Labour has today pledged to target devolution and put ‘public interest first’ on transport, among a range of fully funded manifesto commitments.
In a week expected to see publication of each political party’s policy manifesto, Labour committed to freeze rail fares over the next year and to launch a fare rise cap on every UK route.
Launching his party’s General Election manifesto this morning, Labour leader Ed Miliband committed to cut the deficit every year with a range of policies requiring no additional borrowing.
Speaking in Manchester, he slammed the Coalition for cutting public services ‘back to the core’ and leaving communities ‘fraying at the edges’.
Outlining a string of devolution pledges, Mr Miliband said it was ‘time to end a century of centralisation’ across the UK and added his party ‘want to win power in order to give it away’.
As trailed last week, the manifesto includes vows to transfer £30bn of funding to city and county regions alongside longer term budgets for town halls, ‘fairer’ funding and an English Regional Cabinet Committee chaired by the prime minister and attended by major local government leaders.
It outlined plans to hand city and county regions powers to decide bus routes, ‘bear down’ on fares, improve services and introduce smart ticketing through integrated transport networks.
There was also a commitment to tackle air pollution 'by giving local authorities the powers they need, backed up by a national framework'.
Labour vowed to set up an independent National Infrastructure Commission that would 'make recommendations to government, monitor their implementation, and hold government to account'.
A legal right for passengers would also be installed to support travellers access the cheapest ticket for their journey, the document outlined.
Reviews on rail franchising have long been expected from Labour, with the party today outlining it would review the process ‘as a priority’.
A new National Rail body would also be launched to oversee a national transport plan and ensure passengers have a stronger voice.
‘We are the only party at this election which can show how every policy in our manifesto will be paid for,’ Miliband added.
Director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Nick Baveystock, said in response: 'Labour’s manifesto rightly acknowledges the critical role of infrastructure in fostering economic growth, the need for further devolution and an ambitious decarbonisation target. It also recognises the need to create certainty across the investment community and given the constraints on public finances - whoever wins come 7 May - this has never been more important.
'However, certainty is generated through consistency and continuity in infrastructure policy. While the National Infrastructure Commission proposal is well-argued and we agree some form of independent body is needed to stand infrastructure decisions above political fault lines, we remain concerned that creating a new entity from scratch could stall momentum and shake confidence.'
Policy director of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, Jason Torrance, said: 'We are pleased to see the manifesto include a national ambition to improve the uptake of physical activity and a pledge to give local authorities powers to tackle air pollution.
'The next government will also need to commit to slower speeds, including a national 20mph default speed limit in built-up areas and stronger duties and incentives to improve safety and get more people walking and cycling short journeys.'