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

Last week we published our summary of the transport policies contained within the three main parties’ manifestos. Now that the SNP have finally got round to releasing their own manifesto, it’s the turn of the other parties:

UKIP

No to HS2! UKIP diverge from the consensus among the three main parties: rather than backing a high-speed rail line, they’d scrap it outright. Their argument against it comes in three parts. First, that it’s a £50 billion cost the country can’t afford. Second, that it won’t necessarily work as well as the Government would have us believe. Third, that it will be a blemish on the countryside. All unsurprising, as Nigel Farage has been making the same argument for years.    

No to speed cameras! UKIP’s protest moves on to speed cameras. They will only allow new ones to be put up in areas such as accident blackspots or outside schools. What they will do with the old ones, outside such areas, they do not say.

No to road pricing! One of the more significant policies in UKIP’s manifesto is their opposition to road pricing in various forms. Not only would they abolish tolls ‘where possible,’ but they also cast dread suspicions against the ‘eCall’ systems that are being fitted into new cars, which would – apparently – ‘enable introduction of a Europe-wide road pricing system.’ This is indicative of politicians’ reluctance to countenance new ways of funding Britain’s roads. Road pricing is barely mentioned in any of the manifestos. In UKIP’s, it is portrayed negatively.

Yes to lorries! But there is some positivity in the UKIP prospectus. They clearly like haulage firms, and would scrap the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence – ‘an expensive second-tier requirement’ – to prove it. They would also raise the levies imposed on forign-registered HGVs, to help dampen any competitive advantages they might have over British hauliers.  

Yes to classic cars! UKIP also promise to axe Vehicle Excise Duty for any vehicles over 25 years old. This used to be Government policy until January 1997. The current cut-off point is for vehicles over 40 years old.  

Read the full manifesto here.

GREENS

If you don’t need cars… The Green Party sets themselves apart from the other parties immediately. At the beginning of the transport section of their manifesto, they explain not why car travel needs to become cleaner – although one assumes they want that too – but why it should decline towards naught. Their aim, as they put it, is to “reduce the number of journeys made by car and switch as many journeys as possible to walking.” They even provide a handy ranked list of their transport priorities. Walking is at the top. “Private motorised transport” is third-bottom, just above heavy goods vehicles and aircraft.   

…you don’t need new roads. The commitments that follow are, in many cases, a refutation of the main parties’ policies. HS2? The Greens would scrap it. Airport expansion? That would go too. And George Osborne’s £15 billion renovation programme for Britain’s roads? Of course, if your policy is to reduce the number of journeys made by car, then you don’t really want roads either. The Greens would instead spend that £15 billion on subsiding public transport, as well as on routes for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Renationalising the railways. The Greens’ biggest transport policy that isn’t just an anti-transport policy is probably their commitment to “bringing rail services into public ownership and control”. They would see this happen hand-in-hand with the electrification of the railway system. 

Cheaper fares. The Greens don’t specifically promise to freeze public transport fares, as the three main parties do. But they do promise cheaper fares nonetheless. Some of this, on their account, would come from renationalising the railways. The rest would be due to specific policies they propose, such as making local public transport free for young people.   

Stricter speed limits. The Greens sound much keener on speed cameras than UKIP do. They’d like to see them used to enforce one of their main transport policies: a reduction in speed limits, in particular to 20mph in residential areas. The manifesto wants to impose other limits on drivers. The alcohol limit should, it says, be “as close to zero as is practicable,” and “drivers should be presumed liable for injuries to pedestrians and cyclists.”

Yes to road pricing! And another difference between the Greens and UKIP: the former want to introduce tolls and other road pricing schemes, rather than end them. Anything that dissuades us from hopping in that private motorised transport…

Read the full manifesto here.

SNP

Not much. The SNP’s manifesto probably contains the fewest transport policies. There is, in truth, a lot of repetition, padding and unanswered questions within its pages. But, as we’re here to summarise the parties’ transport policies, let’s start by being charitably broadminded about what the Scottish nationalists are offering. Some of their policies, such as commitments to carbon reduction and to infrastructure spending, may not be expressed purely in terms of transport – but they certainly impinge on it.

But high-speed rail is mentioned, of course… Unsurprisingly, the SNP wants HS2 to be extended to Edinburgh and Glasgow “as a priority”, as well as connections to the north of England as part of any other high-speed projects. More surprisingly, this aligns them with the Lib Dems, who offer a similar commitment in their manifesto.

…as is public sector involvement in the railways. The SNP also aligns itself with the Greens and Plaid Cymru (see below) in calling for more public sector involvement in the railways. However, they don’t go as far as either of those other two parties. Rather than promising renationalisation, they simply say that “public sector organisations should be able to bid to operate rail services”.     

And what else? There’s a commitment to reduce Air Passenger Duty, as well as some looser words about “pressing for a fair deal on fuel prices for rural areas”, yet little beyond that. The manifesto mentions the SNP’s efforts to reduce road tolls and rail fares from within Scottish government, but doesn’t seem to make any new pledges on those fronts.           

Read the full manifesto here.

PLAID CYMRU

Welsh control of Welsh railways. Like the Greens, Plaid Cymru wants the railways renationalised. Unlike the Greens, it puts this within a Welsh context: “We support the public ownership of railways in which profits are reinvested into better services, and the transfer of powers over railways to Wales, including the transfer of full funding for railway infrastructure.” This means a long shopping list of new and improved lines for the country, including the possibility of reopening some that were closed decades ago.

More nationalisation. And that’s not the only nationalisation that Plaid supports. They also want the Severn Bridges, and the toll revenues they accrue, to be brought into “Welsh public ownership”. With so much attention being lavished on the north of England across the other manifestos, it’s almost as though they are saying: don’t forget Wales!   

More infrastructure projects. Aside from all the railway projects, the manifesto also calls for improvements to Welsh roads and – more romantically – the construction of a third Menai Bridge joining the mainland with the isle of Anglesey. 

Less fuel duty. As with other manifestos, the promises made on fuel duty aren’t particularly specific, but Plaid do intend to lower it. They say that they’d introduce a “fuel duty regulator” to prevent sudden increases in petrol prices, as well as petition Europe to allow cheaper prices in rural areas.  

Bus-a-rama. Perhaps because of Wales’s general rurality, as well as the absence of train connections in the middle of the country, Plaid place a heavy emphasis on buses. Their manifesto promises to extend the Bwcabusservice by which people can pre-book bus journeys. It also pledges to expand TrawsCymru into a full-blown Welsh coach service. 

No to England’s airport. Most of the manifestos say something about the construction of a new airport in the south of England, although it tends to be the same something in each case: we’re waiting on the final report of the Airports Commission before we make our minds up. Plaid’s manifesto is notably different. It straight-up opposes “a major new UK airport to the east of London”. In doing so, it suggests how nationalist parties can impinge on the politics of another nation.

Read the full manifesto here.

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