Opinion Former

Election manifestos target transport

Labour has pledged to review all tolled highway crossings and will strive to eliminate road deaths if it comes to power; while the Conservatives have promised £500M a year to fill potholes and introduce a new cycling infrastructure fund.

The Liberal Democrats would spend £4.5Bn over five years to restore or introduce new bus routes and the Green Party is committed to making the default speed limit on residential roads 20mph and 40mph elsewhere, except on major roads.

Labour’s election manifesto also sets out a package of reforms on the buses: reinstating 3000 routes, allowing councils to take ownership of bus networks and introducing free bus travel for under 25s. For private vehicles, the party aims to bring forward the end date for sales of new vehicles powered by combustion engines by 2030, and promises to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and electric community car clubs.

Further measures put forward by the Conservatives include investing in electric vehicle charging to ensure everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid charger. Its cycling pledge includes a commitment to introduce mandatory design standards for new routes and working with the NHS to promote cycling for healthier living. It also promises city regions funding to upgrade their bus, tram and train services “to make them as good as London’s”.

The Liberal Democrats have set out plans to reopen smaller rail stations, restore twin track lines to major routes and convert the network to electric or hydrogen power by 2035. On the buses it too has pledged to restore bus routes and add new ones, at a cost of £4.5Bn over five years. And on the roads it sets out to reduce the number of single occupant cars used for commuting.

Green Party transport plans include spending £2.5Bn a year on new cycleways and footpaths built using sustainable materials such as woodchip and sawdust, creating new routes for electric coach travel and requiring all existing fuel filling stations to offer electric charging within five years.

Commenting on the Labour and Conservatives’ stand out transport pledges, the AA president Edmund King said: “We welcome the commitment to review tolls on crossings, and all road users will welcome a £2Bn four year pledge to fill potholes.”

The Freight Transport Association’s head of UK policy Christopher Snelling also supported Labour’s road toll review. “Installing tolls on occasional individual routes does not always encourage drivers to take the most efficient course. Many drivers, for example, use the main M6 through Birmingham to avoid paying a fee to use the M6 Toll, despite the latter being preferable to ease traffic and emissions in the city.”

Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety executive director David Davies said that most people will never read the party manifestos and the election “will certainly not be decided on road safety polices”.

But he added that the manifestos are important. “Once the new Government is formed, even a line or two becomes a ‘manifesto commitment’ which civil servants will feel obliged to pursue – or shelter under. The 2015 Conservative manifesto had a commitment to reduce casualties ‘to cyclists and other road users’ every year. It was not achieved but actions and resources flowed from it which otherwise would not have done.

“Despite some notable omissions, it is encouraging to see the various commitments to vision zero, speed, public transport, road maintenance and infrastructure for cycling and walking in the current manifestos. Hopefully these will translate into effective actions after 12 December.”

The Road Surface Treatments Association welcomed comments by the two main political parties of the need to improve local road condition. But its chief executive Mike Harper said change will not come from just ‘filling potholes’ but from implementing “proactive maintenance programmes” to keep roads “in a safe and serviceable condition and avoid potholes from forming in the first place”.

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