Here’s an easy to win bet – I wager there will be no mention of transport policies in today’s Great Election Debate, with the possible exception of, sigh, high speed rail. Any takers? So far, as ever, the election hustings have offered little of interest to transport policy geeks.
Labour’s one new initiative is to offer not for profit organisations the opportunity to bid for franchises. Well, I suspect that will cause a giggle among many of the current train operating companies who have long given up on making a profit out of their contracts and have become subsidy junkies through the cap and collar arrangements.
The Tories offer longer franchises and little else. Moreover, they are looking distinctly dodgy on investment issues, seeking to distance themselves from any commitment to Crossrail or Thameslink. The Libdems, with the knowledge that Mr Clegg will not be moving to Downing Street, have come up with a few nice suggestions, such as making Network Rail reimburse a third of the fares on journeys where a rail replacement bus is used. Not sure how they could enforce that.
Depressingly, when I was on Coventry’s local radio station which had, unusually, set up a debate on transport policy as part of its election coverage, the number one issue among the electorate was potholes. That does show a depressing paucity of imagination – transport is about so much more than the state of the roads, but many people are so fixated on the current inadequacies of our transport system that they cannot see beyond it. And Coventry, where I went to university, is a prime example of a town destroyed by the car.