Election 2010: What does the Conservative manifesto say on transport?

This election is, perhaps, the most important election since 1910, when the House of Commons finally broke away from the House of Lords; the election could provide a similar shift in power towards the people.

With not a single question on transport in the three leaders’ debates the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) has examined all the parties’ manifestos and commented on their policies.

Director at the ETA, Andrew Davis, said: “Apart from the proposed high speed links and a nod to changing the flying tax there is not much in their manifesto compared to the other parties.”

“Either the Conservative feel that there is not much that needs fixing in transport terms or they are going to concentrate their efforts in other areas.”

Conservative Manifesto Comments
General. A rebalanced economy requires an extensive and reliable infrastructure. But transport has been a low priority for Labour, and the hassle of getting around is bad for business, bad for families and bad for everyone’s quality of life. This is true. Few would disagree.
Walking. Nothing specifically on walking – which, to me, says quite a lot.
Cycling. We will support sustainable travel initiatives that work best for local communities by giving the concerns of cyclists much greater priority; Words or action? Localities need the means to do the tasks at hand – money (therefore tax raising abilities) and policies (therefore greater lawmaking abilities) are critical. The upside is that the Conservatives are not demanding localities undertake specific policies.
Cars. Britain has the chance to lead the world in making our transport system greener. So we will introduce incentives for electricity network operators to establish a new national car recharging network, making it much easier for drivers to move to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. In road traffic terms decarbonising cars will probably do most to affect climate change. Recharging either requires: instant battery replacement for long journeys – not an issue for the next parliament; rapid charging – still too long when compared to a petrol fuel stop; and, recharging at the destination – usually at work or the shops. If the national government took a lead and offered free electricity too all its staff parked at its offices then such a policy would be given a kick start.
Cars. We will stop central government funding for new fixed speed cameras, and switch to more effective ways to make our roads safer, including authorising ‘drugalyser’ technology for use in testing for drug-driving. I do not think the national government need fund speed cameras because the transport industry could fund them itself – if road user charging was introduced. Most accidents are caused by a type of personality – the “amber gamblers”. Dealing with them is the best way of increasing safety. Reducing the speed limit to 20mph on residential roads would best.
Freight. No mention of freight – big oversight in my view.
Road Congestion. The Tories hope this will go away. No road-user charge proposal – no transport policy. It is as simple as that.
Roadworks. We will make companies that dig up our roads accountable for the congestion they cause and crack down on rogue clampers. Councils will get more powers to get traffic flowing more smoothly. It is true that road works are a significant cause of congestion but the major reason for congestion is that road space is free (travel costs less in London than it does in Caithness).
Travel Concessions. Free bus passes for the old. Concessionary fares are popular with those that benefit from them. They are also very expensive. In my view they should be reviewed for their merits – giving well-off fit old people free express travel (non-fare stage) might not be the best use of limited resources but I am willing to be persuaded. In any case the national government should not fund local transport – leave that to county government (in England).
Buses. We will encourage partnerships between bus operators and local authorities and by so doing help people to cut down on work-related travel. That’s nice – a bit of encouragement. What is really needed is the law changed so that counties can regulate or directly run the buses – just like London does.
Rail. To improve life for commuters and encourage people to switch to lower carbon public transport, we will reform our railways to provide a better focus on tackling problems that matter most to passengers, such as overcrowding. We will grant longer, more flexible rail franchises to incentivise private sector investment in improvements like longer trains and better stations. It would be interesting to understand how this would be done. Overcrowding is probably one of the biggest problems on the railways. Clearly the fares do not reflect the scarcity of the space available.
Rail. We support Crossrail and the electrification of the Great Western line to South Wales. I wonder whether this support is financial or just words. I definitive “we will fund the electrification of the London to Cardiff line” would be clearer.
Rail. We will turn the rail regulator into a powerful passenger champion and reform Network Rail to make it more accountable to its customers. And we will introduce a moratorium on building on disused rail lines still in public ownership, so they are available to be re-opened. It is very difficult for a regulator not to go native so sometimes is better to have another body have a brief for consumer affairs.
Keeping the routes of disused lines open is a good move.
Rail. A Conservative government will begin work immediately to create a high speed rail line connecting London and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. This is the first step towards achieving our vision of creating a national high speed rail network to join up major cities across England, Scotland and Wales. Stage two will deliver two new lines bringing the North East, Scotland and Wales into the high speed rail network. Financing the high speed rail network needs to be considered separately because they are concerns that high speed rail could suck investment form local rail. Every major city in Britain should be part of the network. I am not sure that going to Birmingham via Heathrow is defendable and there is no mention of direct travel from Brussels and Paris to Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds.
Waterways. I could not find anything on waterways.
