Grayling plans mark return to nineteenth century rail

 “The next time the Transport Secretary comes to the Commons to talk about railways I half expect him to be sporting mutton chop whiskers and a stovepipe hat.”

That’s the response from Rob to Chris Grayling’s plans for joint management between operating companies and Network Rail.

“It harks back to the early days of the railways when competing lines ran from London to Brighton, for example.  It’s just the latest crazy attempt by a Tory government to make sense of probably the most botched privatisation of them all,” he says.  “This is a desperate attempt to sell off the rail network one little bit at a time – presumably in the hope that no one will notice it’s happening.  It’s not even as if it’s a new idea.  Remember the privatised disaster that was Railtrack and how the last Labour government had to rescue that?”

Rob, who also chairs the All Party Group on Freight Transport says that once again, the people being ignored in the Department of Transport’s latest cunning plan are the public. 

Smart Motorways needed to fight “Attack of the Cones”

Rob has welcomed government plans to try to reduce cone-induced motorway misery for drivers, but says so much more could be done to keep Britain moving.

Roads Minister, John Hayes, has announced a pilot plan to see whether the speed limit in roadworks could be increased from fifty to sixty miles per hour and to limit coned-off lanes to a maximum of ten miles.  Rob says it’s a good idea but simply doesn’t go far enough.

Rob says, “It’s good that government is looking at this but the minister’s suggestion is just not sophisticated enough.  Speed limits through roadworks should be variable so that drivers are kept to fifty on safety grounds when workers are present but raised to sixty-five when they’ve all gone home for the day.  However, even if that were done it’s still a bit of a sticking plaster solution to the wider problem of our ageing, crowded major roads.”

Rob wants to see an extension of the smart motorways policy which has been so effective on the M42 and M25 whereby variable speed limits are enforced to keep traffic moving as best it can in differing conditions.

Rob Flello MP calls for national roads renaissance

Research out today shows Britain’s roads are the most congested in Europe.  Data company, Inrix, monitored traffic in 123 cities across the continent and found that nearly half of the worst traffic black spots are in the UK.  Rob says, “Britain has fallen so far behind in investment in our roads that we’re heading for a grinding halt.  This gridlock can only seriously injure the economy at the worst possible time because we need everything running smoothly by the time we exit the EU.”

“The government’s committed to spending £56 billion on HS2,” he says.  “The cost will inevitably soar, it won’t be completed for decades and its benefits are questionable at the least.  That figure is almost three times the whole of the annual Transport budget.  The Chancellor announced an extra £1.3 billion for road improvements in the autumn statement but that again is peanuts by comparison and hides double-counting and already announced schemes.  We’re reaching a point of no return where Britain’s roads lead nowhere, least of all to post-Brexit prosperity.”

Rob Flello slams coalition as Children’s Centres set to close

Rob has reacted to the Budget consultation that has today been released by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, expressing his deep concern over the “credit card coalition” and the lack of leadership from the City Independent group on the authority.

“The most eye-catching proposal is of course a 3% increase in Council Tax for every one of the next three years”, said Rob, “which when you add it together means that a Band A property will pay almost £145 more into the Council’s coffers over that period and a Band B property around £169.  Residents will rightly want to see some benefit, yet in the very area where much of this extra funding is supposed to be used – adult social care – we will see yet more cuts.

“But as you look further through the proposals you see the true impact of the Tory-Independent coalition’s plans for the city.  We see for example that Children’s Centres will close across the city, and the City Council’s Co-operative Working agenda, which has been roundly praised and received strong early success, are going to be decimated, with the loss of over 150 jobs across those two services alone, plus a further 30 currently vacant posts that won’t be filled.  These are crucial front-line services that will be greatly missed by those who need them.”

Brexit law-making mustn’t stop the UK in its tracks

Rob has said that Britain’s vital transport and logistics sector risks grinding to a halt if Brexit law-making is not handled properly, saying that the Government’s plans for a Great Repeal Bill risk missing out many crucial pieces of legislation or bogging down our road, rail, sea and air freight industries for years to come.  
 
