Speech on Transport motion F34, Bournemouth 2008

by Councillor Colin Rosenstiel, Cambridge

Thank you. I also came by by train this week. The point that hasn't been made so far is that that enabled me to get on with something useful with the time. The worse thing about driving a car, something I do myself sometimes, is that one is tied up driving, a point that is often overlooked.

Politicians of all parties have a terrible reputation for pontificating about transport without understanding how transport systems are run. They are not simple matters. At least Bill Bradshaw is one of the few people here who has actually run a railway for example and we benefit from his experience.

There has, however, been a bright spot in this darkness - Scotland - which has benefitted from a series of Liberal Democrat transport ministers. You can see the results in their rail developments, new branches in the Edinburgh and Glasgow areas and the re-opening of the line to Alloa.

Now I pick on that one because it illustrates the difficulty with the approach of amendment 1. The passenger reopening to Alloa was also a freight diversion of coal trains from the Forth Bridge. It has also enabled a substantial improvement for passenger trains between Edinburgh and Fife by freeing up capacity on the Forth Bridge.

You cannot separate passengers and freight on the railway - it's one network. That is the fatal flaw in amendment 1 is not understanding that. It's too simplistic and will bring this party into disrepute because it doesn't understand how you run a railway. Mick Taylor has already demonstrated in his speech how out of date he is, for example on rail safety where some of that nonsense has already gone.

The proposers of amendment 2 worry me, taking a blanket approach. They want every bus stop in the land to have an emergency telephone. It's what the amendment implies. We already have a situation where is a street in my own city of Cambridge with three beautiful bus shelters with advertisements on them and two buses a day that are currently under threat of withdrawal. Will they have to have emergency telephones fitted to have next to no use in future?

Network Rail is a company whose management chooses its own members. It's insane. There is no effective scutiny and its delivery performance matches that. Despite the massive programme of works they can't manage the resources needed - look what happened last Christmas. And look at the pointwork still sitting by the track as Stevenage still waiting to be installed because of Network Rail's inefficiency.

What franchises bring is focus on delivering the services. The general approach of the paper is the right one. That they need a longer term approach. It is one of the themes of this party. You can't do short term politics, you've got to take a longer term view. But the present franchise map could be ossified by the paper. The franchise map has some political nonsenses from earlier in this government that mustn't be allowed to be ossified and Cambridge happens to one that has suffered from that.

It took seventy years within the same company before Cambridge's two services to London were combined under one management. The franchise remapping earlier in this government split them up again.

This really hurt passengers in my locality. The one company that runs the main London service doesn't run the station. From the promotional material on the station you wouldn't even know you could get to King's Cross, all the advertisements are about Liverpool Street.

The cross-country services meanwhile from Birmingham to Stansted on one franchise and Liverpool to Norwich on another. This is despite trains on both having to use Cambridge for servicing so we have four franchises serving one little station in East Anglia.

This does nothing to address cattle truck conditions we have. We have some of the most overcrowded trains travelling from Cambridge. Of the league table of the top ten I think we have four serve Cambridge in the morning and evening peak.

So we have got to have review and we have to keep them under review because circumstances change. It's not in the paper and it does weaken it.

Other nonsenses like inconsistent fares must go too. The company that sells the tickets does set the fares.

I've commented mainly on the rail aspects because I have gained some inights over them. That doesn't mean a lack of interest in other aspects of the generally excellent paper. I commend the paper to conference and hope you pass it.