Baroness Kramer – 2014 Speech on Passenger Focus Bus Survey Results

Below is the text of the speech made by Baroness Kramer in London on 25th March 2014.

Thank you for that introduction.

It’s a pleasure to be here today.

And I’d like to congratulate Passenger Focus for delivering this new bus passenger survey.

As transport stories go, the survey is unlikely to knock high speed rail or airport expansion off the front pages.

But frankly, the subject it deals with is no less important.

Buses form the backbone of UK transport, accounting for almost two thirds of public transport journeys.

They keep people linked with the workplace, and businesses linked with the marketplace.

For many young, old and disabled people – and those who live in rural areas – their local bus service is the only option to get from A to B.

So buses keep Britain moving.

And that’s why it’s crucial that passengers feel they are getting a good service.

Today’s survey shows that customer satisfaction has improved in most areas.

Including value for money, punctuality, journey time, and reducing anti-social behaviour.

Overall satisfaction is 88%, an increase from 84% last year.

These are very positive results.

We want local authorities and bus operators to work together to bring about improvements, so it’s encouraging to see partnerships like that between Centro and local operators delivering for passengers.

I also congratulate Reading Buses for achieving the highest overall satisfaction rating at 94% – an improvement even on last year’s impressive performance.

These results don’t merely show that most passengers are happy with their bus services.

They also demonstrate the value of the bus passenger survey in helping operators and local authorities identify passenger concerns, and take action to address them.

We’ve been through 5 extremely tough years.

And we’ve all had to tighten our belts – and learn how to deliver more for less.

But make no mistake, the government is still backing buses.

We are working with the industry to invest £1 billion a year providing older and disabled people with free off-peak travel.

We’ve channelled around £350 million into buses through the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), and we’re protecting bus spending up to 2015 to 2016.

We have provided £70 million through the Better Bus Area fund for improvements in 24 local authorities.

£20 million has been invested to support community transport.

And £87 million has been spent through the Green Bus Fund to boost environmental performance.

Where the market can support it, we’re improving competition for bus passengers by implementing the Competition Commission’s recommendations.

And £15 million of DfT funding is helping roll out smart ticketing technology across England’s bus fleets.

All of these measures demonstrate our commitment to buses.

They also illustrate the increasingly pivotal role of local government in delivering our bus strategy.

As I’ve outlined, substantial funding has been made available.

From the start of January, some BSOG funding has been paid directly to local authorities.

This funding has been ringfenced until 2017 to encourage more partnership working between bus operators and local authorities

Many authorities also received a share of the government’s £600 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund which included bus improvement schemes.

And they’ve had more money to spend on road maintenance each year of this Parliament compared to the last.

An important factor in bus punctuality.

All these measures give communities more control over how money is spent.

I do appreciate that with budgets under pressure, authorities have to make difficult choices about where they spend their money.

But it’s absolutely paramount that they make the most of what’s available, to secure the best services and the best value for bus passengers.

To help with this, we published guidance last October on procuring local bus services and other types of road passenger transport.

While councils all over the country continue to innovate, I believe there is scope for further improvement.

Particularly if authorities share best practice.

We should always be seeking to improve what we do and learn from others.

The Japanese have a word for it: “Kaizen” – or continuous improvement.

That’s why the DfT is continuing to work on strategies to deliver better bus services cost effectively – including through community transport.

And I urge local authorities to do the same.

Making public transport accessible to everyone in the community is something that’s close to my heart.

That’s why the concessionary fares scheme is so important.

Feeling lonely and isolated can affect everyone.

But the loss of friends and family, or losing mobility can make older and disabled people particularly vulnerable.

For many, their local bus service is more than simply a mode of transport.

It’s a lifeline.

It connects them with essential services.

But what’s just as important is that it gets them out of the house, and gives them confidence and a sense of independence.

So I’m keen for the bus industry to invest in technologies which can help them.

Many blind and partially sighted people find audio and visual announcements vital for travel.

However, they don’t come cheap – particularly for smaller, local bus operators.

The cost can rise to millions of pounds a year.

