All parties have shown that transport infrastructure needs to be fit to meet the demands of the economy, but part of this will be about local control.
All the parties agree that a well-developed transport system that is fit for the demands of the 21st century is crucial to support economic growth and jobs and this is reflected in their party manifestos.
The Conservatives propose to invest a total of £38 billion in the railway network, including £13 billion specifically earmarked for transport in the North, and to devolve powers over transport to large cities, on the condition that they have an elected mayor. The Labour Party wants to give city regions more regulatory powers over transport delivery, specifically local buses. The Lib Dems would introduce longer-term funding settlements for transport and devolve some powers to local areas. The Green Party places most emphasis on managing demand and propose to reduce journeys by car and encourage a switch to walking, cycling and public transport.
On deciding where and what transport projects to invest in, Labour proposes to set up an independent National Infrastructure Commission that will make recommendations to government, monitor the implementation of the projects, and hold government to account.
HS2 features in every manifesto. But while the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour (albeit with a pledge to keep costs down) would go ahead with it, the Greens and UKIP would scrap the project. The SNP supports the extension of the high speed rail network to Edinburgh and Glasgow, while the Conservatives pledge to deliver HS3, improving rail connections between Leeds and Manchester.
The major parties are in agreement in principle, if not in detail, on the major inter-city projects that should take place but the degree to which they propose to support cities to deliver more effective intra-city, or city-region, transport varies. While the Conservatives would continue to focus on major city-regions, Labour and the Lib Dems propose plans for transferring more powers to all local areas – Labour mentions city and county regions in particular – with a focus on buses and smart-ticketing.
The focus on city-region transport is important. Almost half of commuters in cities live and work in different local authorities and this number is likely to increase – the census shows that in the past decade, the distance that commuters travel to work has increased. But at present, many city-region transport networks remain fragmented.
The commitments made by all the parties to improving Britain’s transport system are welcome. Good transport and connectivity, both inter- and intra-city are crucial to supporting the growth of cities. Successful cities need continued investment in transport to ease congestion and continue to be attractive places for businesses and people. And they also need more control over how their transport systems operate in order to deliver the more integrated and coordinated transport networks that people and firms depend on.
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