Written by Kelly Pyart and Gregor Smith. 

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Mary Creagh, visited Lincoln this Thursday to kick-start Labour’s local election campaign, speaking on a number of issues affecting both students and local people.

Her role within the Labour Party helped her fit in in a city whose residents have several transport concerns themselves: the frustrating level crossings, the unconfirmed East-West Link Road, and the infrequent services to transport hubs such as London.

Yet improvements have been underway: the upgrade of Lincoln station, the recent announcement of new intercity express trains for the East Coast Main Line, and the confirmation of a footbridge for the Brayford level crossing.

Ms Creagh denied that enough was being done to improve Lincoln’s transport situation. “The coalition government cut the capital spending on the roads budget, and now they’ve been desperately putting that back in,” she said. “You might have had the East-West Link Road quite a lot earlier if it hadn’t been for those cuts four years ago and you might have been seeing the benefits a lot sooner.

“I’m going to look at the possibility of electrification of the line between Lincoln and Newark so we get fast services and more direct services into London. It’s clear also that the level crossings need to be sorted quickly – they’re two of the top three most high risk level crossings in the country and they need to be actioned so that we don’t have a tragedy in the city.”

Students would also find it cheaper to travel back home if Labour were to win the next general election, she added. “We have an issue with the cost of rail tickets going up faster than the rate of inflation, and in some cases, by up to 9%. We want to see a removal of the flexibility train companies have to put those fares up and have a proper fares cap.”

The tyranny of private landlords, experienced by the majority of Lincoln students throughout their time at university, would also be campaigned against, the MP for Wakefield claimed:

“Ed Miliband today has made a pledge about private rents, that if Labour get in next year we won’t have letting fees, which for people who move around frequently is an absolutely huge issue. There are around 8,000 households in Lincoln who are in the private rental sector – over a fifth of all households in the area.”

Families with school-age children, who find it strenuous to move regularly between rental properties, would also benefit from the measures, it was said.

Employment was another topic Ms Creagh wanted to tackle. “We’ve said we want to have apprenticeships, and I know that City of Lincoln Council is pledging to create one hundred apprenticeships for young people.

“We’ve also promised a guaranteed job for every young, unemployed person – youth unemployment is a very big issue in Lincoln and Lincolnshire,” she continued.

With regards to the European elections, she told a small crowd of Labour supporters outside the Guildhall that the main focus was “reforming Europe” rather than holding a debate on leaving or staying within the EU.

“We reject the UKIP policies, but I think that when people look at Nigel Farage’s UKIP, they’ll look and think: the man who describes himself as the ‘heir to Thatcherism’ isn’t really who we want to be voting for,” she asserted.

The European and local elections will take place on 22 May, and the deadline for voters yet to register is this Tuesday 6 May.