20 February 2020
Jesse’s Hereford Times Column

The floods this week have been so horrendous that it is impossible to think of anything else.

They are said to be the worst in living memory, and I can readily believe it.  For once the word "biblical" does not seem inappropriate. They testify to a world in which nature is becoming unbalanced, with supposedly once-in-a-lifetime freak events now occurring almost annually.

What can we do about them? Our immediate response, naturally, must be to thank the emergency services, the Council and environment agency officers, and innumerable volunteers for all the help and support they are giving to families who have often been literally washed out of their homes.

I spoke to the Secretaries of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and DEFRA over the weekend.

Both clearly understand the severity of the issue. Emergency funding has been activated.

But some good news from other quarters may help to point us in the right long term direction--towards measures that decarbonise and spread the use of public transport.

Specifically, the Government unveiled a £5bn package to support bus services and cycling routes across the country.  The idea is to have greener, zero-emission buses providing more frequent services, more affordable fares and more sustainable travel.

The key to making it work is regularity, convenience and coverage.  We need higher frequency services and improved evening/weekend schedules, which encourage people to travel more by bus.  And segregated cycle routes so obviously safe that a child of 12 could use them without danger.

But I was also extremely encouraged to get the support of Ken Skates AM, Welsh Minister for Economy and Transport, for our campaign to get a railway station back at Pontrilas.

Ken wrote to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, and offered Welsh Government support for a new station.

And he said he would be "happy for Transport for Wales rail services to stop at this station.”

The Government has already announced its intention to replace some of the railway lines lost to the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, and I will be working with the Council to bid for this funding.  Hats off to Cllr Peter Jinman, Clive Stainton and others for their leadership on this important local project.

But we need more bold and ambitious plans, both nationally and locally, if we are really going to make a difference on this vital issue.