The Conservatives have pledged to create sovereign wealth funds to invest in infrastructure and a passenger ombudsman to ‘stand up’ for rail users, while suggesting that they could require rail company employees to meet minimum service levels during strikes.
In their manifesto launched on Thursday, the Conservatives promise to invest in both infrastructure and people and ‘harness the power of fast-changing technology’.
The current prime minister, Conservative Theresa May
The document commits a future Tory government to create a number of sovereign wealth funds, known as Future Britain funds, ‘which will hold in trust the investments of the British people, backing British infrastructure and the British economy’.
It suggests that revenues from shale gas extraction might be put into such funds and pledges to legislate to change planning law for shale applications, while setting up a Shale Environmental Regulator.
The manifesto also contains a commitment to review rail ticketing, ‘removing complexity and perverse pricing, and introduce a passenger ombudsman to stand up for the interests of rail users suffering a poor deal’.
It adds: ‘We will work with train companies and their employees to agree minimum service levels during periods of industrial dispute – and if we cannot find a voluntary agreement, we will legislate to make this mandatory.’
The document cites the £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) announced at the Autumn Statement, including ‘£740 million of digital infrastructure investment, the largest investment in railways since Victorian times, £1.1 billion to improve local transport and £250 million in skills by the end of 2020’.
It restates both a claim that the NPIF will take total spending on housing, economic infrastructure and research and development to £170bn during the next parliament and an existing Government commitment to invest £600m in ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020.
The Conservatives are also pledging to continue a programme of ‘strategic national investments’, including HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport, and to continue to develop the strategic road network, ‘providing extra lanes on our motorways and improving key routes whilst also paying attention to parts of the country left behind because of poor transport connections’.
The manifesto adds: ‘We will continue to invest in roads to fix pinch points and open up opportunities for new housing and local growth.’