Transport has largely been consigned to the 'slow lane' by all three major political parties in their General Election campaigning, pushed aside by issues such as the Pound, education and the National Health Service – and that punch.
Here AM-online delves into the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos to uncover their promises on how each will improve the UK's transport system should they win the June 7 election .
The Labour Party:
“A strong economy needs good transport” says the manifesto. £180 billion of investment on rail, road and local transport “offers real hope” to the road and rail user. Roads: Labour's 10 Year Transport Plan allocates £60 billion to improvements. Motorways will be upgraded and 100 new bypasses built. All new roads must be appraised for maximum benefits and minimum environmental benefits. Labour aims to reduce serious road casualties by a further 40% over 10 years. It insists all money raised by road user charging will be put into better transport services.
'Smarter' driving will be encouraged through new highway communications technology, while manufacturers are being encouraged to produce safer more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Buses: By 2006 almost all of Britain's bus fleet will be renewed. Partnerships between local authorities and private bus companies “will improve passenger numbers”.
£60 billion will be spent on rail network upgrades, 500 new carriages have been delivered and another 3,000 ordered. Labour plans to expand the network to boost passenger levels by 50%. Train companies will get longer franchises if they invest more. 'Supertrams' will be introduced in the major cities.
Integrated transport: Transport Direct – a phone and internet system designed to plan journeys and sell tickets – will, Labour promises, put transport services at people's fingertips. Walking and cycling will be encouraged and inland waterways revitalised.
The Conservative Party
The party says it's not “anti-car”, but anti-pollution and promises to cut taxes on cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicles. The Conservatives promise
to set out long term investment plans for roads and public transport, establish a new Roads Standards Unit to “champion the interests of road users” and take through traffic out of towns and villages to minimise the environmental effects of roads. “Sensible” speed limits will be set to make roads safer
not to ban people who “marginally” exceed 70mph speed limits, but increase the limit to 80mph “where safe to do so”. The party will also target the “hard core of bad drivers who are the main cause of accidents
charge foreign lorries to use British roads
cut tax on petrol and diesel by six pence a litre
revitalise the railway industry so it achieves “airline standards” of service and safety and, subject to a no-strike deal with the unions support Bob Kiley – who transformed the New York subway – create a “world class” London Underground.
The Liberal Democrat Party
It claims a decent transport system is “fundamental to an equitable and environmentally sustainable society”.
It promises to
reduce or abolish car tax for drivers of less-polluting vehicles
provide free off-peak local travel on buses for pensioners and the disabled and aims for half-price travel at all times for the under-19s in full time education
establish stronger public control over the railways
freeze the government tax-take on fuel in real terms in the next Parliament
introduce stronger targets for local authorities to reduce traffic congestion and enable local authorities to raise bonds and establish congestion charging and private non-residential parking taxes to promote use of public transport.
carry out road widening and bypass schemes “only where there are clear safety benefits and where, on balance, there is an environmental benefit
improve road safety to reduce by at least 40% the number killed or seriously injured in road accidents by 2010, aided by the creation of a national programme of Home Zones for residential areas and Quiet Lanes in rural areas where priority is given to pedestrians and cyclists
create a Rural Transport Regeneration Fund to improve public transport, supporting dial-a-ride, taxi buses, post buses and school buses, in rural areas by widening eligibility for the existing fuel duty rebate tied into the emission standards of the vehicle.
restructure Railtrack to simplify the railway system's structure by reducing the number of franchises and encouraging Railtrack to pass responsibility for track renewal and repair to the major train operators
modernise the London Underground through a not-for-profit, public interest company funded through bonds.