Railways

Government spending promise on railways and roads in 2020…

As the dust has settled on the December 2019 election victory for Boris Johnson and his new government, the reality has begun to set in. At the start of a new decade – in which there will be another election – the current Conservative government is already looking at ways to cement its win to secure another term further down the line. Railways and roads could potentially have a big role to play in this, which is why a number of key spending promises have been made.

Why has the government focused on transport infrastructure?

Around £80 billion is planned for infrastructure projects like railways and roads across the next five years in areas where the Conservatives won new victories. Key northern constituencies that switched to the Conservatives from Labour, enabling the “bringing down of the red wall,” are being targeted in order to ensure that they continue to vote Conservative in 2025. The Conservative’s fiscal rules currently allow for £100bn of additional capital spending between 2020 and 2025. £22 billion has now been allocated to projects such as flood defences, leaving around £78 billion for bus, bridge and transport schemes.

Is only the north likely to benefit?

Although there is a clear desire to “repay the trust” of those votes who gave the Conservatives their vote in the recent election it’s obvious that spending on railways and roads can’t purely be limited to the north if the government is going to meet expectations across the country. Some of the additional cash that is being made available could be spent across a wide range of different projects, including:

The Northern Powerhouse

This was originally a concept that was created by the Coalition government in 2015 but could now get a more solid backing. It is designed to focus on key northern cities, such as Manchester and Leeds, boosting economic growth in these areas through investment in transport and innovation, among other things.

HS2 and Crossrail 2

There have been calls for the government to now provide clear backing for HS2 and Crossrail 2, which have both been controversial at times. HS2 is a particularly thorny topic, which could end up costing the taxpayer more than £100bn. And while some believe that the new government should put more cash into the high-speed railway, others are urging a change of direction. However, the recent Queen’s Speech showed that the current regime was committed to the project as the government promised to legislate to take the HS2 rail line north past Birmingham. The new legislation will give the government the power it needs to acquire relevant land and build on it.

Spending on roads and rail is clearly something that the government has put at the top of the agenda since the 2019 election. Improving transport infrastructure around the UK, and especially in the north where so many voters switched to Conservative in 2019, is a priority for a government that is keen to improve regional economic prospects – and to secure another victory next time around.

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