Smart 'Tees Travel' system will be just the ticket to transform lives and towns

If you talk to ordinary people across the Tees they will tell you that one of the most simple but important things that could improve their lives would be more and better buses. Buses to get to the shops, to visit their family, to get to hospital, or to work, or to college.

Not everyone drives. Not everyone can afford a taxi. But everyone needs to be able to get out and about to live their lives and that makes public transport crucial. Especially for people who live out in the suburbs or communities further out of town and can often be left isolated.

Connecting our towns and communities with each other and with the regional and national network is crucial to plans to transform the economy of the area and the lives of people.

Transport is an area where the mayor has the powers and the budget to make a difference and I believe a modern, coherent transport system is key to unlocking the area’s potential. That is why I am pushing for a 'Tees Travel' system to transform our towns.

The current mayor has spent a lot of the transport budget and put a lot of his focus on the airport but we need so much more than summer flights to Alicante for a few. We need a slicker, quicker system that improves the lives of the many, every day and all year round.

That is why my top priority in office will be to ensure we have a quicker, cleaner and cheaper 'metro style' joined up transport network that works for everyone, opens up opportunities and rewires the entire Tees Valley so it is fit for the future.

I want a smart system where you can get one ticket across several legs of a journey, where the timetables are designed to make slicker connections and reduce waiting time, where there are more trains and more stations and where the rail network runs in synch with buses, where there are more cycle tracks and hubs with bike lock-ups so people can mix and match how they get around, where there are 'smart' information boards and apps giving you real-time updates on when the next bus is due so you can plan your journey. Other big cities and conurbations have smart systems that work. I want one on the Tees. We deserve that.

And it needs to be affordable too. We need lower and simpler fares to encourage people out of cars. I would look at having price caps on journeys too. But it doesn't have to cost the tax-payer. Tees Travel will be managed on a commercial basis and will largely fund itself.

It will need some upfront investment, but it will be worth it. Better connecting people, businesses and visitors puts more money into the local economy. It make us better.

An effective local travel network is good for our people and places but it will also be good for visitors who can get here and get around easily, opening us up as a destination for tourism and cultural events. It will let our town centres become retail and leisure centres and boost our businesses and our night time economy and tourist sectors.

It will stop our high streets being clogged up with cars and taxis and cut our region’s carbon emissions. It is a win-win-win: for people, for the economy and for the climate. That's why a 21st century public transport would be just the ticket for the Tees.