Image of a polling station sign on a brick wall with Way in sign underneath

General Election 2019

We have had a look at the political manifestoes for the forthcoming general election on Thursday 12 December to see what they say about walking and cycling.

In recent years there has been remarkable political alignment from all parties about the need to prioritise and encourage walking and cycling. What has been largely lacking is a budget to go with it.

Where city planners like Brent Toderian say for a city’s vision you should look in its budget, much the same will be true for a country as a whole. That is especially the case in the UK where, under current rules, most funding for walking and cycling schemes is drip-fed from central government with a substantial lag between funding applications and work being started.

Cycling UK and Living Streets are both running campaigns to encourage people to write to candidates in their constituency to seek an increase in funding for both walking and cycling.

Whether you vote based on the parties’ proposals for walking and cycling or anything else is up to you of course. The BBC suggests that Brexit and Health are likely to be two of the most important issues people will use to decide who to vote for, although other polls also suggest that the Climate crisis will affect how the majority will vote in the UK election. Walking and cycling are of course important ways to improve health, and replacing local car journeys with walking and cycling will also help the effort to limit global warming.


The Liberal Democrats say they will “Introduce a nationwide strategy to promote walking and cycling, including the creation of dedicated safe cycling lanes, increasing spending per head five-fold to reach 10 per cent of the transport budget.” In the current Government’s Budget from 2018 the capital budget for transport projects was £8.5bn excluding network rail. 10% of that would be £850m per annum.

Labour say they will “increase the funding available for cycling and walking. We [Labour] will bring together transport and land-use planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choice: safe, accessible, healthy, efficient, economical and pollution-free. [Labour] will help children’s health and well-being by ensuring street designs provide freedom for physically active outdoor play and by introducing measures to ensure the zones around our schools are safer, with cleaner air.” Labour is proposing a capital budget of £4.7bn (£940m per annum) or £50 per person per head.

Conservatives say they will “support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work and more families can go out together [and] will create a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes.” The £350m equates to £70m per year for five years, which according to the Guardian is less than is spent currently. By comparison, the Conservatives are proposing £28.8bn (>80 times as much) on building new roads. The design standards are already completed and should be published after the election whatever the outcome.

The Green Party says they will to spend “£2.5 billion a year on new cycleways and footpaths, built using sustainable materials, such as woodchips and sawdust” and aim to “civilise our streets by making Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (in which rat-running is blocked) the norm for residential areas and making 20 miles per hour the default speed limit.” The Dutch are currently trialing cycleways made from woodchips and resin in Emmen.

The Guardian has produced a more complete summary of which party’s general election pledges are most supportive of cycling.

For comparison, the Government has estimated that “the cumulative loss to the Exchequer from the successive fuel duty freezes from financial year 2011-12 to financial year 2018-19 is around £46.2bn”

Extracts of party manifestoes covering transport are below, including the Brexit Party.


In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030. The next UK government, which could last until 2024, will make the critical decisions that will determine if this cut will be achieved or not. Scientists have warned that many of those decisions will need to be taken before the end of 2020.

Carbon Brief have produced a comprehensive guide of what each of the parties are promising on climate change stating that the main parties all have commitments to net-zero carbon emissions: Conservatives (by 2050), Labour (by 2040 or earlier if possible), Liberal Democrat (2045 at the latest), Green (2030).

Despite having targets for net-zero emissions, Friends of the Earth’s analysis is that Conservative road building policies are likely to increase carbon emissions, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats are better but also fall short. Friends of the Earth have published the transport policies they say are needed to address the climate emergency.

Client Earth, an environmental charity that took the Government to court for failing to meet its air quality obligations , has produced a similar summary focused on what the parties are proposing that will help reduce air pollution.

Medact, a group for health professionals that campaigns for health and wellbeing, has done a further analysis covering Peace and Security, Planetary Health and Access to Healthcare.


With recent news items focusing on promises of 50,000 additional nurses that turned out to include 18,500 existing nurses, or to build 40 new hospitals, that turned out to only be 6, it is easy to be sceptical of what the parties are promising.

Many communications seem to be as much intended to distract as inform, an approach called the ‘dead cat strategy‘ described here in Boris Johnson’s own words:

‘Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.

‘That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’

Recent elections have also shown a rise in micro-targeting, especially using Facebook, to share adverts that might appeal to specific groups but which because only few people see them aren’t subject to fact-checking or debate.

If you haven’t seen it, the Guardian’s article ‘Google-jacking’ and ‘Dead Squirrels’ is another interesting read on tactics employed by politicians to influence voters.