So following an industry roundtable on transport accessibility, and discussions with Guide Dogs for the Blind and the RNIB, I am encouraging operators to work with manufacturers of audio/visual technology to gauge the potential for simpler and more affordable systems for buses.

I want them to think creatively about what can be achieved.

And I’m also looking into the possibility of research initiatives involving small businesses and academic institutions to encourage further innovation.

But it’s not just about money and technology.

What’s just as important is the attitude and awareness of staff – which has such a bearing on passengers’ confidence and willingness to travel.

The DfT is currently reviewing the exemption of bus drivers from the mandatory EU disability awareness training requirement on passenger rights. This review will conclude at the end of this month.

We want to establish if drivers are receiving adequate training under the current voluntary arrangement.

I have also sought feedback from disability groups and charities.

If the results show that progress is not being made on disability awareness training, we will examine options and propose a plan of action.

So in summary, the evidence from the survey is encouraging.

Bus companies are increasingly focused on the passenger experience.

Many of them are working in partnership with local authorities.

And passengers are responding positively.

I’d like to thank everyone in the industry for their efforts.

But make no mistake, the need for efficient, reliable, affordable, clean bus services is only going to rise.

Britain’s population is growing, getting older, and travelling more.

So absorbing the growth in demand while continuing to increase passenger satisfaction will therefore provide an enduring challenge to the industry.

But it’s a challenge I’m sure it will meet.

Particularly with the help of the bus passenger survey.

Thanks to Passenger Focus, we know more today about bus passengers and their needs than we have ever known.

And that means we’re well placed to attract more passengers back onto buses,

Which in turn will give the bus industry a vital boost,

While reducing road congestion,

And cutting harmful traffic emissions.

So I look forward to working with you over the next year, and to building on the achievements of 2013.

Thank you.

Baroness Kramer – 2014 Speech on the British Transport Police

Below is the text of the speech made by Baroness Kramer to the British Transport Police Federation annual conference on 5th March 2014.

I’d like to begin by thanking George Lewis, Chairman, BTPF for his kind words this morning.

The Federation plays an extremely important role. You are the independent voice of your members. And you represent their dedication, professionalism and expertise in everything you do.

I would also like to echo your tribute to Chief Constable Andy Trotter. He has a fantastic track record as a leader in the British Transport Police. As Deputy Chief Constable he reassured the nation following the July 7th terror attacks and of course he played an absolutely vital role in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic Games went so well.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish him all the very best for the future.

Last night’s bravery awards demonstrated the courage and heroism of those who serve in the force and I would like to congratulate everyone who won an award.

As a board member for Transport for London I saw first-hand how important the BTP are for keeping the capital safe and I was delighted to be invited to speak to you today because whether it is hunting cable thieves, tackling anti-social behaviour or preventing terrorism, each and every day of the year, the public know that when they need help most, you will be there.

So I’d also like to take this opportunity to say something that perhaps isn’t said often enough: thank you for everything you do.

Britain’s railways are a success story. They carry more passengers today than at any time since the Second World War and they are among the safest in Europe.

But over the coming years we must meet two major challenges in order to be successful in the future.

The first is that we all need to continue to deliver better value for money for the taxpayer and the farepayer.

By 2010, the operating costs of our railways were amongst the most expensive in Europe. After housing and heating, the cost of travel is the next most significant bill most households face. And, if they are going to get to work on time, it is just not something people can easily cut back on.

So we need to keep finding ways to improve services and save customers money.

The second challenge is overcrowding.

Passenger numbers have increased over recent years but infrastructure investment simply didn’t keep pace.

Investment in the country’s infrastructure was lower than in 1998 in every year to 2011. That’s left more people standing up for their journey and crowding on to platforms.

Looking ahead, passenger numbers are expected to grow by 14% more over the next five years. Rail freight is predicted to grow by 30% over a similar period.

So unless we invest now, we risk grinding to a halt.

That’s why between 2014 and 2019, Network Rail will spend over £38 billion running and expanding our railway. Just to take a couple of examples, that will see:

– 24 trains an hour on Thameslink through central London

– the return of non-stop services between Manchester and Liverpool.

