In June, the Prime Minister asked me to return to the Department for Transport as Secretary of State for the new Parliament, and to continue our programme of work which is so crucial to the future growth and prosperity of Britain. I was delighted to accept.
Over the past year, we have successfully guided the HS2 Phase One and Buses Bills through Parliament. We have announced government support for a third runway at Heathrow. We have made great progress with Crossrail, rail franchising and our £15 billion Roads Investment Strategy. And we have stepped up the formation of local, integrated train and track teams to transform the way our railway is run. Everything we do as a department is designed to put passengers, drivers and transport users first.
This progress is not just crucial – it’s essential. Our transport networks are busier than they have ever been. And demand for passenger and freight transport is going to carry on rising. So my priority now is to get on with delivering the plan that we’ve been working on for the past year.
The country’s decision to leave the European Union only adds to the importance of our task. Transport has a critical role to play as Britain forges a new position for itself in the world – improving our global connections, creating the skilled jobs we need to renew our infrastructure and delivering the capacity that will help our economy to grow.
As the Queen’s Speech highlighted in June, our legislative programme reflects the changing technologies which will drive and modernise transport in the years to come. For example, the forthcoming Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will help make Britain a global leader in developing and owning self-driving cars.
Self-driving vehicles might sound like science fiction, but they’re already science fact, and they are going to revolutionise the way we travel. Automating more of the various tasks performed while driving will make roads safer by cutting the risk of human error. It will also change the lives of people with reduced mobility. And they will reduce congestion by making better use of road space.
The Space Industry Bill – also announced in the Queen’s Speech – is designed to make Britain the most attractive place in Europe for commercial spaceflights. It will put British business, engineering and science at the forefront of space technology, and offer our world-leading small satellite companies low-cost, reliable access to launch their satellites into space from British soil.
But while we’re developing transport technologies of the future, we will remain fully focused on improving today’s network. The Government is increasing transport infrastructure spending by 50% between 2015 and 2020 to make travel easier and more reliable, and tackle congestion and overcrowding. At the same time we’re devolving power away from Whitehall to the regions – through bodies like Transport for the north – so decisions that affect different areas are taken locally.
So we have a busy year ahead of us. But ultimately, everything we do will be inspired by one commitment: to make transport better for the passenger, the driver and the customer.