The Conservative Party has pledged £2bn over the next four years for filling potholes and hinted at restricting the right of transport sector workers to strike.
The party's manifesto, published on Sunday, repeats the chancellor’s pledge of a ‘transport revolution’; however many of its policies have been announced previously, while new polices have little detail. A separate costings document gives more details of spending commitments.
The manifesto promises ‘the biggest ever pothole-filling programme as part of our National Infrastructure Strategy’, which is costed at £500m a year from 2020/21 to 2023/24.
In a nod to a sector that would prefer to see funding for long-term asset management, the manifesto adds: ‘and our major investment in roads will ensure new potholes are much less likely to appear in the future.’
However, this appears to be a reference to the ‘£28.8 billion investment in strategic and local roads’, which includes the second road investment strategy - announced and re-announced during the past year - and includes no money to improve the condition of local roads.
While the document pledges to ‘invest £1 billion in completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station’, the costings document offers £70m for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure in 2020/21 and £110m for each of the next three years.
Following hints by transport secretary Grant Shapps that he would like to bring forward the deadline for phasing out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars, the manifesto states that it will ‘consult on the earliest date’ for this, ‘while minimising the impact on drivers and businesses’.
The opening statement within the ‘transport revolution’ section is that: ‘A key part of our plan to level up the UK’s cities and regions is to connect them.’
The costings document pledges spending of £840m on ‘Intra-city transport settlements’ in both 2022/23 and 2023/24. This appears to be an extension of the existing Transforming Cities Fund.
The document also states that ‘Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a light rail or metro system’ but does not appear to respond to this statement with a specific commitment to change the situation.
Without specifically pledging to further restrict transport workers’ right to take industrial action, the manifesto states: ‘We will require that a minimum service operates during transport strikes.’
Describing HS2 as ‘a great ambition’, the manifesto appears to confirm that it will survive the current Oakervee review, which it describes as a ‘review into costs and timings’ rather than one that could see the project scrapped.
With the publication of the Williams rail review also awaited the manifesto pledges: ‘We will end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective rail system, including giving metro mayors control over services in their areas’.
The document also pledges cash to restore many of the ‘Beeching lines’, with £500m capital funding next year but no further funding commitment.
The manifesto also pledges: ‘We will build Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester and then focus on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle.’
While pledging to extend contactless pay-as-you go ticketing to almost 200 more stations in the South East, the manifesto makes no firm commitment on flexible rail or cross-modal ticketing.
Despite pledges to ‘invest in superbus networks’ and to ‘keep bus fares low, bring back and protect rural routes, and speed up your journeys’, there does not appear to be any specific funding for bus services.
On Heathrow expansion, the manifesto restates existing policy, stressing that while Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway, ‘it is for Heathrow to demonstrate that it can meet its air quality and noise obligations, that the project can be financed and built and that the business case is realistic’.
The document pledges to create a new £350m Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes. Critics have pointed out that the latter is already in hand, with the new document finished and due to be published after the election whoever wins.
The manifesto also contains a pledge to publish a National Strategy for Disabled People before the end of 2020, which will look at ways to improve access for disabled people in terms of housing, education, transport and jobs.