“Strengthening the sinews of our transport network will make the road to recovery smoother,” says Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the headline of an article in today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“A segmented, regional approach has left us with needless bottlenecks and endless delays, but a new strategy will get us back up to speed,” he writes as his introduction before setting out his vision for a UK-wide transport strategy.
Mr Johnson’s article, timed to coincide with the publication of the Interim Report of the Hendy Review this morning, uses his trademark florid language, and also pokes a stick at the Welsh Labour Government over the controversial M4 relief proposals in south-east Wales.
His full article says:
“As we look at the transport network, there is a particular weakness that has become steadily more obvious in the last 20 years. We have become far too segmented in our thinking.
“For far too long, we have tended to carve up the country through a devolve and forget approach.
“We have devised transport strategies for Scotland, for Wales, for Northern Ireland and Northern England – and yet, incredible as it may seem, we have failed to produce a UK-wide transport strategy.
“We left it, bizarrely, to the EU, which had a concept called the “Trans-European Transport Network”. The UK paid handsomely for our friends to draw these lines on the map, about €420m per year. We only got about ten per cent back.
“The result is that the sinews of pan-UK transport have atrophied, with inadequate connections, needless bottlenecks and endless delays on the vital links between one part of the UK and another.
“The sinews of pan-UK transport have atrophied, with inadequate connections, needless bottlenecks and endless delays on the vital links between one part of the UK and another”Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
“So together with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, I have asked Sir Peter Hendy to address the problem of Union connectivity. He has just produced his interim report, before final conclusions in the summer.
“He lays out the scale of the challenge. Take the A1 – still a single carriageway most of the way north of Newcastle and on into Scotland, in spite of decades of promises.
“Look at the delays on the M4 as it goes west into South Wales. The Welsh Labour government managed to spend £144 million on a plan for relieving congestion (I kid you not) and then mystifyingly junked the scheme.
“The North Wales economy has amazing potential in aerospace and other sectors. But too little thought has been given to the links to Merseyside and Manchester, to the North Wales railway or the A55.
“It’s currently quicker to get a train from Cardiff to Paris than from Cardiff to Edinburgh, and why are we stopping HS2 in England?
“We don’t need a new line; with some bypasses, better track and signalling, as Sir Peter believes, we could run services from Glasgow to London in about 3 hours, and carry more freight too.
“Look at the delays on the M4 as it goes west into South Wales. The Welsh Labour government managed to spend £144 million on a plan for relieving congestion (I kid you not) and then mystifyingly junked the scheme”Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
“It seems wrong that someone flying from Belfast to London and back pays more UK tax than someone flying from Dublin to London and back.
“Isn’t it time to harvest that Brexit dividend and cut Air Passenger Duty to support connectivity across our Union? We will consult on choices to do that.
“And there was one project that Sir Peter found to command overwhelming support – the A75 from Cairnryan in Scotland to the English border.
“It is a crucial route for south-west Scotland, for traffic between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and indeed the whole island of Ireland. This road connects three parts of the UK – Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. But it is a single carriageway.
“For 95 miles. This a long-term arteriosclerosis caused by our failure to think as one UK.
“We look forward to working with our partners and friends in the devolved administrations, to see if we can deliver this plan together – not to supplant their own agendas, but to supplement them for the benefit of all the people of the UK”Boris Johnson, Prime Minister
“As Sir Peter concludes his report, I hope he can produce the beginnings of a truly pan-UK transport strategy.
“We in the UK Government look forward to working with our partners and friends in the devolved administrations, to see if we can deliver this plan together – not to supplant their own agendas, but to supplement them for the benefit of all the people of the UK.
“We want to improve pan-UK transport links so as to reduce traffic and to reduce pollution, in a way that is as clean and green and efficient as possible.
“It is time to begin to strengthen the very sinews – the musculoskeletal structure – of the United Kingdom, so that we can recover faster and stronger together.”