One of the key sectors here at e3 is Transport. In this capacity, ahead of the general election tomorrow, I wanted to explore what the outcome might mean, specifically for our Transport clients.

I’ve focussed on the big 3, as well as The Green Party and UKIP. I trawled through the party manifestos looking only at the Transport sections and for a fair comparison, I’ve prioritised them by the topics most mentioned:

(1) HS2
(2) Rail Fares
(3) More public control over local and national transport
(4) How much money they are going to throw at the problem

In a nutshell, this is my understanding:

Labour will continue to support the construction of HS2, but promise to keep costs down (isn’t it already over budget?). Rail fares will be frozen next year while reforms are implemented, but there is no mention about what these reforms may be?  

The party will review the current franchise process as a priority and put in new systems to provide more public control, ‘putting the public interest first’. There is no detail of how much or where the money will come from and overall, the manifesto gives 4 paragraphs (in a document of 85 pages) over to the Transport issue.

No real surprise then, that there is not much substance or thinking behind the topic, but it could be argued that you can’t cover everything in depth.

The party will continue to roll out HS2, but also mention HS3. There’s a promise to keep commuter rail fares frozen in ‘real terms’ for the whole of the next Parliament.  What does that actually mean? There’s no mention as to whether the rail network will remain privatised or if there is any intention of more public control?  Looking at money - £38 billion is set to be invested in Britain’s rail network in the next five years.  

There’s a lot of information packed into the little space given to this issue, but no real maths – where is the money coming from for all this?

Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems will continue to support HS2, but as a first stage of a high speed rail network all the way to Scotland. This sounds similar to the Conservative’s HS3 phase. There’s no mention of reducing or freezing rail fares and no mention of more public control. The party makes no mention of how much money will be thrown at it.

The Lib Dems do talk about a stronger focus on customers (all parties in some way mention this), but they are including requirements to integrate more effectively other modes of transport. This bodes well for one of our transport clients, who definitely have their eye on multi-modal transportation and integrating bus, train and tram journeys, as well as greener options such as cycling or walking.

The Green Party
HS2 would not be supported. The money saved would be spent on improving the existing networks and on climate change. There’s no solid mention about reducing rail fairs specifically, but there is information on a ‘Rural Transport Revolution’; prioritisation of local public transport and accessibility for all.

There's also mention of support for free local transport for pensioners, students and young people. The party feel quite strongly that returning the railways back to public ownership is a plan of action for the common good. Savings will be made by bringing the network back to public ownership, as existing franchises come up for renewal. They claim that the privatised railways cost over £1bn a year. 

A great deal of page space is given up to Transport, with significant thought behind it. They talk about multi-modal travel – integrating different transport options to provide seamless door-to door journeys, (again, good for our clients’ objectives) and there is also recognition as to how and why we have ended up with such dependencies on our cars. All very ambitious, but maybe just too idealistic in the present political climate? 

HS2 will be scrapped as they view it as a vanity project that will blight the countryside. There is no mention of rail fares, public control, or money. All they say is:

“We all need a reliable, cost-effective network. UKIP support whichever method of transport users wish to choose, from walking and cycling, to driving a car. We are not a party that wants to wage a tax war on the motorist.”

In Conclusion
Based on my review above and in our clients' ideal world, the Greens would control Transport policy. As a nation, we need to rely more on public transport and less on cars and I think what The Green Party is trying to achieve would best align with our clients’ objectives. However it’s likely that in any LibDem / Labour / Conservatives coalition that HS2 will happen, but public ownership changes and actual budget amounts are all in the air.

Whatever the outcome, we don’t have long to wait to find out which way it’s going to swing.

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