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Conservative party pledges £4bn regional transport plan

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives at Euston Station
Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson arrives at Euston station in London to board a train ahead of delivering the Conservative party election manifesto in Telford on 24 November. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Reuters

The Conservative party has pledged to spend more than £4bn for new bus and metro links in cities around England ahead of the UK’s general election on 12 December.

Regional transport links have become a key battleground in the election, with the Labour party proposing to use money previously assigned to road building on green transport, and to cut train fares for many commuters by a third.

The £4bn pledge from the Conservatives is part of a wider £100bn spend on infrastructure laid out by Boris Johnson. Under the pledge, bidding opportunities would be opened to eight combined authorities or mayoral regions (Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, West Midlands, North East, Tees Valley, West Yorkshire, Sheffield City Region and West of England).

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The Conservatives indicated the money would likely go towards, project such as a light rail system around West Yorkshire or an expansion of Greater Manchester’s metrolink to Stockport and Bolton.

Other potential projects include upgrades to bus services in all regions or upgrading the Tyne and Wear metro, extending the West Midlands tram system, new or improved rail services around Sheffield, Liverpool and Bristol.

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Announcing the policy, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “These plans will change the face of local transport in towns and cities across the country. They will kickstart the transformation of services so they match those in London, ensuring more frequent and better services, more electrification, modern buses and trains and contactless smart ticketing.

“While Labour has confirmed it will raid the budget to build roads, the Conservatives believe in raising funding, improving quality and delivering value for commuters across the UK.”

Responding to the announcement, Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “This announcement is a pathetic attempt to cover up the government’s disastrous and incompetent failure to invest in public transport.

“Tory cuts have caused public transport fares to rise at twice the rate of wages and thousands of bus routes to be cut, worsening congestion on our roads as a result.

“The north is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport. The Tories have presided over an unbalanced and unequal economy.”