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Transport policy: what the main parties are promising in their manifestos

The general election is bearing down on us, and the parties have all released their manifestos. To spare you the tedium of actually reading the things, we’ve summarised all the transport policies contained within them. First up, the main three parties:

CONSERVATIVES

HS2. The last Conservative Party manifesto made a commitment to constructing a high-speed rail line between London and the North, and so does the latest. It’s a reflection of just how long this £50 billion project, as with any major project, is taking to get going. Will the Conservatives still be promising it during the 2020 election campaign?

Frozen rail fares. There’s another railway promise, but this one is new. It’s to keep government-regulated rail fares frozen in real terms for the next five years. In other words, fares will only be able rise at the rate of inflation.

A Northern Powerhouse… The manifesto highlights the Conservatives’ commitment to spend £15 billion improving Britain’s road network, which was announced back in December. A good portion of this will be spent in the North of England, but that’s not all the region will get. There’s a plan for more railway improvements, including another high-speed line dubbed HS3, as well as the devolution of transport policy to local authorities.

…and work in other parts of the country too. The manifesto also mentions road and rail improvements for the rest of England, and particularly the Midlands, the East and the South West. Again, all of these improvements are existing government policy.  

Clean and green. With all that work going on, spare a thought for our green and pleasant land. The Tories certainly claim they will. They plan to pour £500 million into the development of zero emission vehicles, as well as £200 million for cycle safety.  

Read the full manifesto here.

LABOUR

Backing HS2 and… what? Despite rumblings to the contrary earlier in this Parliament, Labour will also continue to support HS2 – although they don’t repeat the Conservatives’ £50 billion figure, instead pledging to ‘keep costs down’. As for which other existing policies they will back, the manifesto is extremely vague. ‘We will support long-term investment in strategic roads, address the neglect of local roads, and promote cycling,’ it says. But does that mean the ‘long-term investment’ that the Coalition has planned, or not?

New oversight of public transport. Labour wants to overhaul the way franchising works for public transport, including the introduction of a new ‘National Rail body’ to ‘plan for the railways and give rail users a greater say in how trains operate’. Letting the public have a say seems to be a theme of Labour’s policy, although there’s little detail about how it will work in practice. The manifesto also promises to devolve power to local authorities, much like the Tories’ does.

More fare freezes. And Labour’s manifesto also promises to act against rising railway fares. They’d freeze them in 2016 and then introduce a legal cap for the years afterwards. They also pledge not to extend VAT to any public transport fares. 

Read the full manifesto here.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

HS2, natch… Seeing how the Lib Dems have been in coalition with the Conservatives, and supported the development of high-speed rail during that time, it would be churlish of them to go back on it now. So, of course, they don’t. All three main parties are backing HS2.

…and other Coalition policies… There are other Coalition policies that the Lib Dems are maintaining their support for. The creation of a Northern Powerhouse? That’s in here. The road-building programme? That’s in here too. They signed up to all this in the first place, so they’re not going to drop it now.

…but also more… Except the Lib Dems also seem eager to append their own policies onto the Coalition’s. For instance, the manifesto doesn’t just back HS2; it sets it as the first stage of a high-speed rail route that will reach into Scotland. It doesn’t just rattle through existing programmes; it dwells on those, such as a rail-link between Oxford and Cambridge, that the Lib Dems are keen to claim for themselves. It wants to look beyond the next five years, and establish ten-year plans for capital investment.

…and still more. And there’s more policy that’s specific to the Lib Dems. In fact, their manifesto is probably the most fully stuffed of all the parties. To the list you can add: extra cash for improving railway stations; better access to public transport for disabled people; a review of bus policies and support for local authorities… and, well, even more.

Cheaper fares, again! Of course, fares come up again. The Lib Dems’ main policy is actually the same as the Conservatives’: to make sure that rail fares don’t increase above the rate of inflation in the next five years. They also promise cheaper bus travel for young people.

Greenery. A major theme of the Lib Dems’ transport policy is its environmental friendliness. They propose a Green Transport Act that would enshrine their commitment to reducing emissions and improving air quality. As part of that commitment, they’d put time and money into promoting low emission and electric vehicles, as well as cycling. Their target is to allow only ultra-low emission vehicles on Britain’s roads, for non-freight purposes, from 2040.

Read the full manifesto here.

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