How do we create a visionary transport system?

We spend £3 billion a year on private transport in the North East – most of it on owning and running private cars. £1500 a year for every man, woman and child. On servicing. New tyres. MOT. Road tax. Insurance. Hospital parking charges. Depreciation.  

And 96% of today’s cars are still powered by fossil fuels. It is literally costing us the Earth. 

So what’s the alternative?

Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said ‘Faster horses’”.

Imagine a system based around people instead of vehicles. Where the question changes from, “is there enough parking?” To, “how do we make the bus stop more comfortable?”  

We’ve negotiated a new devolution deal for the North East.  I promised we would in my 2019 manifesto.  And we’ve delivered.  Bus franchising gives us the power to take control of our transport system.

A single intelligent network covering the North East from Berwick to Barnard Castle. Where every bus has a transponder so passengers can see its location on an app, in real time, and be sure it’s coming. Where we use that data for continuous improvement. 

Where every traffic hotspot has a bus gate – so when the bus approaches, the traffic lights change and give it priority while the cars wait. 

Buses won’t need to wait while the driver sells tickets, so they’ll be faster. People will feel safe, whether 8 or 80, because we’ll have guards on the trains. You’ll be able to read your book on the way to work. And the smart navigation system will integrate walking and cycling, with safer crossings and more dedicated active travel routes.   

Free wifi on every bus and every train and an integrated Google Maps style navigation system with real-time data. Where you can reserve a bike locker in town so you no longer worry about theft. 

Where your account is keyed to your smartphone or smartcard and automatically charges you the lowest fare. So once you’ve hit a price cap, you get unlimited travel for free. Whether you switch between bus, Metro, National Rail, or e-scooter. And yes, you’ll still be able to buy a day ticket, with cash, so visitors from outside the region can use it. 

Our villages and hamlets will have transport on demand. Half bus, half taxi, where you book your journey in advance, the computer calculates the best route, and tells you when your bus will arrive.  No more standing on a cold wet roadside, hoping you haven’t missed it. And you’ll still pay the same flat fee as people living in the cities. 

If you want to get away for the weekend, or go to an away game, we’ll have expanded car clubs where you can hire a car.

And the entire fleet powered by renewable electricity or green hydrogen. 

This is not a zero-sum game, by the way. Better public transport means a better deal for motorists. Who likes cruising around looking for a parking space? Who likes sitting in traffic jams?

Fewer cars on the road means a plumber with a van full of tools or a doctor on call can spend their time doing their job instead of sitting in traffic. It boosts productivity. 

We have 861,000 cars in the North East. 186,000 households own two cars. If you can get to work or  college easily; if you can your shopping delivered, if you can go on a night out without needing a car – why would you own two? 

Thomas Edison famously said, “We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.” 

I’m saying, we will make public transport so good that people will choose to leave their cars behind. A transport system where we’re proud of the fact that we pay our key workers a good wage and give them the status they deserve. 

The job of your politicians is to say “We will put a man on the Moon by the end of this decade.” Well I’m saying if I’m elected for a second term, this time as North East Mayor, we will build that total transport network.

A zero carbon, zero poverty transport system for future generations to inherit with pride.