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Jenkin: Spring Forum Speech 2001

Selby Rail Disaster Highlights Need for Road Safety Reform

Today, rail accident investigators have been lifting the shattered carriages of the GNER express train at Selby. They are sifting through all the wreckage and personal belongings to find out exactly how many dead there are and to establish their identities.

"As the nation reflects on their grim task, our thoughts are with everyone whose lives have been touched by this tragedy. The bereaved, the injured, the other survivors, the rescue and medical services, railway staff and investigators and the local people who were first on the scene. For so many, their lives will never be the same again.

"Commentators have been pointing out that rail travel remains statistically very safe and, since this accident was triggered by a road vehicle leaving a motorway, there is a feeling that this tragedy was 'just an accident', requiring little further explanation.

"But this should provoke a totally different question. Why do we react with outrage at the possibility of death or injury on the railway, and yet accept 3,400 deaths on our roads as a matter of everyday life?

"The lesson is that there should be no such thing as an acceptable level of casualties on road or rail, but we can all live with an acceptable level of risk.

"Under the next Conservative government, all transport safety policy will be based upon a systematic assessment of risk, as in aviation. Our most important reform will be in road safety. Our proposed Roads Standards Unit will be a safety regulator for all roads. The proposed Road Accident Investigation Branch of DETR will be able to gather evidence and data about the underlying causes of road accidents, instead of just relying on the police and the insurance companies to allocate blame.

"Policies confined to punishing the motorist with lower speed limits, fanatical enforcement along with evermore speed traps and hypothecated fines will not achieve the road casualty reduction targets we all support. The dramatic reduction in deaths due to drink driving, which we achieved, was without any change in the law or any change in enforcement policy. It was achieved by promoting understanding about the risks involved and by targeting the hard core of drink drivers.

"Labour promised an integrated transport policy. They promised that things could only get better, but on every single mode of transport, they have made things worse. Their greatest failure is on the roads. Under Labour we have the highest petrol taxes in Europe and the worst traffic jams. Industry and ordinary people every day pay the price of Labour's war on the motorist.

"But perhaps the jewel in the crown of Labour's transport failure is the London Tube. After four years in government, they have not delivered a single penny of the private investment they promised, and now they are bent on denying Mr Bob Kiley, one of the most experienced Tube operators in the world, any serious management control of the Tube.

"What a ridiculous proposition - that Londoners should trust John Prescott rather than someone like Bob Kiley! We will do business with Mr Kiley.

"Ladies and Gentlemen. We believe in your freedom. The next Conservative government will respect the right of people and businesses to get about and to deliver to their customers.

"Labour transport policy has been dither and delay; all spin and no substance: political correctness instead of investment and action. Now you are asked to believe Labour's 10- year transport plan!

"The next Conservative government will match Labour's spending commitments. The difference between Conservative and Labour is that we will actually deliver a policy and it will be based on common sense.

"The next Conservative government will get Britain moving again

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