At a Glance: Transport Policies in the 2017 General Election

New Trains

Since the Conservative’s victory at the last general election in 2015, Brexit has dramatically changed the face of British politics and the upcoming general election could be the nation’s most significant in years. With all the talk of Brexit however, it seems that parties, activists, and the public are forgetting to talk about other important policies that will, without a doubt, have an enormous impact on the day-to-day lives of the British public.

Despite its role in every single aspect of our lives, transport policies have gotten far too little coverage in comparison to other matters. How many members of the public could, for example, name Chris Grayling as Secretary of State for Transport?

transport policies have gotten far too little coverage in comparison to other matters.

More than 3.7 million Brits have a daily commute of two hours of more which means a turbulent transport policy is simply out of the question. This article has pulled together the key information surrounding the different political party’s transport policies.

Conservatives

Having been in power since 2010, the Conservatives have a mixed record on transport policy. Hence far in the campaign the Tories have been stepping carefully and are yet to unveil their manifesto for the upcoming election which means their 2015 manifesto is our only reference point.

In their 2015 manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged to “invest in infrastructure” and roll out “more and faster trains, more roads and cycle routes”. This all sounds fantastic, however, many of the promises have, to date, gone unfulfilled. Instead, the Tories have been focusing on specific projects such as London’s Crossrail, which is expected to give 1.5 million people in and around London better access to the city centre in just 45 minutes. However, with the focus on grand schemes such as Crossrail which will benefit Londoners more than anyone else, the Tories seem to have forgotten about their promise to “keep commuter rail fares frozen”, too. Earlier this year, it was announced that most train fares will increase by an average of 2.3% in 2017, which left many a commuter grumbling. Developments across the South-East, such as London’s Crossrail, receive almost six times more funding than the rest of the UK, giving London a boost while leaving business hubs such as Manchester and Birmingham behind the curve.

Developments across the South-East receive almost six times more funding than the rest of the UK

At present, the only assurances that the public have that transport infrastructure in the rest of the UK will continue to be improved, despite recent focus being on the capital, is the word of the new Mayor for the West Midlands, Andy Street, who stated during his campaign that he was “utterly certain” that work will continue on the HS2 high-speed line linking London and Birmingham – the first phase of the project is expected to cost £56bn and is due to open in December 2026. Street is known to have good relations with the Conservatives in Westminster and certainly will possess the authority needed to improve transport infrastructure in the region.

Labour

At the time of writing, an early draft of Labour’s manifesto leaked online. As a result it should not be treated as Gospel; but it still gives us a valuable insight into the party’s current mind-set.

The initial mention of transport spending within the document comes as part of a general commitment to infrastructure spending, with £250 billion promised over 10 years. Pages 32-33 provide more depth, with a pledge to roll back the Government’s ‘relentless deregulation, privatisation and fragmentation’. This is followed by the perhaps unsurprising announcement that a Labour government would seek to re-nationalise the railways, in order to prioritise quality of service over the ability to generate profit. Such an emphasis on quality is a deep-running theme in the manifesto, with mention made to fare freezes, the introduction of free Wi-Fi, and passenger safety via an increase in staffing levels.

an emphasis on quality is a deep-running theme

The manifesto additionally affirms Labour’s support for continued investment in the ‘HS2’ high-speed rail link linking London to cities in the North, and  confirms that they would also support investment in projects such as Crossrail 2 and Crossrail of the North. Stating their intent to ensure that ‘every area gets its fair share of transport investment’, it’s clear that Labour has big spending plans for the nation’s railways.

This is hardly breaking news though, as Jeremy Corbyn in particular has long been vocal about his desire to undo the Conservatives privatisation of public transport. While campaigning, Corbyn has referred to the effectiveness of the German transport system where ‘88% of local public transport is run by publicly owned companies rather than private institutions’. This thinking has long been a cornerstone of his political philosophy, and it would appear that the wider Labour Party will be campaigning on this issue come election-time.

Liberal Democrats

As with the Conservative Party, the Lib Dems have yet to release their 2017 manifesto. But from their 2015 manifesto we can get an idea of what their transport policy will look like for 2017.

The Lib Dems are juggling both investment and environmental strategies to ensure that transport in the UK can enjoy the best of both with ‘10-year rolling capital investment plans’ that offers a clear promise of continuous investment in our transport infrastructure. In their Autumn conference last year, the Lib Dems emphasised that a “zero-carbon Britain by 2050” is a priority for them, setting a clear call to innovation within the transport industry at the heart of their campaign.

In their Autumn conference the Lib Dems emphasised that a “zero-carbon Britain by 2050” is a priority

Like the Labour party, the Lib Dems are calling for the “devolution of greater powers over bus and train services” to bring back control of those services, in which case “essential and long-overdue structural upgrades to the railway” in the form of high-speed railway projects HS2 and HS3, connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and Hull, would then be prioritised. For those living in the Midlands, this will be a refreshing take on transport, especially after so much emphasis has been placed on London over the past few years.

On transport policy, the Lib Dems clearly hope to position themselves as the forward-looking party. By The party has taken on the recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission, established in 2015 under the Conservative government and has committed itself to push for a modern and sustainable infrastructure network.

On June 8th the salient issue will be Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. But the danger is that the dominance of one issue will come at the expense of other important issues. This guide hopes to redress this balance by outlining the transport policies of the three main political parties.

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