

I’ve certainly got more grey hair.

And I’ve definitely put on a few pounds.

But one thing remains exactly the same - and that’s the crucial importance of our transport links.

And that’s why I’m proud to come home to the DfT.

Introduce myself

I have to say that I’m really excited too.

Excited about the transport milestones the government has already reached in the first half of this Parliament.

But also excited about our big plans and bold ambitions for the second half of the Parliament and beyond.

So, I could use today’s speech to highlight our investment record - a spending review that committed £30 billion for transport projects right across the country.

I could explain how we’re speeding up journeys and cutting congestion on the roads with innovations like managed motorways.

Or, I could focus on our plans to electrify more than 850 miles of rail track.

I could talk about all the things we’re doing to devolve power and give local communities a real say about their transport.

Or I could tell you about our determination to build on Britain’s summer of cycling success - encouraging more people to take to two wheels and building safety into our roads. As I said in Birmingham this week, it’s something we need to act on.

I could even dedicate the entire speech to HS2.

A high speed rail network that isn’t just about taking 20 minutes off the journey to Birmingham, but is actually about shaping and transforming Britain for the next two hundred years.

A network that has cross party support, as well this government’s full commitment.

A network that, like all big infrastructure projects in our history, starts off with controversy, but will end up being used and valued by everyone. Including the people who criticised it.

I could do all of that. But I won’t.

Because, rather than talk about transport policy to an audience of transport policy experts, what I’d really like to do is introduce myself properly…

To tell you a little bit about my approach to this job and the principles that will guide me over the coming months and years.

The Secretary of State for all of transport

I should also tell you that that I’m not in the business of favouring railways over roads or maritime over aviation.

So, as we get the money in and the schemes underway.

As we rebuild, renew and reform.

I will be the Secretary of State for all of transport.

Reduce the hassle

The next thing you need to know about me is that I speak plainly. But I think big.

You won’t catch me using jargon like “calling points” instead of stations.

I’m ambitious about transport because I’m ambitious for Britain.

Transport is the artery of any economy.

It gets people to work, children to school and food to the shops.

When transport slows, everything slows.

When transport stops, everything stops.

Everyone depends on transport every day.

So when people ask: “what’s your aim in the job?”

My answer is straightforward - my task is to reduce the hassle of getting around.

Constructive co-operation, common ground

But I know that’s not a one-person job.

So I want to engage and work with the transport industry.

And I could summarise my approach in two words - constructive co-operation.

Coming together and working together on common ground.

The common ground where we can find workable solutions to the big transport challenges out there.
That’s the approach I want to take.

Tonight is a celebration of your achievements and I know you’re keen to get on with it.

So it’s time I finished up. And as my wife always tells me - nobody will ever complain if a politician’s speech is too short.

The nominees

Before I conclude though, I just wanted to say something about the shortlist for this year’s awards.

And, to do that, I’d like to look back to this summer’s fantastic festival of sport, the 2012 London Games.

As far as I’m concerned, it wasn’t just our Olympians and Paralympians who delivered the goods.

Because, this summer our transport networks and our transport industry were put to the test like never before.

And they were brilliant.

So you should all feel rightly proud.

As indeed should tonight’s nominees.

Tonight’s short-list ranges from small local initiatives to big national projects.

And from teams who developed innovations in transport technology…to individuals who radically improved customer service.

Every nominee is different.

But, having seen that short-list, I know that you all share something in common - excellence.

Concluding remarks

Some people wonder all their lives if they make a difference.

Well, that’s not a problem for tonight’s nominees, or indeed for anyone working in this country’s transport industry.

Because in making a difference to transport you are making a difference to Britain.

That’s why it’s an honour to share this special evening with you.

That’s why it’s great to be back at the DfT.

And that’s why I’m looking forward to working with all of you.

And on that note it just remains for me to thank-you for listening and to wish good luck to everyone who’s waiting nervously to hear if they’ve won an award.

Thank you very much and have a great night.