Seeing that the nation is gripped in election fever, I thought it was worth looking into what do the different political parties stand for. Transport policies probably aren’t going to be the single decisive factor that determines the result of the election and hence I’ve not seen that much coverage on what the plans of the different parties are and perhaps, more importantly, how different they are. I thought I’d try and re-dress the balance with these blog posts.
If you don’t believe me that transport is not top on the political agenda at the moment, just take a look at the word cloud taken from one of the coalition party manifestos. (Hint ! – It’s not there.) As the word cloud illustrates: schools, NHS / health, crime, green / environment, tax / cut / services make it onto the mainstream agenda, but not transport. (Also, I liked how the implication that the political class “must improve” crept into the bottom left of the diagram !) However, note the positioning of transport as an “enabler” for the economy by both coalition parties and as a contributory source of cost of living crisis for the working man by Labour. Hence, the parties must have something to say and I thought I’d find out what it was …
Word cloud of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, produced using Jason Davies’ implementation with d3.js.
I started my analysis with the Liberal Democrats, simply because they provided their manifesto in “easy read”, “clear print” and “plain text” formats and the accessible plain text format is simplest to parse and analyse. We probably all know that the Liberals plans to borrow less than Labour, but cut less than the Tories and hence would be the balance or “conscience” within any coalition – or that’s where they like to position themselves.
But, what about transport ? Where do they stand ?
Smart and integrated ticketing
I was surprised to find that smart ticketing and integrated ticketing both make it into the Liberal Democrat manifesto as specific pledges ! I had never thought of these as “election issues”. A couple of extracts from the Liberal Democrat manifesto follow that cover transport issues. (I actually counted more than 40 commitments to transport in their manifesto.)
|6.6. Improving local public transport
High-quality public transport is essential to building sustainable communities and local economies, and two thirds of public transport journeys are made by bus. With more people commuting to work by bus than any other mode of public transport, buses are of significant importance to the economy. Bus services are also particularly important to many rural and isolated communities, where one in five of the population lives.
* Carry out a review of bus funding and bus policies and introduce a five-year investment plan to give the industry and Local Authorities certainty and help plan investment. We will support local areas that want to bring forward plans for regulating the bus network in their area.
* Give new powers to Local Authorities and communities to improve transport in their areas, including the ability to introduce network-wide ticketing like in London.
* Support the expansion of smart ticketing systems.
* Continue funding for local economic and sustainable transport infrastructure through the Local Growth Fund.
* Help bus companies trade in older, more polluting buses and coaches for newer, low emissions ones, helping develop the market for low-carbon buses.
More broadly, transport features in the Liberal Democrat manifesto as one of the exceptions to their “second fiscal rule”:
|Our second fiscal rule is that over the economic cycle we will balance the overall budget, no longer borrowing to pay for everyday expenditure. We will make one significant exception to enable us to invest in the things that will help our economy grow.|
Like some other parties, this exception supports the transport industry, because it is seen as an enabler of economic recovery and growth.
The Liberal Democrats make the following commitments wrt transport:
|We have established our second fiscal rule precisely so we can invest in productive infrastructure to help the economy grow.
* Set out 10-year rolling capital investment plans.
* Develop a comprehensive plan to electrify the overwhelming majority of the UK rail network, reopen smaller stations, restore twin-track lines to major routes and proceed with HS2, as the first stage of a high-speed rail network to Scotland.
* Invest in major transport improvements and infrastructure. We will:
o Deliver the Transport for the North strategy to promote growth, innovation and prosperity across northern England.
o Develop more modern, resilient links to and within the South West peninsula to help develop and diversify the regional economy
o Complete East-West rail, connecting up Oxford and Cambridge and catalysing major new housing development.
o Ensure London’s transport infrastructure is improved to withstand the pressure of population and economic growth.
* Work to encourage further private sector investment in rail freight terminals and rail-connected distribution parks. We will set a clear objective to shift more freight from road to rail and change planning law to ensure new developments provide good freight access to retail, manufacturing and warehouse facilities.
* Ensure our airport infrastructure meets the needs of a modern and open economy, without allowing emissions from aviation to undermine our goal of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050. We will carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review into runway capacity and develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of the UK in the light of those recommendations and advice from the Committee on Climate Change. We remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise pollution. We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK.
* Ensure new rail franchises include a stronger focus on customers, including requirements to integrate more effectively with other modes of transport and a programme of investment in new stations, lines and station facilities. We will continue the Access for All programme, improving disabled access to public transport.
Modern light rail systems, like Croydon Tramlink and Manchester Metrolink, have brought significant benefits to passengers. We will encourage Local Authorities to consider trams alongside other options, and support a new generation of light rail and ultra-light rail schemes in towns and cities where local people want them.
You may note that a lovely yellow Manchester tram makes it as one of the images into the manifesto. Is this any more than the fact that it is painted in “Liberal Democrat colours” and matched the brand guidelines for imagery within the manifesto ?
Transport for the North
Specifically, the Liberal Democrats make further pledges, one of which specifically refers to the recent (March 2015) Transport for the North strategy – a strategy to build a northern powerhouse which capitalises on the strengths of northern cities and encourages economic growth and investment. This document outlines a plan for rail to support that economy by delivering “a world-class rail network with smart tickets and simpler fares will make journeys faster, easier and less crowded.”
What about the others ?
On reflection, a vote for the Liberal Democrats might not be a vote for smart ticketing, however. Firstly, the Liberal Democrats are only likely to make it into power as a coalition and I doubt that this is the policy issue that they would take a stand on with their coalition partners. Also, maybe all of the parties also make manifesto pledges for smart ticketing ??? In the next blog post, I’ll take a look at what the Labour manifesto has to say. Stay tuned …
Where can I find out more ?
The BBC’s election 2015 website provides a summary of the different party policies, against key topics. For transport, the LibDem policy is boiled down into just four transport pledges. I’ve mentioned two in passing: to support light rail schemes in urban areas and to electrify all of (actually “the overwhelming majority” of) suburban and major rail routes, although I’d missed the commitment to “re-open smaller stations and restore twin-track lines to major routes” that the LibDems make.
What I’ve not discussed is the commitment that they’ve slipped in to give Young Persons two-thirds off bus travel:
|* Work to introduce a new Young Person’s Discount Card, for young people aged 16–21, giving a 2/3rds discount on bus travel, as resources allow. This will assist all bus users by helping maintain the viability of existing bus routes and making it easier to open new ones.
* Enable government departments, local Councils and private businesses to add discount offers to the Young Person’s Discount Card.
I’ve deliberately not covered the contentious issues on air travel and third runways at Heathrow or Gatwick, in advance of the Davies commission.
However, as I mentioned above (and have illustrated with the example on smart ticketing), there is a lot of detail in the Liberal Democrat’s 158-pages of Manifesto and a reasonable proportion of this relates to transport, whether on the railways, bus, road or by air. I am working on a little tool to allow you to make your own analysis of the issues that matter to you.