MANY of the issues raised by former Chancellor Alistair Darling in a 2002 interview with the Telegraph & Argus still ring true today. 

Tributes have been paid to Mr Darling following his death at the age of 70. 

He spent almost three decades as an MP and 13 years in government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Mr Darling died after spending time in hospital being treated for cancer.

In an interview with this paper 21 years ago, Mr Darling touched on issues including improving public transport and rail strikes. 

The then-transport chief told Bradford motorists in July 2002:  'I'm not trying to force you off the road.'

The Secretary of State for Transport admitted: "I drive and there are times when it is a good and efficient way of getting about."

He accepted drivers liked their cars but said many streets were built when cars were not a problem.

"We have got to reach a balance and we have got to improve public transport. If we don't things are ultimately going to grind to a halt."

Mr Darling picked Bradford for his first fact-finding tour because of its trail-blazing £12m guided bus scheme which opened in Manchester Road in March of that year. 

The Arriva train which he caught from Leeds to Bradford for the start of his visit was on time and he travelled on a guided bus to and from the refurbished Interchange. During his journey he talked to peak-time passengers.

Mr Darling said his bus had passed traffic caught up in congestion and his journey proved it was the best way to reach his destination quickly.

He added: "My bus was full. People like the scheme and are excited about it. I gather the number of people using buses has already gone up. I hope the Bradford scheme will be the forerunner of many others."

The issue of rail strikes also reared its heard. 

He gave a strong message to Arriva Trains Northern and its striking staff that the pay dispute crippling train services in the district must end. He warned: "If it doesn't, people are going to turn their backs on trains."

He said the Government could not step in. ''It has to be up to the employer and employees. They have to take a long hard look about the damage being done to the system," he commented.

In November 2008, Mr Darling celebrated his 55th birthday with a flying visit to Bradford to meet council and business leaders.

He was getting first-hand feedback on his emergency economic measures.