Fix disjointed transport
Transport is a key topic for Charlie Hoult in the North of Tyne Mayoral election on May 2. Instead of an unproven pollution tax that hits those on low incomes hardest, he backs a co-ordinated green transport approach that connects rail, buses, roads and cycling.
Fixing the region’s disjointed transport will be key if I become the North of Tyne Mayor. I will get the region moving, working to improve the region’s road, rail and air links for the benefit of everyone – families, commuters and businesses.
I firmly oppose the pollution tax that is being proposed for Newcastle city centre. Such a tax would be grossly unfair on people whose older cars would be targeted. The tax would disproportionately hit people on low incomes hardest – and it’s unfair on people with older cars who can’t afford to replace them.
Crucially for me, there is no firm evidence that a pollution tax would even improve air quality. That’s why 60 out of 63 towns and cities nationwide are looking at more comprehensive counter measures. Look at cities like ours, such as Nottingham, delivering results on air quality without hitting hard-pressed drivers with a comprehensive approach on electric vehicles, congestion, cycling and public transport.
We absolutely need to improve our air quality by 2021, but the answer lies in a radical and more strategic approach. Answers lie in improving our public transport, including a Metro upgrade.
We’re lucky to have the Metro system here and to encourage greater use of it. The funds are secure for replacement trains. But £80m is needed to upgrade stations. We will push for this to finish the next phase.
The introduction of an Oyster-type Connect card would also encourage more people to use public transport. The Connect card would work across different transport, just as the Oyster now does in London.
I fully support Northumberland County Council’s £3.45m investment to plan for passenger trains on the Ashington/Blyth/Newcastle line. Stations at Bedlington, Northumberland Park, Bebside and new estates along the line will mean 34,000+ homes are a short walk to a station for town.
I spoke direct to the transport minister when he was in the region recently and his department are racing to sign this off. If elected as North Tyne Mayor, I’ll be kicking down the doors at Westminster to convert that support into real projects on the ground in the North East. That’s my approach, to get things done.
On the roads, my first roads focus is the A1 Western Bypass stretch from the Tyne Bride to Seaton Burn.
For three years, the Western Bypass has been approved for triple lanes with budget sign-off. How come Nick Forbes hasn’t pressed the button? The delay is holding back businesses and investment. Not acceptable. I’ll fight to kick-start projects that will have an impact.
Better road infrastructure will help, with better traffic management systems introduced to keep cars moving. I’ll back moves to increase electric vehicle charging points. And I’ll support a scrappage scheme that incentivises people to swap to greener vehicles.
People don’t need another tax. They need incentives. Carrots not sticks!
As a city cyclist, I know how quick and easy it can be to get around on two wheels. If more people cycle, everyone benefits from less congestion and pollution.
This is a perfect city to ‘Go Dutch’. But only 2% of short journeys are made by bike – against a target of 10%. The investment has started but we all need to take to the cycle lanes for wellbeing and to cut car traffic.
We have some already, and in some places the provision is really good. But we need a serious look at connectivity – the dots need to be joined, the provision connected.
Areas like Heaton have a funded cycleway plan, but I understand councillors blocked its delivery. Likewise, we need to fix connectivity issues between Newcastle and North Tyneside to up our game across the North of Tyne region.
There is so much more to do. These are #ProjectsNotPolitics – inputs from local people that need experienced project management, from a team that knows how to drive complex issues to completion.