Infrastructure policies in UK general election manifestos

Out-Law Guide | 28 Nov 2019 | 10:57 am | 6 min. read

Infrastructure is an important battleground in the UK's 2019 general election and all the main parties are competing on the amount they will invest in infrastructure and on the depth of their support for projects.

You can also see what the parties say about financial services; manufacturing and technology; energy; retail, and real estate in our companion guides. 

Conservative

The Conservative manifesto commits to an infrastructure "revolution" if the party is returned to office. The manifesto reaffirms the party's support for high-profile projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail and highlights investment in the Midlands Rail Hub. However, the document also says that the party will consider findings of the review into HS2 before deciding the optimal outcome and says that while the UK parliament voted in principle to support a third runway at Heathrow, it is a private sector project and it is for Heathrow to demonstrate that it can meet its air quality and noise obligations, that the project can be financed and built and that the business case is realistic.

The Conservatives' infrastructure commitments include plans to:

  • invest £4 billion in new funding for new flood defences, electric vehicle infrastructure including a national plug-in network and gigafactory; and clean energy over the coming years;
  • set strict new laws on air quality and consult on the earliest date at which the phasing out of the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars can take place;
  • build Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester before focusing on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle;
  • update the A55 as the main road transport artery for North Wales;
  • deliver the M4 relief road;
  • fund the building of the West Wales Parkway Station;
  • improve and investment in bus networks in coastal towns;
  • invest in the Midlands Rail Hub, strengthening rail links;
  • invest in improving train lines to the South West and East Anglia;
  • provide city regions with the funding to upgrade their bus, tram and train services;
  • £100bn additional infrastructure spending, including £4bn for flood defences, £28.8bn in strategic and local roads, and £1bn in a fast charging network for electric vehicles;
  • consider the findings of the review into HS2 and decide the optimal outcome;
  • create a new £350 million cycling infrastructure fund;
  • ensure Heathrow expansion meets its air quality and noise obligations;amend planning laws to ensure infrastructure is built before new homes, utilising a new £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure Fund.

Labour

Labour's manifesto outlines its support for high profile projects such as HS2, including an extension to Scotland, while also committing it to an increase in support for delivering infrastructure projects such as Crossrail for the North.

The manifesto continually refers to the need to be mindful of Labour's zero carbon economy targets stating, for example, that any airport expansion must pass tests on air quality, noise pollution, climate change obligations and deliver countrywide benefits.

Labour's infrastructure commitments include plans to:

  • introduce a long-term investment plan including delivering Crossrail for the North as part of improved connectivity across the northern regions;
  • complete the full HS2 route to Scotland;
  • promote the use of rail freight in order to reduce carbon emissions, air pollutants and congestion on the roads and expand the provision of publicly owned rail freight services;
  • establish a publicly owned rail company to decide on network planning and investments;
  • establish British Broadband, with two arms: British Digital Infrastructure (BDI) and the British Broadband Service (BBS) and deliver free full-fibre broadband to all by 2030 to be paid through the taxation of multinationals, including tech giants;
  • create a Sustainable Investment Board to bring together the Chancellor, Business Secretary and Bank of England Governor to oversee, co-ordinate and bring forward the investment Labour has committed to;
  • launch a National Transformation Fund of £400bn and rewrite the Treasury’s investment rules to guarantee that every penny spent is compatible with Labour's climate and environmental targets;
  • provide £250bn to fund the transition through a Green Transformation Fund dedicated to renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration;
  • Create a National Investment Bank, backed up by a network of Regional Development Banks, to provide £250bn of lending for enterprise, infrastructure and innovation over 10 years.

SNP

The SNP manifesto says that its £7bn investment through its National Infrastructure Mission and the creation of the Scottish National Investment Bank is evidence of its commitment to infrastructure development.

The SNP says that it will campaign for an increase to the capital borrowing limits available to the Scottish government and demand that Scotland receives its share of any investment by the British Business Bank.

