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blog: What does General Election 2017 mean for transport planning?

Author: Jon Parker

Well, where do I start – I certainly wasn’t expecting to have to review the manifesto of the DUP in order to understand the implications of the election on transport planning.  But there you go, that’s politics I guess!

In some ways there is an inevitability around ‘business as usual’, as both Conservatives and Labour were broadly aligned on the big ticket transport infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and funding for Highways England.  With a Conservative led Government I would expect the devolution projects to continue, with continued investment in Midlands Connect, Transport for the North and the ‘growth funding’ process continuing to play out via the LEP’s.

DUP, or innovation, to influence policy?

Interestingly, the DUP's influence on the new Conservative-led administration might drive some renewed progress on Heathrow expansion.  That is the only scheme of real significance mentioned in the DUP manifesto when it comes to transport; albeit infrastructure more generally, along with tourism, sit at the heart of their plans, so we may see deals that accelerate investment in sustainable development and highways.

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With a softened approach to Brexit negotiations we should see some stability in how existing EU funded programmes are delivered, both in terms of infrastructure funding and research, and of course the DUP will be keener than ever to influence the soft border between Northern and Southern Ireland.

However, what is more interesting is that there is every likelihood that the next 5 years may well be the period in which the UK starts to see some significant changes, not necessarily as a result of government intervention, but because the transport delivery landscape is starting to be re-shaped as a result of third party investment in autonomous vehicles and open data.  Of course, the state has a role to play in managing and facilitating in these areas, but the true acceleration of new technology during the next 5-year period will almost certainly come from outside of the influence of government – as we have seen from Uber in recent years.

Where to next?

We will have to see if a Jeremy Corbyn manifesto ever makes its way onto the centre stage (in 5 years time, or less maybe!?), but if it does then we can certainly expect to see some fireworks.  His call for re-nationalisation of public transport, and a growing role for the state, would mean a real difference in how we plan and manage our transport assets.

Finally, rumour has it that we may be in for some continued shake-up of the housing market and the planning process, and if the squeeze is taken off austerity, as the Conservatives look over their shoulder at a looming Labour vote, then this should open up new opportunities to create more sustainable places by embedding walking, cycling and public transport into properly planned new communities.  It is particularly interesting that many of those new Labour voters are thought to be young people - the very same group who are also rejecting car ownership, and hence if their voices are to be heard then maybe now is the right time to be focusing our efforts on building places for people and not cars?  If I were in charge of Conservative transport policy I would certainly be looking at this very carefully indeed!

Interesting times….


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