INSIGHT ARTICLE

Sustainable transport policies for the 2024 General Election

By Jack Goddard, Senior Marketing Executive

Sustainable transport will play a big part in the upcoming election, with all the five major national parties announcing detailed plans for transport in their manifestos. The policies vary wildly, from free bus rides for under-18s and public ownership of train operators, to scrapping net-zero objectives altogether. The future of sustainable commuting is very much in the balance! 

We’ve pored over the manifestos of all five major national parties to bring you the headline transport policies that matter most. We have detailed five policies from each party, starting with the party with the most MPs in the last parliament and ending with the party with the fewest MPs.

The Conservatives

The Conservatives will:

• Scrap the outer London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)
• Commit ‘HS2 savings’ to deliver the section of ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ between Manchester and Liverpool 
• Invest in transport priorities in the North and Midlands 
• Support ‘hundreds’ of new bus routes in the North and Midlands 
• Invest over £8 billion to fill potholes and resurface roads. 

Conservative Manifesto

The Tories are spending £12 billion of previous HS2 funding to build a railway between Manchester and Liverpool, which will certainly help sustainable commuting in the North West. However, they are still committing a substantial percentage of their remaining budget to fix potholes and roads – eight times as much as they have pledged to improve bus services. While good roads are important for buses, as well as for carpoolers and cyclists, there seems to be little evidence here that Rishi Sunak has prioritised sustainable travel over car users, especially considering his promise to scrap the outer London ULEZ zone. 

The Conservatives are committing eight times as much on fixing potholes and roads as they are on improving bus services.

Labour

Labour will:

• Create ‘Great British Railways’ – a new governance structure for the railways. They will also bring train operators under public ownership 
• Fix one million potholes in England a year  
• Accelerate the rollout of EV charge points 
• Restore the phase-out date of 2030 for new cars with internal combustion engines  
• Pass new legislation to support local transport authorities to take control of bus services, with a plan to ‘deliver better buses’. 

Labour Manifesto 

It’s important to note that Labour will also be committing significant money to fix potholes. However, the cars that will benefit from this will much more likely be electric, thanks to Labour’s plans to phase out new petrol and diesel cars – this necessitates that there are enough EV charge points to support such a radical transition. Keir Starmer also wants to put bus services in the hands of local authorities and the railways in the hands of public ownership. Time will tell as to whether this will improve public transport. 

Starmer wants bus services in the hands of local authorities and railways in the hands of the public. Time will tell as to whether this will improve public transport.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats will:

• Roll out more EV charging points and ultra-fast chargers, and cut VAT on public charging to 5%  
• Deliver ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ and review cancellation of the northern leg of HS2   
• Introduce a new super tax on private jet flights and remove VAT exemptions for private first-class and business-class flights 
• Integrate bus, rail and light rail ticketing systems so that a daily fare cap can be introduced for those taking several trips a day  
• Establish a ten-year plan for rail electrification and ensure all new rail lines are electrified as standard. 

Liberal Democrat Manifesto

The Liberal Democrats had far more travel policies in their manifesto than any of the other major national parties, showing a real commitment to sustainable commuting across the country. The electrification of railways and increased ease and cost-incentives to buy an EV show the party’s belief in electric as the way forward. Meanwhile, a daily fare cap across the country should encourage uptake in public transport as long as the cap isn’t too high. The proposed review of the HS2 cancellation may however prove unpopular, as it is arguable that money could be spent to improve transport infrastructure better elsewhere.  

The Liberal Democrats had far more travel policies in their manifesto than any of the other major national parties, showing a real commitment to sustainable commuting across the country.

Green

The Green Party will:

• Offer free bus travel to under-18s 
• Invest £19 billion to improve public transport, support electrification and create new cycleways and footpaths  
• Give local authorities control over and funding for bus services 
• Bring railways into public ownership  
• Ban domestic flights for journeys that would take less than three hours by train (Liberal Democrats have a similar policy).

Green Manifesto

The Green Party have pledged almost £20 billion in their commitment to sustainable travel, and are the only major party to have incorporated active travel into their future policy plans in a substantial way – which in theory would certainly get a lot more people walking, running and cycling to work!  Otherwise, their plans for the railways and bus services are somewhat similar to Labour and the Lib Dems, although they are also the only party to offer free bus travel for under-18s. One of their most eye-catching policies is to ban domestic flights for journeys that would take less than three hours by train – a policy that the Lib Dems have also adopted (although they have restricted it to 2.5 hours or less).  

The Green Party are the only major party to have incorporated active travel into their future policies in a substantial way.

Reform

Reform will:

• Scrap the Ultra Low Emissions Zone  
• Not ban petrol and diesel cars and not make it a legal requirement for manufacturers to sell electric cars 
• Scrap Net Zero objectives 
• Improve existing road and rail links 
• Scrap the rest of the HS2 project.

Reform Manifesto 

Reform will not much help to further sustainable commuting with these policies, and may in fact turn back the progress made so far. Scrapping net-zero objectives could mean that organisations will no longer be required to report on their emissions, and likely have an impact on any future plans to make Scope 3 emissions reporting compulsory. The removal of the ULEZ may prove popular, but with no other strategy to replace it, it will also increase car usage in and around London; meanwhile there is no legal or infrastructure planning for a move away from petrol and diesel cars which will not help to reduce emissions. There are plans for better rail networks, but no proposals for improved bus services, unlike with every other major political party. 

Scrapping net-zero objectives could mean that organisations will no longer be required to report on their emissions, and likely have an impact on any future plans to make Scope 3 emissions reporting compulsory.

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