Well, that was unexpected, wasn’t it? When we wrote our response to the transport policies contained within the various party manifestos, we assumed – like pretty much every journalist, psephologist and even politician in the country – that the election would be rather inconclusive. As it is, the Conservatives have secured a majority, meaning that they should be able to implement their transport policies almost in full. Here, again, is our summary of what they are:
- 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.
Yet the overlaps between the various party manifestos still aren’t totally irrelevant. Whether it’s to placate the nationalists who have stormed to victory in Scotland, or simply to make their slender majority feel more comfortable, the Tories might be tempted to borrow some ideas from the SNP’s manifesto.
An obvious candidate? The SNP demand for high-speed rail to be extended north of the border. George Osborne is already looking beyond HS2 to HS2. Don’t be surprised if he adds a few hundred more miles to the track.