It’s a great pleasure to be here today (20 September 2012), so thank you for inviting me along. I’m delighted to have this chance to make a small contribution to a big event.
Groucho Marx once joked - “why should I care about the future, what’s it ever done for me?”
Well, caring about the future is something we should all do. And that’s because we’re the ones whose actions and decisions help to shape it. What we say and do in the here and now can often have an impact that lasts long beyond our own lifespan - and nowhere is that more true than in transport.
So, in the brief time I have today, I’d like to look forward - to talk about the better future for transport that we all want to see and that, together, I hope we can help create.
Sound finances and a strong economy
The first thing we have to do is recognise that we can’t build a better future on the quick-sands of debt. And that’s precisely why the coalition government has had to put tackling the inherited debt crisis front and centre of our priorities.
What does this mean for transport’s future? You will understand that I cannot reveal the contents of the forthcoming spending review. There are clearly going to be difficult decisions, but I hope you will have taken comfort from the fact that some key transport projects have already been given the green light by the government, including High Speed 2 and Crossrail. This shows that this government recognises the value of investment in our transport infrastructure.
Cleaner and greener
We are not taking our eyes off the long-term.
The future must also be cleaner and greener -and that means providing genuine and viable low carbon travel alternatives.
The government is setting the pace in public transport by investing an additional £15 million in low carbon buses.
As well as helping to ease congestion on our roads, low carbon buses emit nearly a third less carbon than their conventional counterparts. That’s a transport win-win as far as I’m concerned.
We have also signalled our support for ultra-low carbon cars. Already, we have awarded £24 million to further develop the UK’s low carbon vehicle capability, which the government believes will place the UK at the forefront of low carbon automotive development. Our Plug in Car Grant - up to £5,000 - will help motorists and businesses purchase electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen cars. While our Plugged in Places programme reflects the coalition agreement pledge to mandate a national recharging network.
A cleaner and greener tomorrow will be one where cycling and walking is increasingly the norm in our cities and towns. But it will also be one where people have a real choice when it comes to travelling less - from home working, to video conferencing to a range of innovative ways to use the internet for business and leisure. These alternatives to travel encourages business to do things in a different way, which can save money and help the environment as well.
Joined up travel
Today’s passengers demand and deserve a public transport system that is properly joined up in a way that reflects the demands of their daily lives.
So, whether you call it the ‘door to door journey’, ‘end-to-end travel’ or the ‘whole-journey experience’, it is absolutely vital to build a future where we improve the journey from front door to final destination by enhancing the connections between, and across, the different parts of our public transport system.
Innovations such as real time information displays and improved directional signage can make a positive difference. As can simple measures like placing bus stops as close as possible to the main rail station entrance, or making sure that public announcements are clear and give the right amount of detail.
But I believe that one of the most important steps towards a more joined up transport network is smart and integrated ticketing.
The government is very keen to see this new technology rolled out more widely and more quickly across England and so we have provided £20 million of grant funding to the nine biggest English urban areas outside London to support this. My department has also offered a BSOG incentive of 8% for operators with operational ITSO smart systems on their buses.
In addition, my department has required that ITSO smart ticketing infrastructure be rolled out across the five rail franchises that have been tendered since 2007, and we intend to continue to introduce conditions to this effect in the remaining franchises as they are renewed. We have also made it a statutory requirement that all concessionary travel passes in England are ITSO-compatible smartcards. Over 10 million of these have been issued to date.
Additionally, we are continuing our support of ITSO Ltd as the organisation that can help facilitate the additional roll out of schemes - and I can tell you that we are working with Transport for London and their partners to achieve ITSO compatibility across the London estate.
I’m also pleased to say that, not only are major bus operators rolling out ITSO smart ticketing across their fleet, but that smart ticketing is also being implemented by a number of key train operators - and that has to be good for integration and, as a result, good for passengers.
The billing for this conference is ‘Travel 2020’. So let me tell you my personal 2020 vision for smart cards.
By 2020 I’d like to see seamless travel on one ticket throughout the country
- a single smartcard ticket that you can use whether you are in Bristol on the bus, on the Tube in London or on the Metro in Newcastle
- a single smartcard that lets you hire a bike or join a car club
- a single smartcard that can be topped up in shops, online or by phone
- a single smartcard that makes travel easier and cheaper
With smart and integrated ticketing, we have an opportunity to give passengers greater certainty over their end to end journey, and as a result increase the take up of more sustainable forms of travel.
Is realising that vision going to be easy?
Well, it’s certainly challenging - it won’t be achieved overnight, that’s for sure.
But can it be done?
Absolutely. In fact, I’ve already asked my officials to explore ways of developing and introducing such a card.
Partnership for a purpose
Today I’ve spoken about the future.
I’ve argued that we have no alternative but to put the public finances back on track.
I’ve made the case for decarbonising transport.
And I’ve stressed the vital importance of improving the connectivity of our transport networks - especially through the use of cutting edge technology such as a nationwide transport smartcard.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of every last brick that we need to lay in order to build a better tomorrow for transport. But I hope the areas I’ve covered at least give a sense of the foundation stones we are putting in place to support that future structure.
Before I conclude I’d like to make one final point - and it concerns working together.
I’m under no illusions - this government and my department can only get so far working in isolation. If we are to succeed then we must collaborate in a productive partnership with the key stakeholders and major players in transport - people and organisations like you.
So I want you to know that this minister intends to listen to you, learn from you and work with you. Your ideas and input will be valued, as well as welcomed. And let me be clear - this is not partnership for its own sake, but partnership for a purpose because, ultimately, such a partnership is the only way to build that better future.
Okay - when it comes to public speaking I’m always conscious of the wise advice offered by the 19th century Liberal politician Lord Reading, who said: “Always be shorter than anybody dared to hope”.
Well today you can be very hopeful - you have a jam-packed schedule and a busy day in front of you so, with Lord Reading’s words ringing in my ears, it’s time I brought my speech to a conclusion.
It only remains for me to thank you for listening and to say that I look forward to hearing your thoughts and taking your questions in the Q&A session.