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Editorial Comment: Issue Issue 12 1 Jun 2010

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The future means new thinking, and new actions

It will be good to see ministers on the tube.

Robert Jack

First things first. I would like to say a big thank you to all of our readers, and all those who have supported us, through the first year of our journey. This is the twelfth issue New Transit and it’s hard to believe that it’s come so quickly.

What we set out to do is take a different, more broadly drawn and forward looking view of the world of passenger transport. And I think we were right to break with the old. We all need to change to prosper.

It has been a fascinating time to cover this sector and it continues to be very interesting. A new government, an uncertain economic climate, new technologies - there are so many new factors in the formula that will underpin the future prospects of this sector. We will continue do our best to help those who are trying to make sense of it all.

One important part of our efforts to achieve this is the launch of our new Travel 2020 conference and exhibition. This event, which will take place at the Brit Oval in London on September 29-30, will examine the techniques and technologies that will take the sector forward over the coming decade. We hope you will join us.

In the run up to the event we will be profiling cutting edge projects and systems that are changing the face of passenger transport. We start this month with a look at the multi-use transactions technology being pioneered in Nice, France.

The years ahead are going to be tough and it will be more important than ever to show how important good public transport is to this country. It is therefore a good thing that one of the first decisions made by our new coalition government is that it’s most senior members will make more use of public transport. One of the new austerity measures is an end to ministers being ferried around in chauffeur-driven cars. It’s goodbye Jaguar and hello Jubilee Line.

The Government Car Service currently has an annual budget of £8.3m-a-year (enough to pay for more than 60 new buses). “In the future, no minister should have a dedicated car or driver other than in exceptional circumstances,” said David Laws, chief secretary to the Treasury. “Ministers will be expected to walk or take public transport where possible, or use a pooled car.”

This particular austerity measure is one that could have a silver lining for public transport. It might challenge the view that is held by some in Westminster that public transport as something for “other people”. For example, in 2008, Lord Snape leapt to the defence of Michael Martin, then speaker at the House of Commons, who faced an inquiry into his wife’s £4,000 taxi bill. “Is the speaker’s wife supposed to queue up for the number 12 bus outside when she does her shopping?” asked Snape.

Why not? Is using the bus something to be ashamed of? And this is the view of a former railwayman man who spent five years as chairman of bus company Travel West Midlands! Sadly, such views still persist and they must be consigned to the scrapheap.

If ministers are compelled to use public transport perhaps they will maintain greater empathy with their fellow passengers, and perhaps they will think twice before cutting vital investment. It’s an opportunity for the sector to show ministers the good quality of service they usually provide, and how important continued improvement is to passengers and the country at large.


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