Page last updated at 20:48 GMT, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Estimates Day debate: Transport

The government urgently needs a coherent transport strategy, the chair of the Transport Committee has said.

Speaking during a so-called "estimates day" debate on transport and the economy on 28 February 2012, Labour MP Louise Ellman said the Department for Transport (DfT) had emerged "relatively well" from 2010's spending review.

But she said ministers needed to decide which transport schemes to prioritise and urged the DfT to use its budget in the most effective way possible.

Addressing transport minister Norman Baker on the government front bench, she said: "Can you assure us we will soon see a government strategy for transport? It is very much needed and it is long awaited."

Later in the debate, fellow Labour MP Phil Wilson voiced his worries that declining rural bus services were affecting the elderly, young people and those going to work.

He said privatised bus companies had a "social obligation" to provide good bus services in rural areas.

Conservative Karen Bradley spoke of a similar concern, telling MPs the isolated nature of her Staffordshire Moorlands constituency made it difficult to attract tourists and sustain local businesses, despite the attraction of Alton Towers.

Julian Sturdy, who also sits on the Transport Committee, called for a "21st Century, pragmatic transport strategy".

The York Outer MP said politics meant such plans were often short-term, ignoring the need for "a steady, long-term commitment".

Shadow transport minister Lilian Greenwood said the government needed to develop a "laser-like focus" on developing transport policy to create jobs and boost the economy.

She criticised ministers for cutting spending "too far and too fast" and accused them of "making the wrong choices".

But summing up, Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Norman Baker said the government was delivering on both cutting carbon and generating growth with its transport strategy.

He defended the DfT's spending record, telling MPs: "We recognise spending is one thing and spending wisely is something else. We are determined to make sure that every pound of public money invested in our transport system must be made to count."

Mr Baker also told the Commons he would be holding a "sat-nav summit" the following month, to target issues such as "HGVs going down inappropriate roads and getting stuck".

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