Election 2015

Why transport matters in this election

road Image copyright PA

Transport dominates our lives. It's the second biggest household expense for most of us. Whoever forms the new government will have to deal with the two most expensive and controversial transport decisions to be made by politicians - HS2 and a new runway.

Transport is a devolved power in some parts of the UK.

What's at stake?

Eventually, two of the biggest building projects this country will have ever seen. MPs will vote once and for all on HS2, the new high-speed rail line with a £50bn budget, in the next couple of years, though the project is vulnerable before that.

The other big decision is where to build a new runway in south-east England. None of the parties will commit to anything until the Davies Commission makes its final recommendation, straight after the election. But once it does, stand back and watch the fireworks.

It will also be interesting to see whether Labour sticks to the road-building plans announced by the coalition a few months ago. They said they need to check that they are value for money.

Airport expansion: What are the three options?

HS2 explained

What are the numbers?

  • HS2 has maximum budget, including trains, of £50.1bn (based on 2011 prices)
  • UK government paid £3.8bn to run the railways in 2013-14, down 5.7% on previous year, according to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR)
  • Rail passengers paid £8.2bn in fares in 2013-14, up 3.5%, which regulator says was mainly down to more people travelling rather than fares going up
  • The south-east of England needs one new runway by 2030, according to Airports Commission
  • Local Government Association says it will take 12 years to fix backlog of potholes plaguing our roads
  • Record 4.725 million people used London Underground on one day (November 2014)

HS2 in numbers


maximum budget

  • 1 in 20 official likelihood of exceeding that budget

  • £1bn spent so far on HS2

  • 1,960 petitions lodged against the project

  • 2026 year the first train is due to run


What the politicians won't be saying

The issue of airport expansion in the South East has split politicians, so don't expect any commitments to build a new runway wherever the Airports Commission recommends.

It is also unlikely that any party will declare that transport budgets are safe for years to come. Unlike health and education, transport is not a protected government department and may well face cuts in the future.

What has happened since 2010?

  • Three transport secretaries of state have been appointed: Philip Hammond, Justine Greening and current post-holder, Patrick McLoughlin
  • April 2012: Petrol hits a record high of 142.48p per litre off back of rising oil prices, though potential fuel tankers' strike over pay dispute never happened
  • Summer 2012: London Olympics prove a transport triumph despite apocalyptic predictions
  • August 2012: Franchise to run trains on the West Coast Main Line collapses after government cock-up with the figures
  • September 2012: Davies Commission set up to analyse whether and where Britain needs new airport runway
  • February 2014: Stormy seas ravage 80m of rail track on Devon coast, in Dawlish, leaving lines swinging in the air. Track was rebuilt at a cost of £35m and reopened in April, though further storms caused more minor damage to sea wall in November

What the experts say

"Transport at the general election will be dominated by promises of massive new infrastructure - additional runways, big new roads, HS2. But what people are really interested in is local transport problems like potholes, high rail fares and savage cuts to bus funding. Politicians from all parties should shift their focus from expensive building projects to improving the kinds of transport people use every day" - Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport

"In our polling AA members have said that the most important message which should be conveyed to politicians and government is: 'We pay too much motoring tax yet so little is spent on the roads'" - Edmund King, AA president

"In the next parliament, decisions will be made around rail services for the years 2019 to 2024. Passengers tell us that their priorities for the railway are better everyday performance, and value-for-money tickets. We also hope that the new government would put an end to the policy of above-inflation fare increases" - Passenger Focus

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