Speaking in a debate on Exiting the EU and Transport, Rob identified areas where all avenues for freight movement could face a regulatory nightmare.  Among the examples he highlighted were:
 
·         At sea, new EU law arising from the Ports Service Directive, currently under consideration, would be seriously harmful against the UK’s privately-owned facilities if it wasn’t removed quickly by the Great Repeal Bill 
·         In the air, leaving the EU would mean an end to UK participation in the Open Skies negotiations between the EU and US and could mean a return to the last bipartisan deal, Bermuda II, which was drawn-up in 1946 and is not suitable for modern aviation
·         On the roads, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is already under-resourced and bereft of serious powers relating to non-UK vehicles – a situation which, without better financial and statutory support will only get worse after Brexit

Government heeds Rob's call for urgency over whiplash fraud – drivers to see insurance premium cuts

Details have been released of a consultation on fake whiplash injuries which could see drivers save £40 - £50 per month on insurance premiums, three days after Rob demanded to know why government was dragging its heels over the matter.  Ministers are looking at scrapping the right to compensation or capping it, following the dramatic rise in the number of fake claims.

Sudden demand for beds shows folly of closure plan

The surge in demand which led to the emergency opening of wards for patients being discharged from Royal Stoke University Hospital (Royal Stoke) over the weekend shows the dangers of the rush to close beds, says Rob

The Sycamore ward at Bradwell hospital was due to close at the weekend but was kept open at the last minute, and a children’s ward at Royal Stoke has had to be repurposed to meet demand following an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug in three of its wards.

“This is a very timely reminder of the dangers of closing community beds”, said Rob, “and there is no question in my mind that the lack of beds will severely damage health care in our city.  We are not even into the worst of winter and already we’re seeing these beds being needed, yet the CCG is still forcing through closures?  Yet again the whole process is shown to be a shambles driven by accountants not doctors.”

Rob calls for compensation for cheated British lorry firms

Rob is demanding lorry owners receive thousands of pounds compensation after it emerged they have been cheated by a cartel of manufacturers.  British hauliers were ripped off by as much as £9000 per vehicle because the group fixed prices at inflated levels.  Big names including Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF have been hit with a £2.52 billion fine for secretly passing on the cost of tougher emission controls to customers.

“Anyone who bought a new truck between 1997 and 2011 from one of the cartel cheats should be due a payout and they shouldn’t have to go to court to get it,” said Rob, who is a member of the Transport Select Committee and chairman of the All Party Group on Freight.  “These big companies have been sitting on cash belonging to British businesses for years and they should be forced to cough up without waiting for a solicitor’s letter.  It’s hard enough for players in our freight sector, especially the smaller ones, to make a decent living, without being conned by giant global corporations.”

The government delay which could be costing every driver £50 per year

Rob is demanding that the government stops dragging its heels over releasing the results of a consultation about whiplash injuries in car accidents.  Experts in the insurance industry suggest possible changes to the law could mean drivers would save £40 - £50 each on their premiums, as they have promised to pass any savings to customers.

Rob says, “Back in May, the minister, Lord Faulks, said the consultation findings wouldn’t be released until after the referendum – an excuse which, like the minister himself, now seems to be well and truly expired.  His replacement, Oliver Heald, presumably has the document sitting in a drawer somewhere.  Has he read it?  If so, isn’t it time the rest of us had a look, please?”

Blame for High Speed 2 missed opportunity “lies squarely at the coalition’s door”

Rob and fellow local MP Ruth Smeeth have blasted the ruling coalition on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, as a new report made it ever more unlikely that the city will see any benefit from the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line.

The latest publication from HS2 Limited proposes a link between Stafford and the HS2 line but makes hardly any mention of Stoke-on-Trent at all, instead providing simple assurances that quicker journey times to Stafford will boost the economy as a whole.

“I am absolutely stunned by this recent development”, said Rob, “and I am furious with the City Council - what on earth have they been doing these last 18 months?!

“As soon as it became clear that we were going to be denied a proper HS2 stop the Council should have been doing all it could to get the maximum possible benefit for the city.  That’s what they said they were doing, so they’ve either decided not to bother or failed miserably in their efforts. 

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