Air. Because travel abroad is so important for our economy and for family holidays, we need to improve our airports and reduce the environmental impact of flying. Our goal is to make Heathrow airport better, not bigger. We will stop the third runway and instead link Heathrow directly to our high speed rail network, providing an alternative to thousands of flights. In addition, we will block plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick. Heathrow operates at more than full capacity because the government has failed to properly price the phenomenal valuable landing slots available. Heathrow should operate at 80% capacity – a similar rate as other airports – to make the experience of using the airport more pleasant and to reduce the environmental damage caused when aircraft stack waiting to land. Pricing access to Heathrow (which is a benefit of a monopoly so should not go to the airport operator) at market rates will ensure that only those who really need to use Heathrow will use it.
Land-use Planning. Abolish the power of planning inspectors to rewrite local plans; amend the ‘Use Classes Order’ so that people can use buildings for any purpose allowed in the local plan; limit appeals against local planning decisions to cases that involve abuse of process or failure to apply the local plan; encourage county councils and unitary authorities to compile infrastructure plans. Planning appeals are often a pain in the neck but people should be able to appeal if due process had not been followed. Let the localities decide whether they would want to abolish “use classes” – although I would advice against it.
Land-use Planning. The planning system is vital for a strong economy, for an attractive and sustainable environment, and for a successful democracy. A Conservative government will introduce a new ‘open source’ planning system. This will mean that people in each neighbourhood will be able to specify what kind of development they want to see in their area. These neighbourhood plans will be consolidated into a local plan. I like this idea but I hope by “neighbourhood” the conservatives mean parish. To bring back the sense of belonging people have to know where they live and this need to be defined in law. “Neighbourhoods” is a woolly term. Parish with a village at its centre has been a backbone of England for centuries.
Taxes. We will consult on the introduction of a ‘Fair Fuel Stabiliser’. This would cut fuel duty when oil prices rise, and vice versa. It would ensure families, businesses and the whole British economy are less exposed to volatile oil markets, and that there is a more stable environment for low carbon investment. This assumes, perhaps correctly, that fuel tax is purely there to raise revenue for the exchequer rather than a mechanism to reduce car use or mitigate climate change. Far better to abolish fuel tax and replace with a carbon tax. You would not need a stabiliser then.
Taxes. Air Passenger Duty to encourage a switch to fuller and cleaner planes. Totally correct in principle but it would be good if they had given us the details of how they plan to do it. I wonder how far they would go. Any duty that could be applied to aviation that took account of the lack of VAT and fuel tax would be useful as long as it did not conflict with international (American) law.
Taxes. Rising energy costs hit families hard, so we will create a ‘Green Deal’, giving every home up to £6,500 worth of energy improvement measures – with more for hard-to-treat homes – paid for out of savings made on fuel bills over 25 years. Interesting idea. Climate change is more affected by heating than by transport and many people cannot make changes to their heating through lack of funds.
Taxes. We will reform the Climate Change Levy to provide a floor price for carbon. A move in the correct direct but not enough – depends on the floor price set.
Local government. We will give councils and businesses the power to form their own business-led local enterprise partnerships instead of RDAs. Where local councils and businesses want to maintain regionally-based enterprise partnerships, they will be able to. If we abolish regional government then we must have robust county government to fall back on. I my view English counties need to be greater than 1,200km2 is size (to enable comprehensive transport planning) and have more than 500,000 people (to enable specialist service provision). Once these are in place I would go along with these Tory ideas.
Local government should be at the heart of our economic recovery, so we will allow councils to keep above-average increases in business rate revenue so that communities which go for growth can reap the benefits; give councils new powers to introduce further discounts on business rates; and introduce an immediate freeze of, and inquiry into, the government’s punitive programme of back-dating business rates on ports. This is a move in the correct direction. But lacks imagination and would not, in my view, be sufficient. However, it is far better than the ideas that the Labour party has come up with. I would abolish unitary authorities they are too big to be local and often too small to deal.
Local government. giving local authorities the power to establish new district heating networks which use biogas and other low carbon fuels. Let England follow Woking. All localities should have these powers.
Local government. Give ‘general power of competence’, so that they have explicit authority to do what is necessary to improve their communities. Sovereignty belongs to the people. If people pool part of their sovereignty for the common good then outside of the economy people look to their locality. Therefore I would say that local government may do what it likes as long as it does not affect the wider society. I do not think the conservatives are quite so radical but they are making timid steps in the correct direction.
Local government. Ending ring-fencing so that funding can be spent on local priorities; scrapping the hundreds of process targets Labour have imposed on councils; ending the bureaucratic inspection regime that stops councils focusing on residents’ main concerns; scrapping Labour’s uncompleted plans to impose unwieldy and expensive unitary councils and to force the regionalisation of the fire service; ending the ‘predetermination rules’ that prevent councillors speaking up about issues that they have campaigned on; and, encouraging the greater use of ward budgets for councillors. We do need far more autonomy for local government but the local elections must be via the single referable vote. Northern Ireland had STV reintroduced in 1973, the Scottish government introduced STV for local government, the Welsh government attempted to introduce STV in 2005 but it was vetoed by the British government. STV allows for a much more vibrant local government.

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