PARLIAMENT has returned from its Summer Recess this week and this is a good opportunity to take stock of forthcoming issues on the Parliamentary Agenda.
As a Member of the Transport Select Committee I am closely involved in scrutinising the Government’s transport policy. Before the summer break the Committee was conducting an inquiry into the Government’s proposed reforms of the railways, Rail 2020. As part of this inquiry the Transport Committee will be looking at where efficiency savings can be made on the rail network and how a balance should be struck between the taxpayer and the farepayer in funding the railway.
Foremost in my mind as the inquiry progresses is how efforts must be made to reduce the cost of rail fares for commuters. Many residents in Milton Keynes are regular rail users and I know that the cost of rail travel can be a significant proportion of the family budget. At present there appears to be a number of potential benefits to Milton Keynes contained in the proposals, such as cheaper tickets for those who use trains regularly but not frequently enough to warrant a season ticket.
Additionally there are large scale investments in MK rail services, such as re-opening the East-West Rail line, new carriages to lengthen trains, and extra new fast trains for London Midland. All together I hope this will mean a better service at a better cost for local commuters.
As many readers will also know FirstGroup will be taking over from Virgin Trains as the franchise holders for the West Coast Mainline from December until 2026. As this is the line that serves Milton Keynes, I have understandably received a number of letters from commuters concerned about this change. Through my role on the Transport Select Committee I will be looking at the details carefully. Additionally I met with the managing director of FirstGroup this week to discuss their bid and ensure a good service for Milton Keynes commuters.
Another transport topic which has recently generated some controversy is discussions over a new runway at Heathrow. The Transport Committee has agreed to hold a major inquiry into the Government’s aviation strategy, which will include consideration of options for expanding airport capacity in south east England.
We will look carefully at the arguments for and against expanding Heathrow, as well as proposals such as the Thames Estuary airport or so called ‘Boris Island’. The inquiry will be looking carefully at the environmental and economical aspects of expanding air capacity in the south east. I would be interested to hear from any readers who have a particular opinion on our future aviation strategy.
Looking forward to the months ahead, I am also pleased to be continuing my programme of visits to local schools and look forward to meeting staff and pupils at Drayton Park School and Bishop Parker Catholic School soon.
Finally, I would like to extend my congratulations to the organisers of Milton Keynes Arts and Culture Festival for putting on another great event this year in Campbell Park. This festival is a great opportunity to showcase the diverse cultures that make Milton Keynes such a fantastic place to live.
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