The main political parties this week squared up over infrastructure pledges as campaigning began ahead of the 6 May General Election.
Despite general consensus on key transport and energy pledges, each party was keen to emphasise the differences as they began to release their election manifestos.
The Conservative Party’s manifesto gave explicit backing to London’s £15.9bn mega-rail scheme Crossrail, currently being driven forward under Labour.
The Conservatives have also backed the general principle of creating a new high speed rail network, but have made it clear that they would revise Labour’s recently announced £30bn scheme from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield.
“At the heart of our growth plan is the commitment new high speed rail”
The Tories are insistent on offering a through stop at Heathrow to bolster its argument against expansion at the airport. The manifesto adds that the Tories will block plans for additional runways at Heathrow and Stansted.
Labour remains committed to a third runway at Heathrow but its manifesto says that “it will not allow additional runways to proceed at any other airport in the next Parliament”.
The ICE welcomed the commitment of both major political parties to major transport schemes but called for more clarity on the funding mechanisms behind them.
Both the Conservatives and Labour are proposing a Green Investment Bank (News 23 March), with the Tories looking to average private sector capital and create green individual savings accounts (ISAs), while Labour is looking to raise an initial £2bn, of which £1bn would come from the sale of assets and £1bn from the private sector.
“The proposed Green Investment Bank, as in Labour’s manifesto, is a positive step and it is encouraging to see consensus on the need to find new ways to direct investment towards infrastructure,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.
“However, there is little detail on how such a bank would attract the scale of investment needed to fulfil the Conservative’s vision for new infrastructure - from a new high speed rail network through to a fleet of new power stations,” he added.
“Central to our plan is the commitment new high speed rail”
Tory leader David Cameron last week admitted that paying for “essential infrastructure” would force him to revisit the issue of more widespread road charges and tolls.
He said he would start by introducing charging on new roads but did not rule out retrospectively applying them to existing roads. Labour ruled out the introduction of road pricing if it ensures a win at the election but restated its commitment to hard shoulder running.
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