Infrastructure commitments include:

  • establish a 'national infrastructure company' to ensure public projects serve the public interest;
  • push for an increase in the capital borrowing limits;
  • demand that Scotland gets a fair share of any investment by the British Business Bank and that it works closely with the Scottish National Investment Bank;
  • press the UK government to invest in digital connectivity including superfast broadband and 5G technology;
  • call for Scotland to get its fair share of the £5 billion UK government funding to roll out gigabit broadband to the hardest to reach areas;
  • call on the Shared Rural Network to deliver 95% 4G mobile coverage in Scotland and press for the current review into the UK telecoms supply chain to be concluded promptly;
  • call on the UK government to reclassify the internet as an essential service and support affordable housing providers to make the service available;
  • call for the UK government to legislate for a social tariff for broadband and work with broadband and mobile service providers to make more affordable tariffs and packages more widely available;
  • if the UK leaves the EU, SNP MPs will monitor the impact of voluntary free roaming arrangements for mobile phone use in the EU and press for legislation to protect Scottish and UK consumers should these break down;
  • bring to market a £3bn portfolio of projects including renewables, waste and construction, ready for green finance investment;
  • press for an increase in new woodland creation, working towards a target of 60 million trees planted annually in the UK by 2025, with 30 million of these in Scotland to help tackle the climate emergency and to support biodiversity and rural employment.

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat manifesto outlines the party's support for high profile transport projects such as HS2 and Crossrail 2 as well as announcing an infrastructure investment programme of £130bn in transport, energy systems, schools, hospitals and homes.

The manifesto highlights the party's zero carbon ambitions, as evidenced by pledges to ensure the National Infrastructure Commission considers the climate and environmental implications of all national infrastructure decisions, and the creation of a new Green Investment Bank to support investment in zero carbon and resource efficient infrastructure. Infrastructure commitments include plans to:

  • invest £130bn in infrastructure covering transport and energy systems, schools, hospitals and homes;
  • introduce a capital £50bn Regional Rebalancing Programme for infrastructure spend across the UK reinforced by a Just Transition Fund to support communities negatively affected by policies to tackle the climate emergency;
  • support investment in the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, by putting significant capital resources into infrastructure projects across these regions;
  • set a National Industrial Strategy to 'transform' the economy and develop Local Industrial Strategies within it that incentivises clustering by businesses and universities with particular specialisations;
  • invest in public transport, including the conversion of the rail network to ultra-low-emission technology - electric or hydrogen - by 2035, and a continued commitment to HS2, Crossrail 2 and other major new strategic rail routes;
  • a programme of installing hyper-fast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK, with a focus on connecting rural areas;
  • increase funding for Innovate UK and new Catapult innovation and technology centres on farming and land use and on carbon dioxide removal;
  • establish a £5bn fund for flood prevention and climate adaptation and introduce high standards for flood resilience for buildings and infrastructure in flood risk areas.
  • invest in public transport, buses, trams and railways to enable people to travel more easily while reducing their impact on the environment;
  • accelerate the transition to ultra-low-emission transport through taxation, subsidy and regulation;
  • accelerate the rapid take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) by reforming vehicle taxation, cutting VAT on EVs to 5% and increasing the rate of installation of charging points, including residential on-street points and ultra-fast chargers at service stations;
  • ensure that by 2030 every new car and small van sold is electric;
  • shift more freight from road to rail, including electrifying lines leading from major ports as an urgent priority, and amend the current HGV road user levy to take account of carbon emissions;
  • extend Britain’s rail network, improve stations, reopen smaller stations and restore twin-track lines to major routes;
  • support High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, East-West Rail and Crossrail 2, but ensure far tighter financial controls and increased accountability;
  • take a new approach to rail franchising by opening up the bidding process to public sector companies, local or combined authorities, not-for-profits and mutual;
  • create a new Railways Agency to oversee the operations of the railway network, removing the Department for Transport from day-to-day decision-making;
  • set up a £2bn Rural Services Fund to enable the co-location of services in local hubs around existing local infrastructure;
  • invest £2bn to ensure the provision of high-speed broadband and ensure that all households and businesses have access to superfast broadband (30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload).
  • Invest in mobile data infrastructure and expand it to cover all homes.