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“The new Transport Secretary needs all the help he can get”

Mike Rutherford offers up some advice to Mark Harper, the UK’s new Transport Secretary

Opinion - Mark Harper

It’s the job of the Department for Transport to assist when people or products need shifting from A to B. But its major focus of late seems to be the embarrassing wheeling in – and out – of ministers and their briefcases. In September, Shapps was ousted. His successor, Trevelyan, got the elbow in October. Mark Harper replaced her a few days ago. So, three Transport Secretaries in eight weeks. Be assured that the real world can’t, and doesn’t, work like this. Only paralysed, unfit-for-purpose Govt. departments do.

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I doubt that Harper’s lethargic predecessors had enough transport-related knowledge or understanding to pass on to the new man, an accountant by trade. So he needs all the help, advice and suggestions he can get. And that’s why I’m humbly offering a few via Mike’s Mini Motoring Manifesto (Autumn ’22 edition). Here, in no particular order, are a few extracts.

Recognise and deal with the irrefutable fact that more than 90 per cent of the passenger miles travelled in Britain are inside cars or car-like vehicles. Trains, buses and bikes are comparatively small fry.

Reintroduce “cars”, “motorists” and “car passengers” to the daily ministerial vocabulary. Lately they’ve been taboo words for ministers, local authorities and other state agencies, who’ve tended to talk exclusively about trains, buses and bicycles, rail and bus users, and bicyclists.

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Correct or, better still, withdraw Trevelyan’s bonkers statement that it’s “the wrong way round” for Brits to use their cars instead of trains.

Encourage truck operators (via fiscal incentives and other measures) to use the morning rush hours and the evening peak period as meal/admin/maintenance/rest periods, thereby freeing up the roads for commuters and others in cars, taxis, vans, bikes or buses.

Offer rewards to drivers of taxed/insured cars who volunteer to park up, say, three days a week. Congestion levels would inevitably decrease. Four days weekly is 208 days annually, which in turn equals up to 4,992 hours per year. Do most private motorists really want or need to be behind the wheel more than this in a typical year?

Give one-off pay rises and other perks to rail employees who agree to ‘no strike’ contracts.

Instantly remove (and detain if they’re persistent offenders) all ‘protestors’ who choose to illegally block roads, bridges and other highways, thereby preventing children and adults from travelling to school, work, shops, hospitals or wherever.  

Criminals/activists/anarchists/anyone deliberately vandalising vehicles, car showrooms, roads etc. to be automatically invoiced for the full cost of repairing or replacing the damaged cars, buildings etc. If it takes them a lifetime to pay, so be it.

Impose restrictions on councils, parking companies and others who try it on when they knowingly issue tickets/fines that are wrong. This scam is getting out of control.

Relax the legislation that says brand-new pure-petrol and diesel cars will be banned in UK showrooms from 2030. Encouraging private motorists to switch to EVs is good. Comprehensively outlawing the sale of new ICE cars just seven years from now is not.

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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