Are we nearly there yet? It appears as though we’re not. In fact it may be that we never get to where we want to be.
The destination is a new Transport Bill. In May 2022 the Queen’s speech suggested that it was full steam ahead for transport: “Her Majesty’s Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.”
Everything was going so well with a follow-up a few days later in the House of Lords when Baroness Vere explained that “Safety is also at the heart of our plans to create a regulatory framework for smaller, lighter, zero-emission vehicles, sometimes known as e-scooters…To that end, it is our intention that the Bill will create a low-speed, zero-emission vehicle category”.
We were hopeful for the implementation of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail and establishment of Great British Railways (GBR) when a consultation about its implementation opening in June. That was soon followed by the launch of the Road Safety Investigation Branch (RSIB), a public body which PACTS has long called for.
Over a year on, it is unsettlingly quiet. There is no sign of any primary legislation enabling much-needed regulations for e-scooters, reform of the railways or approval for learning from road collisions to improve safety.
Dealing with e-scooters may be challenging, but not impossible. Other countries have regulations in place and are able to amend them to increase safety over time. Despite the absence of a guiding mind in the form of GBR, the rail industry is pushing ahead as best it can with whole system performance improvement and delivery. Gaining thematic understanding through the RSIB’s scrutiny of the collisions which result annually in 1,700 fatalities and 30,000 serious injuries will mean that number can be meaningfully reduced.
PACTS calls on the Government to get back into gear and include a Transport Bill in the King’s Speech at the opening of the next Parliamentary Session on 7 November. Lives depend on it.