Spend more wisely on transport

EDITOR – I have spoken and written often on the importance of the Government minding its pennies – mainly because all its pennies are really ours.

Sometimes people, and especially people in Government, imagine that public money comes out of nowhere. But every penny spent by Government bodies had to come from somewhere, and most of the time it comes from people like you and me – or the shops and businesses we use every day.

A matter before the Commons recently has been the High Speed Two (HS2) rail link between London and Birmingham.

At current estimates, which almost certainly underestimate what the eventual expenditure will be, the project should cost a whopping £32 billion pounds, and be up and running by 2026.

For this astonishing investment of time and energy, the rail journey from London to Birmingham will be reduced by a mere 30 minutes.

It astounds me that at a time when we are all having to tighten our belts and in which many families have been quite strongly affected by the deleterious economic situation that such an expensive vanity project has been approved.

I fail to see how the residents of our part of Lincolnshire as well as most of the rest of the country outside London and Birmingham will benefit from such a minuscule improvement in travelling time at such an exorbitant cost.

Would it not have been wiser to make a considerable investment in our existing rail infrastructure, as well as to take measures to soften the blow of ticket prices, which are getting out of control?

An anytime weekly return to London from Market Rasen will set the traveller back £150. Meanwhile, the average weekly wage in Market Rasen is £561, meaning that 26 per cent of a week’s salary would have to be devoted to such a journey.

We need to pay more attention to improving the overall level of rail service throughout the country, especially in rural areas like ours, while keeping an eye on ticket prices to make sure they stay affordable.

Britain deserves a first-class rail network, but not at the expense of ticket prices so high none of us can use it.

Another problem which has become an increasing worry in Lincolnshire is metal theft, of which, having been a victim myself, I know more than I would like to.

A private member’s Bill is currently working its way through Parliament to introduce a licensing scheme for scrap metal dealers as well as other measures that should help to alleviate the problem, such as require scrap metal purchases to be cashless transactions.

We must always be suspicious of introducing more regulation, but so also must we be pragmatic and consider what options we have on hand when dealing with a problem.

I hope the Metal Theft Prevention Bill will make it through Parliament so we can begin to deal with this problem which has been plaguing rural areas like our own.

EDWARD LEIGH

MP for Gainsborough