Good afternoon everyone.
And thank you for that welcome.
I’m delighted to join you today (4 March 2015) for this debate on sustainable transport.
It’s a debate that involves every layer of government from town hall to Whitehall.
A debate that affects every community across the country.
And a debate that concerns anyone who has an interest in building a stronger and greener Britain.
But I think the concept of sustainability has particular resonance in places like the Peak District.
A national park of outstanding beauty, yet also an area that requires excellent transport links to keep local communities connected, and to meet the needs of millions of visitors each year.
So I’d like to thank you for inviting me to speak today.
Let me start with my ultimate vision for sustainable transport.
It’s really very simple.
I want to render it obsolete as a phrase as soon as possible.
I believe all transport should be sustainable.
And everything we do as legislators and planners must move us closer to that goal.
To me, sustainable travel means finding a balance between our mobility needs, our economic needs, and the needs of our communities and society.
What’s unsustainable is increasing gridlock on our roads, rising carbon and local emissions, spending beyond our means, or failing to take action to balance growth and prosperity across the country.
The debate isn’t whether we support sustainable transport.
It’s how fast and how effectively we embrace it.
And that depends to a large extent on you.
Because the days of prescriptive, top-down government are over.
We will continue down the path of devolution.
Giving local areas the power and the resources to make their own decisions.
So government won’t decide where to invest.
And devolution will be particularly beneficial for sustainable transport.
Because the vast majority of the journeys we make in this country are local in nature.
Two-thirds are under 5 miles.
In other words, journeys that can be cycled, walked, or taken by bus - precisely the sort of travel that we’re discussing today.
Just as we’ve made big strides towards devolved decision-making over the past 5 years, so we’ve made equally important progress towards a more sustainable transport system.
In 2011 we created the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, backed by £600 million of investment, which rose to more than £1 billion up to 2015 once local contributions were added.
That’s funded almost 100 sustainable schemes, and the Bikeability cycle training programme.
Analysis of the 12 biggest schemes shows they are expected to deliver 5 pounds of economic benefit for each pound invested by the government.
So the economic rationale for sustainable travel is compelling.
And the growth of sustainable schemes has continued under the Local Growth Fund.
With £600 million to invest in projects involving public transport, walking and cycling.
I’m pleased that D2N2 has done well out of the fund.
Securing marginally under £175 million.
With nearly £380 million of additional funds to come from local partners and the private sector.
We’re also working in other ways to encourage sustainable solutions.
For example we’ve produced a door-to-door strategy.
Which is helping councils and other authorities all over the UK.
To link up different forms of transport.
And help people choose more sustainable travel options.
All over the country, we’re seeing the benefits of this joined-up approach.
Like improved bike facilities at rail stations.
Better local travel information for passengers.
And smart ticketing, so people don’t have to buy separate tickets for travel on buses, rail, or trams.
Many people actually want to get out of their cars.
They want to save money and get fit.
So we have a huge opportunity here to get more people cycling and walking.
In fact this government has more than doubled funding for cycling.
And that growth will continue.
Just a few years ago, we were spending £2 per person on cycling.
Today that’s £6.
And we will increase that to at least £10.
But while we’re delivering a massive increase in cycling investment, it’s communities who are grasping the opportunity to turn that money into transformational schemes.
Including here in the Peak, of course, after your successful bid for funding from the Cycling Ambition Programme.
The Peak District National Park has long been 1 of the best destinations in the country for recreational cycling - particularly with the traffic free trails which criss-cross the Park.
But with now over £5 million of Cycling Ambition money, it’s exciting to see how you’re developing the network.
With better connections between the trails, better links to surrounding towns and cities, better integration with other transport modes, and safer cycle ways.
I can’t wait to see them up and running.
They can only help the local economy.
Get more traffic off peak roads.
And keep more people active and healthy.
So I’d like to thank the many people here who helped secure both successful Cycling Ambition bids, and who are today helping deliver the improvements.
Of course this is just 1 aspect of sustainable transport in the Peak District.
I know you’re working in lots of different ways to make alternatives to car travel easier and more attractive.
To integrate bus and rail travel with cycling and walking.
And to promote sustainable travel through the Peak Connections project.
Like any rural community, buses are the backbone of the public transport network in the Peak.
And I think local bus services here remain good.
With excellent connections to Sheffield, Derby, Manchester, and Chesterfield.
We’ve shown our commitment to buses by not cutting support in 2015/2016.
And we have protected the free national pass for older and disabled people.
Trains on the Hope Valley and Buxton Lines also provide vital transport links for local people.
And community transport is another key ingredient in the local transport mix here.
We recognise the importance of community services to rural residents.
Which is why at the end of last year we announced a competitive fund of up to £25 million.
To support operators who run voluntary, not-for-profit services which benefit their local community.
And to help rural areas in particular.
All the issues I’ve spoken about today are part of the sustainability agenda.
A sustainable transport plan is 1 that is environmentally, fiscally, economically and socially responsible.
It’s our job at the Department to be the national architects of such a plan.
But the vast majority of sustainable solutions are local. Which means they have to be devised, developed, owned, promoted and implemented locally.
And that’s something you are doing in the Peak District very well indeed.
Of course there are huge challenges as people travel more and more - challenges you have been discussing today.
But we will meet these challenges if we prioritise truly sustainable solutions across transport.
Until they guide and inspire everything we do.
Until they become second nature.
That’s our shared objective.
And it will also be our shared achievement.