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Coalition parties could clash on transport

The coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has identified common ground on building high speed rail and blocking new airport runways, but there are hints of a disagreements on roads.

The new government has committed itself to establishing a high-speed rail network, cancelling the third runway at Heathrow, and opposing additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted airports.

However, the agreement made no mention of Crossrail, which has previously been cast into doubt by the Conservatives. Roads investment and road pricing schemes were also not mentioned in the agreement.

It was also confirmed last night that Conservative MP Philip Hammond will now take on the role of transport secretary.

Point of contention

Road pricing could be a point of contention within the coalition. The Lib Dem manifesto pledged to “undertake preparations for the introduction of a system of road pricing in a second parliament”, but the Conservatives have repeatedly criticised the idea.

Former Tory shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers had labelled road pricing misguided, unwanted, unnecessary and that it would face high risk IT issues. But prime minister David Cameron did say on the campaign trail he would be “happy to look at road tolls”, citing M6 Toll as a successful scheme.

The Lib Dem manifesto also took a firm anti-road building stance pledging to cut the major roads budget and invest in rail instead. The issue was not mentioned in the Conservatives’ manifesto, although at the NCE Road Summit in January, Villiers said there will be “obvious [financial] limitations on what we can deliver in terms of new road projects”.

“We would only ever embark on new road projects where doing so is consistent with a responsible approach to the public finances.”

Theresa Villiers

“We would only ever embark on new road projects where doing so is consistent with a responsible approach to the public finances,” she said, and added that while she welcomed managed motorways and hard shoulder running she was “sceptical”about the value for money they deliver.

BAA responded curtly to the coalition’s policy on new runways. A spokesman said only that BAA will work with the new government, and that airports policy must provide “the strong international trading connections on which the UK’s jobs and future competitiveness depend.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Perhaps the Lib Dems are looking to provide jobs for their supponters. Donky drawn transport will be their next proposal?

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