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“How do the Conservatives think Britain’s 40 million drivers will react to their idiotic anti-car bias?”

Mike Rutherford thinks the Conservatives need to acknowledge the presence and necessity of cars in the lives of the vast majority of Brits

Opinion - motorway

This is long overdue. A bright new Transport Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, takes the stage at the Conservative Party Conference. The time and place – Birmingham, West Midlands – somehow seem right. As does the theme: Get Britain Moving.

Her inaugural speech should’ve offered hope to all users of mainstream modes of transport. Instead, it was as if some of them no longer exist. On this evidence, she’s obsessed with “rail” or “railways” (referred to a dozen times), with trains, train operators, their customers, workers, stations and ticket offices, collectively receiving an additional 12 or so enthusiastic mentions right at the start of her address.

Next, what seemed like her second tier of priorities – shipping, ports, maritime travel, coal and steam power (honest), hydrogen, unspecified zero-emission vehicles and aviation... in that order.

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Then, at the end and evidently close to the bottom of her priority list, she mentioned roads (in particular, the A1 and A303), potholes and a token, nothingy reference to “motorway or local street”.

But the fact is that this speech was an automotive industry, car and motorist-free zone. Conspicuous by their disgraceful absence were much-needed references to the UK’s often ignored 780,000 auto industry employees; the almost 40 million registered cars in Britain; our circa 50 million Brit-based car drivers and their adult or child passengers.

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Away from the conference stage, maybe the new Transport Sec would come to her senses and gratefully acknowledge the presence and necessity of cars in the lives of the vast majority of Brits? But no, apparently not. “I want our railways to work. First because if people can’t use the railways they can’t get on and move around the country. But secondly, they lose confidence and they will then get in their cars. That is the wrong way round.”

By default, this means the new UK Government’s incoming Transport Secretary is telling us, the cash-strapped people, that the right way round is to leave our cars at home while we walk, cycle, taxi, bus or whatever to a railway station, before boarding a train, which is often more expensive to use than a car on a pence per-mile basis. Why on earth would motorists do that? Especially when they’ve already paid to buy, tax, insure and MoT their cars!

Presumably, in the Conservative manifesto and on roadside posters just prior to a General Election in 2024 (or sooner) the party’s latest unfathomable passion for subsidised, often strike-affected, limited-hours public trains over unsubsidised, strike-free 24/7 cars will be clearly presented to the wider electorate. You know, full disclosure and all that.

So with this in mind, one or two catchy but accurate ‘vote-winning’ slogans will be required. Something like: ‘WE WANT YOU OUT OF YOUR CAR, ONTO A TRAIN’ or ‘TRAIN IS RIGHT, CAR IS WRONG’ should suffice. And how, exactly, do you think Britain’s circa-40 million driving licence holders – the majority of them also being registered voters – might react to such idiotic anti-car/pro-rail political bias?

The Conservatives really haven’t thought this through, have they?

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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