Jesse’s Ross Gazette column: Transport for the future

As Gazette readers will know, I was made Minister for Roads by the Prime Minister in June.  It is a fascinating brief, and I am greatly enjoying getting stuck into my work at the Department for Transport.

Of course, Ministers are under a duty to be completely impartial as regards their own constituencies. But that does not rule out helping officials to understand some of the serious transport issues we have in Herefordshire and in other rural areas up and down the country.

These issues include the need for better road surfaces; more funding for potholes, which inevitably affect rural drivers more than urban ones, who normally have far better access to public transport; and support for rural bus services that help keep communities together and combat isolation, especially among the elderly.

My constituents also generally feel very strongly about the natural environment, and the need to combat pollution.  So I am delighted that last week the Government reiterated its commitment to ban new petrol and diesel cars on our roads by 2040.

In fact, such is the pace of technological change that I suspect production may halt by itself before then.  There are already over 100,00 ultra-low emission vehicles on our roads, and charge points are being rolled out across the country.

But it is also vital that these cars are fully rural-compatible.  It would be quite wrong to ban vehicles that farmers and others need in rural areas, without there being fully equivalent and cost-effective alternatives available.

That is one reason why the next Nissan Leaf model is so exciting. As well as being a nicely designed vehicle, it will have a range of 250 miles, with a fast charge of 20-30 minutes. And with the government discount, the price is not too prohibitive either.  It feels like the future.