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Could transport policy hold the keys to Number 10?

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Transport affects everybody, every day, in every corner of Britain.

Yet, so far, it’s a policy area that’s hardly been a blip on the election agenda.

As I’ve travelled across Britain, I’ve heard from people calling for much more debate on how we keep the country moving.

Buses

I started on the south-west coast of Cumbria, meeting a community battling to save its buses.

This community in Cumbria are fighting to save their buses. Credit: ITV News

After years of service cuts some found themselves left cut-off.

Bus strategy rarely gets the profile it deserves - it accounts for two thirds of public transport journeys.

It is a policy area where national decisions are felt very locally.

Parties' policies:

  • Boris Johnson says he’s a “bus fanatic” pledging £220m
  • Labour says it will reverse 3000 bus service cuts since 2010
  • Lib Dems are promising a boost to buses as part of their net zero carbon target by 2045

Air

Next I moved south to Manchester Airport.

Aviation is the policy flash-point where environmental principles clash with the desire for growth and convenience.

The political parties are divided when it comes to aviation. Credit: ITV News

Curbing aviation emissions is a concern from all main parties, but there are significant differences in tactics.

Many industry insiders are privately quite relaxed about regulatory threats from our politicians.

They say that truly meaningful changes have to be international, “we all share the same sky” one told me.

Parties' policies:

  • Lib Dems want a freeze on airport expansion
  • Labour wants other forms of public transport boosted and has expressed concern that planes can be cheaper than trains.
  • Conservatives want aviation to grow but sustainably - they’ve said they’d put consumers at the heart of decisions

HS2

From Manchester I crossed the Pennines to Leeds, which hopes to be a northern hub for the high speed rail project known as HS2.

Those working on this development need certainty in order to make huge investments, yet a review is now underway into whether HS2 should proceed at all.

An artist's impression of how the HS2 station in Leeds will look. Credit: ITV News

I was told more than once that politicians' horizons are too short-term for such long-term planning.

Mixed signals about this project are fuelling demands to decide regional transport strategy away from Westminster.

Parties' policies:

  • HS2 is backed by Labour which claims ownership of the original plans
  • Lib Dems support HS2 as a way to further environmental policies - viewing trains as lower impact than road usage
  • Conservatives ordered an HS2 review - and wouldn’t rule out scrapping it. They are unlikely to talk about it much in their campaign, preferring to wait for the review conclusions
HS2 has divided political parties. Credit: PA

Rail

Leaving Leeds, I headed east to Hull which relies on trains and has its own rail firm.

Hull Trains (owned by FirstGroup) sits outside the main franchise system and is known as an “open access operator”.

Some critics of how this industry is currently run say Hull illustrates how fragmented the sector has become.

There is a fundamental disagreement on the merits of private versus public ownership, with Corbyn wanting to take some rail services back into the public's hands. Credit: PA

This city’s station is run by a completely separate train operator, First TransPennine Express.

Rail policy is one of the most radical transport debates as we approach the election.

There is a fundamental disagreement on the merits of private versus public ownership.

Hull Trains is investing £60 million in new carriages and says that’s proof private firms are bringing benefits.

Parties' policies:

  • Conservatives says the biggest rail modernisation since Victorian times is underway and says £48b will be spent on major projects. It launched the Williams Review into rail franchising, due to report after the election.
  • Labour wants renationalisation of public transport and says it will take railways back into public ownership to improve services and cap fares
  • Lib Dems say they would make it easier for government to strip train firms of their franchises for poor performance and put power over rail decisions back in the hands of local authorities.