“It’s doable to transition in a fair way, but my fear is the government will drag their feet and they will do it at the last minute, punishing working-class people.”
Responding to McMahon’s statement, a Department for Transport spokesman said: “We’ve already announced funding for 900 vehicles and the winning bids for up to a further 500 buses are due to be announced shortly.”
So, what would Labour be doing if it were in power today?
“I would like to see a public transport revolution, for us to reimagine how we use our neighbourhoods and take cars off the streets. But I don’t want to do that by a system that doesn’t give people any choice, other than to do that and then tax them heavily on their mode of transport,” McMahon said.
“I’d like there to be a reset conversation about the way we live, work and consume to make sure that we’re fully sighted on the environmental decisions that we make. We need to take into account the true environmental impact of each form of travel, and we need to understand the taxation pressures that will come down the line. The Treasury relies on £39bn in fuel and vehicle excise duties, but if everyone moves to a zero-emissions vehicle, that will be lost.”
McMahon argues that one way of doing this is to make better use of smartphone data: “We can use real-time data that tens of millions of people are giving us every day to plan new routes for the future. We need to track current travel on non-public transport to then plan routes that will convince people to switch.”
He continued: “The other way is to use a polluter pays model. We shouldn’t be seen to be punishing people for wanting to lead a decent life, having choice and freedom. Don’t punish a family for having a holiday once a year to Spain or Portugal, but if you’re a business traveller flying around the world every other month, you should be paying more.”
Despite his attack on the government for its strategy to decarbonise the UK’s new car market by 2030, McMahon believes that deadline “is still achievable” – as long as the £2500 EV grant is continued beyond its current expiry date of April 2023. “The idea of cutting it short would almost certainly mean we wouldn’t meet that target,” he said.