– and it will mean the closure of 500 more level crossings.

We are also building the first new north – south railway for a hundred years.

High Speed 2 will cut journey times between our major cities and it will unlock much needed capacity for much needed commuter and freight services.

The first phase alone is expected to support about 40,000 jobs – including employing 9,000 directly on the railway. Overall, HS2 will return over £2 worth of benefit for every £1 invested.

I hope the Federation can continue to be an influential voice welcoming HS2. As you point out Mr Chairman, we are making a substantial investment in HS2. And like any valuable investment we need to ensure it is protected appropriately.

Construction of Phase One is due to start in 2017 so we have a little time yet to consider how best to do so. We expect lead contractors to be initially responsible for their own security and trespass risk at each site. We will also expect them to implement appropriate control measures involving all interested parties.

I have said that Britain’s railways are a success story and what is absolutely clear is the British Transport Police are right at the heart of that achievement.

Passenger numbers are up but overall crime levels have fallen for nine consecutive years. That’s why – day and night, young and old – today people are generally feeling safer on our railways and disruption to services as a result of police activity has also fallen over recent years.

Those impressive achievements are underpinned by the unique foundations of the force and the specialist skills and knowledge of its officers.

First, there is your unrivalled commitment to innovation.

You embrace new technology that helps officers get to where they are needed more quickly and be even more visible for the public. For example, one of the problems people used to feel was being worried that if they saw anti-social behaviour in their carriage and rang the police they’d risk becoming a victim themselves.

So you launched a text messaging service last year that has made it much easier for passenger to report anti-social behaviour without drawing attention to themselves on the train.

Last month I visited Ebury Bridge where I saw for myself how you are using cutting edge technology to keep the railways safe, bring criminals to justice and save lives. I will continue to encourage Train Operating Companies to invest in high quality CCTV, ensuring that, working together, you are able to maximise the potential benefit for passengers and staff.

Second, the BTP have specialist skills that are essential for keeping the railways moving.

Skills that have cut the time it takes to clear non-suspicious and unexplained fatality incidents to an average of just 74 minutes. Saving passengers time, train operators money and supporting the country’s economy.

The British Transport Police also has a critical counter terrorism role. In 2011 we took the sensible and pragmatic step to provide the BTP with an armed capability. That has enhanced the safety of the public and the security of the railways. Last year you raised the important point that we needed to ensure that armed BTP officers were on the same footing as those in other forces. I am very pleased to say that, subject to Parliamentary approval, I can confirm this will be in place by the summer.

I would also like to honour the work you do preventing suicides on the network.

Every life lost is a tragedy.

I was in the cab with the driver returning from Crewe last week and we heard the news that someone had taken their life on the tracks just one train in front of us. In that moment, it was clearer than ever before for me what a traumatic experience it is for everyone involved. The work you do, through supporting initiatives like the ‘We’re in Your Corner’ campaign, is so very, very important. I want to do all that I can to help support any campaign that you and the industry want to take that will help prevent lives being lost.

And, finally, your partnership with the industry means you have a unique commercial perspective. That strong relationship has enabled you to embrace change, reduce costs and improve value for money. The move to the new divisional structure is just the latest example of the BTP’s ability to continue to adapt and improve.

A change that will see more officers and keep more eyes on the frontline, protecting the public, where they belong.

Mr Chairman, your speech referred to the Scottish Government’s desire to incorporate the British Transport Police into a Scottish Police force.

As you know there will be a referendum taking place in Scotland later this year. And the possible break-up of the BTP is one of the important and far reaching implications for the welfare of our citizens. We believe Scotland benefits from national networks that are unconstrained by international borders.

A single united country preserves key national institutions that we all too easily take for granted. Institutions like the British Transport Police and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who have served the people of our whole country well for many years.

Put simply, we are better together.

Britain’s railways are safer and more secure than they ever have been. The BTP play an essential role in keeping Britain on track.

