Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
Upcoming changes to local bus services are a telling reminder that in the North East we have long had to put up with second rate public transport.
When so many of my constituents rely on buses to get around, it shouldn’t be too much for them to expect a service they can depend on.
Travelling across our region should be simple. People should be confident that when they take the bus, they’ll be able to get to work or an appointment with their doctor on time and with ease.
Changes to local bus services mean this is less likely to be the case, which is why I’ve called on operators to think again.
We should be making our transport network more affordable and accessible – ensuring it meets the needs of all in our community.
It’s not just bus services that could be better. When it comes to rail, our infrastructure lags behind while other parts of the country get the lion’s share of investment.
Last year, transport spending in the North East was a fraction of the amount spent in London.
Although any money that goes towards building an improved rail network is to be welcomed, it’s not enough.
If we want to see an end to the North-South divide, we need to see rail services in the north receiving the same priority as elsewhere in the country.
More rail investment would help connect towns and cities across the north – attracting businesses, creating jobs, and supporting growth.
That’s why I’m also making the case for extending the Tyne and Wear Metro. Bringing services to Doxford Park and re-opening the Leamside line would bring opportunities not only for my constituents, but also for workers and businesses across the region.
There wouldn’t just be economic benefits, but environmental ones too.
Last week Parliament backed a motion declaring a climate emergency – serving as a reminder that good public transport can play a key role in tackling climate change.
Fewer bus services and poor rail connections mean we have more cars on our roads – resulting in more congestion and emissions.
An affordable, well-connected public transport system stops the need for unnecessary car journeys – meaning cleaner air and a healthier environment to live and work.
Demand for a transport system that connects communities and reduces our impact on the planet is there – it’s now up to the government to act.
This article was originally published in the Sunderland Echo, read it here.