Transport for London 

The recent King’s Speech didn’t include any reference to legislation restricting councils in England from introducing 20mph zones. Sunak had jumped on the Uxbridge by election result believing that it showed that there were voters so exercised by efforts to reduce traffic emissions that it could be turned into a vote winning issue if it was effectively weaponised. 

The problem for Sunak is that opinion polling and focus group sampling shows that Tory voters are amongst the most vigorous supporters of restrictions on traffic speeds – especially in the areas they live. Fast cars are fine but not in the leafy suburbs. So the policy was dumped along with the months long motoring culture war which Number 10 had tried to set off. 

The notion of motorists as a class doesn’t really make sense. Many of us who drive regularly would prefer not to if other means of transport were available. Driving can be liberating and take us to all sorts of nooks and crannies that we otherwise would never see but being dependent on private transport for most of our journeys is a burden. Drivers aren’t just motorists. The tories believe everyone is motivated by selfishness, they project their own miserable world view on the rest of society but for most of us it’s far more complex.  

Lack of investment in public transport means getting round can be laborious, slow and expensive. It also adds to  the problem of climate change.  Buses are unreliable and slow. Trains are often overcrowded and train stations can be difficult to get to without driving. 

Of course, as ever in the UK, investment is uneven. In England 80% of bus services outside London have been cut since deregulation. In London itself, however, billions have been spent on cross rail, the Jubilee Line and the Elizabeth Line. Anyone who’s been in London recently can only wonder at how easy it is to get round. The Transport for London app means it’s simple to find routes and easy to keep up with bus times. 

Amazingly London ranks as one of the best cities in the world for public transport alongside places like Amsterdam, Helsinki and Singapore. 

The notion that London subsidises the rest of us is a complete fabrication.  London sucks up public money and it deprives the rest of us of what we’re due. Nothing demonstrates this more starkly than the fast, modern and efficient public transport system that residents of the British capital enjoy. 

Improvements in rail travel in Scotland have been notable. Electrification, intelligent pricing, new stations and bigger trains have all helped. But overall public transport lags behind comparable European countries. The long term squeeze on public finances makes improvements achingly slow and difficult to achieve. Meanwhile getting round London and the South East becomes easier and faster. Scotland contributes so much and receives so little. It’s the season of giving but it’s time for our generosity to come to an end.