The Conservatives have promised £4.2bn on local transport, directed at buses, trams and local rail, as the election battle over transport heats up.
The Tory pledge means extending an existing manifesto commitment to spend £840m a year in both 2022/23 and 2023/24 for a further three years beyond the next parliament.
The Tories also promised to give local leaders 'significantly more control over existing local rail services, including fares, service patterns, rolling stock and stations’.
In addition, the party said: ‘We will also support them to exercise their new powers over buses under the 2017 Bus Services Act.’
As Transport Network has reported, these new powers comprise a complicated framework that only gives elected metro mayors an automatic right to introduce bus franchising.
So far seen only one, Greater Manchester, has started down this route.
The Tories added that a national bus strategy and a long-term funding settlement for buses will be announced at Spending Review 2020.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the plans would ‘change the face of local transport in towns and cities across the country’.
He added: ‘They will kickstart the transformation of services so they match those in London, ensuring more frequent and better services, more electrification, modern buses and trains and contactless smart ticketing.’
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, called the move ‘a pathetic attempt to cover up the government’s disastrous and incompetent failure to invest in public transport’.
He said: ‘Tory cuts have caused public transport fares to rise at twice the rate of wages and thousands of bus routes to be cut, worsening congestion on our roads as a result.
‘You can’t trust the Tories to deliver on transport in your region. The North is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport.’
Mr Shapps also took a swipe at Labour’s plans to fund a variety of policies, including a one-third cut in rail fares and better walking and cycling facilities, from the £29bn National Roads Fund, which hypothecates Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) from 2020 to 2025.
He said: ‘While Labour has confirmed it will raid the budget to build roads, the Conservatives believe in raising funding, improving quality and delivering value for commuters across the UK.’
However, Labour hit back at Tory claims that its VED-funded policies would exceed the £6.4bn annual income from the tax, arguing that the Tories had miscounted its cycling and walking pledge, which it said will cost £2.5bn over five years, not annually.