On Thursday, the British public will head to the polls to elect a new Government. Come the weekend, whichever party – or parties – take up residence in Whitehall will be faced with a myriad of challenges ranging from immigration to the economy and Europe to local government. What’s most important to us, though, is transport.
We’ve pored over all the major Scottish parties’ manifestos and have extracted their key transport policies.
So far we’ve covered Labour and the Conservatives. Up next we have parties of polar opposite fortunes the SNP and the Liberal Democrats.
Have a read and take a look at the possible futures of Scottish transport.
The SNP has focussed – like most of the other parties – on the nation’s railways. What that means for the SNP is stronger internal links between major Scottish cities and improved integration with southern networks.
The SNP is pushing to expand the scope of ‘so-called “national” projects’, insisting HS2 is connected to Scotland and that construction on both sides of the border begins in unison. While this will almost certainly delay the projects start date, it ensures that the northern section is not lost during construction.
Combined with a proposed high speed connection between Glasgow and Edinburgh, this promises vastly improved access between Scotland and England. If HS2 is completed in full, journey times between Scotland and London could be cut to under three hours.
Finally, the SNP manifesto promises to remove UK legislation which prevents public sector bodies from bidding to operate rail services.
While this may seem like a step towards renationalisation, it’s worth considering the cost implication behind tendering. For franchises like ScotRail, it can cost tens of millions of pounds to put a tender together. Few public sector bodies are willing to risk that level of capital.
Like the SNP, the Liberal Democrats are putting a lot of emphasis on the railways. Alongside support for new transport projects like HS2, the Liberal Democrats are promising to reopen a raft of old stations, reinstate twin-track lines and electrify the vast majority of the rail network.
The manifesto pledges to “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.”
However, what this means in practice is not explained.
As well as rejuvenating the public transport network, the Liberal Democrats promise to expand access to it. A proposed Young Person’s Discount Card would provide a two-thirds discount on bus fares and an NHS ‘student guarantee’ would subsidise all travel necessary to a student’s healthcare.
Finally, the Lib Dems promise to make the British transport sector greener and radically improved our air quality. A proposed Green Transport Act will introduce a consultation for improving air quality through Low Emission Zones, green transport incentives, an overhauled MOT process and support for EU regulations.
This Thursday is your opportunity to make your political voice heard. Make sure you get down to your nearest polling station and help shape the future of the country.