The Tour de France, Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Rugby World Cup will mean the eyes of the world are once again on us over the coming years and millions of visitors will rely on our railways and on the BTP.

Over the coming years we will be making a record investment in improving and expanding Britain’s railways and you will be vital to ensuring that investment is a success.

I look forward to working with you to make that happen.

Thank you.

Baroness Kramer – 2013 Speech on Low Carbon Vehicles

Below is the text of the speech made by Baroness Kramer on the 23rd October 2013 at an ‘e-car club’ event.

Thank you Charlie, and good morning ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a great pleasure to be here in my new capacity as Minister of State for Transport.

I might be new to the department, but my interest in transport goes back a long way.

I ran a business advising on infrastructure finance in central and eastern Europe.

I was on the board of Transport for London.

And I was Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary – under the leadership of Sir Menzies Campbell.

But despite this experience, I had never travelled in a pure electric car before today (23 October 2013).

I must say I was hugely impressed.

So impressed, in fact, that I’m trying to persuade E-Car to let me drive one.

The environmental case for going electric is widely understood, but I wasn’t expecting the vehicles to be as sophisticated and refined as they are – both in their design and in the quality of their ride.

Clearly the products are right.

And sales are growing.

But over the next few years, we have to make them even more commercially attractive to potential customers.

So it’s inspiring to see a business like E-Car Club, which was only set up a couple of years ago, doing so much to promote ultra low emission vehicles.

While government is providing significant funding to develop the technology, expand the infrastructure, and reduce the cost of electric vehicles to buyers, ultimately building the market requires initiative and entrepreneurial flair at a local level.

And that’s precisely what E-Car Club and HARCA are doing here.

This type of collaboration, between the car club, local authority and community association will be instrumental in growing the market and changing the way we travel.

Pay-as-you-go car clubs don’t just help us improve air quality, reduce traffic noise and cut carbon.

They also give Londoners more choice about the journeys they take.

Reduce the cost of transport to individuals and businesses.

And promote more efficient use of cars.

We are absolutely committed as a government to speeding up the development of electric and other ultra low carbon vehicles – and supporting the growing market.

As some of you may be aware, last month we published our ultra low emission vehicle strategy – called ‘Driving the future today’.

Taking on board the views of stakeholders, it sets out a structured plan to transform sales of ultra low emission vehicles. Our long-term vision is for all cars and vans on our roads to be ultra low emission vehicles by 2050.

We will continue to support the early market, through:

– plug in grants which currently reduce the upfront cost by up to £5000 per car or £8000 per van

– tax concessions

– and grants for installing charging infrastructure

We are also working to install more publicly accessible chargers in key locations like car parks at train stations and rapid chargers at motorway services.

We have an unwavering, long term commitment to decarbonising road transport.

Not just to tackle climate change.

But also to make the UK a global leader in green vehicle technologies and engineering.

The government’s focus will remain consistent and technologically neutral.

And we welcome any innovative thinking that helps us achieve that goal.

We will work to resolve any market failures or barriers to growth.

In Europe we will continue to negotiate on the basis that regulations on reducing CO₂ from cars are ambitious but realistic.

And we will keep on listening to industry and ensure that its concerns are taken on board when formulating policy.

The industry’s role is crucial – and will be even more crucial in the future as our investment in green vehicles grows.

In the 2013 Spending Round, the Chancellor announced that £500 million would be made available to develop the ULEV market between 2015 and 2020.

This is a world leading commitment that gives certainty to the market.

But we need the industry to help us deploy it in the most beneficial way.

So we will shortly be launching a call for evidence to draw in a wide range of ideas to help us design the next phase of our ULEV programme.

This is your opportunity to tell us how we can best support sustainable market growth in this sector.

How best we can help UK technology businesses.

And how best these changes can boost economic growth.

We will retain incentives to help motorists with the upfront cost of buying ULEVs.

And of course we will continue to invest to get the necessary infrastructure in place.

I think we all appreciate that the decarbonisation of road transport presents us with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Like you, I am determined that we seize that opportunity.

And I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to do just that.

Thank you.