Transport secretary shelves plans for major bill promised in autumn

The new transport secretary has dropped a wide-ranging transport bill that had been promised for this autumn by her predecessor.

The bill had been due to create a new body to run Britain’s railways, regulate e-scooters and protect the rights of ferry workers.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan told the transport select committee on Wednesday that it has been shelved for now because of the “challenges of the energy bill…and various others”.

“[This] has meant that we have lost the opportunities to have that in this third session,” she said.

“What we are continuing to pitch for is what I would call a narrow bill around the future of transport technologies, the legislation around things like e-scooters.”

Back in May, her predecessor Grant Shapps hailed the ambitious transport bill as “the biggest of its kind in three decades” when it was announced in the Queen’s Speech.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a member of the transport committee, tweeted: “New Transport Secretary tells @TransportCttee the Government is dropping the vital new Transport Bill promised this autumn. Whole of Government falling apart.”

Chair Huw Merriman said the committee had had assurances from her predecessor about pavement parking, charging points for electric cars and more powers for the CAA to protect passengers.

“Are we likely to see these sorts of things?” he asked.

“Exactly, those are the sort of specific things we are pitching to have in a narrow, new transport regulation and investment bill…a series of specific areas of policy,” she replied.

“The CAA is on my list,” she added.

She also pointed to the charter set out by Shapps during the summer to outline what passengers can expect when they are affected by flight cancellations and delays.

“We’re making sure we’re pushing forwards on those charter commitments,” she said.

Gareth Davies, permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, said a review of the CAA started last month and would be reporting next spring on issues such as passenger rights and accessibility.

Trevelyan also agreed with criticism of Shapps’ proposal on compensation for flight delays, adopting a model like that used by train companies, which links pay-outs to the cost of tickets.

Bradshaw pointed out that air passengers face extra costs if their flight is delayed or cancelled, such as a hotel.

“The idea all you’ll get back is a fraction of the actual fare or even the full fare would not be adequate, would it?” he asked.

Trevelyan replied: “I agree.”

Bradshaw also asked about the withdrawal by India of e-visas for British visitors, pointing out that the service remains valid for US and European travellers.

“I am aware of it, it is high on my agenda today,” she said. “I am discussing it with cabinet colleagues later today.”

She said she had met the country’s high commissioner in the UK and discussed the matter last week.

The minister also welcomed news that new investors have come forward and are in talks about Doncaster Sheffield airport, which looks set to close.

She said the Department for Transport can offer “technical support” if needed.

• Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, commented: “It’s very disappointing to see the delay of the transport bill. This will further impact the lives and livelihoods of British workers as they grapple with the cost of living crisis.

“We urge the transport secretary to prioritise the improvement of the rail network and the introduction of the Great British Railways for the benefit of our whole country.”

Meanwhile, the TSSA transport union is demanding full public ownership of the country’s railways after the shelving of Great British Railways (GBR) reforms in the wide-ranging bill proposed by Shapps.

Union general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Those plans seemed to be a long way down the track but now the new transport secretary has all but junked them, saying this will not happen any time soon.

“Frankly what we badly need is a change of government and Labour’s policy of full public ownership of our railways.”

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