That said, “A 2017 study in the American Journal of Political Science found that for 12 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States) found that political parties fulfill their promises to voters to a considerable extent”. (Quote from the Wikipedia article on Election Promises.)

Of course, the past is not always a good guide to the future. By sharing extracts from manifestoes below and links to the full versions, we hope you will take the time to look and make up your own mind.

You might also wish to look at Full Fact, an independent fact-checking charity which has fact-checked and provided a thoughtful analysis of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestoes and other promises and statements made to the media.


Link to: Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative, Green Party, Brexit Party.

The ordering of extracts is based on the total number of votes received by each Party in the four Gosforth Council wards at the May 2019 local election.


Download the full manifesto from:

Improving Transport

Britain’s transport systems are broken. Commuting by rail is expensive, unreliable and unpleasant, and away from the major commuter routes, buses, trams and trains are so infrequent and expensive that cars are essentially made a necessity. This in turn has made air pollution – mostly caused by cars – one of the biggest causes of preventable illness in the UK, causing at least 40,000 premature deaths a year and costing the NHS £15 billion. And surface transport is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, with almost no progress in reducing them since 1990. The UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions has risen by almost 80 per cent since 1990. Liberal Democrats will meet this challenge by:

  • Investing in public transport, buses, trams and railways to enable people to travel more easily while reducing their impact on the environment.
  • Placing a far higher priority on encouraging walking and cycling – the healthiest forms of transport.
  • Accelerating the transition to ultra-low-emission transport – cars, buses and trains – through taxation, subsidy and regulation.

Together these steps will tackle the clean air crisis, meet the challenge of climate change, improve people’s health, stimulate local and regional prosperity and develop British zero-carbon industries, with benefits for jobs, growth and exports.

Clean and Green

To achieve our net-zero climate target by 2045, we aim to reduce emissions from surface transport to near zero; at the same time the transition to electric vehicles and from private to public transport will drastically cut air pollution. Emissions from the UK’s share of international aviation are much more difficult to tackle; we need to accelerate the development of new technologies and cut demand for flying, particularly from the 15 per cent of individuals who take 70 per cent of flights. We will:

  • Accelerate the rapid take-up of electric vehicles by reforming vehicle taxation, cutting VAT on EVs to 5 per cent and increasing the rate of installation of charging points, including residential on-street points and ultra-fast chargers at service stations. We will ensure that, by 2030, every new car and small van sold is electric.
  • Pass a Clean Air Act, based on World Health Organisation guidelines, enforced by a new Air Quality Agency. The Act will enshrine the legal right to unpolluted air wherever you live.
  • Extend Ultra-Low Emission Zones to ten more towns and cities in England and
    ensure that all private hire vehicles and new buses licensed to operate in urban areas are ultra-low-emission or zero-emission vehicles by 2025; we will provide £2 billion to support this transformation.
  • 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.
  • Support innovation in zero-emission technologies, including batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, supplementing government funding with a new Clean Air Fund from industry.
  • Reduce the climate impact of flying by reforming the taxation of international flights to focus on those who fly the most, while reducing costs for those who take one or two international return flights per year, placing a moratorium on the development of new runways (net) in the UK, opposing any expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted and any new airport in the Thames Estuary, and introducing a zero-carbon fuels blending requirement for domestic flights.

Reducing the Need for Car Travel

Liberal Democrats will invest in public transport, improving its reliability and affordability, reform the planning systems to reduce the need to travel and promote cycling and walking. We will:

  • Give new powers to local authorities and communities to improve transport in their areas, including the ability to introduce network-wide ticketing, like in London.
  • Implement, in cooperation with local authorities, light rail schemes for trams and tram-trains where these are appropriate solutions to public transport requirements.
  • Restore bus routes and add new routes where there is local need; we will provide £4.5 billion over five years for this programme.
  • Introduce a nationwide strategy to promote walking and cycling, including the creation of dedicated safe cycling lanes, increasing spending per head five-fold to reach 10 per cent of the transport budget.
  • Build on the successful Local Sustainable Transport Fund established by the
    Liberal Democrats when in government, and workplace travel plans, to reduce the number of cars – particularly single-occupancy cars – used for commuting, and encourage the development of car-sharing schemes and car clubs and autonomous vehicles for public use.
  • Amend planning rules to promote sustainable transport and land use.

Download the full manifesto from:


Labour will build a sustainable, affordable, accessible and integrated transport system, founded on the principle that transport is an essential public service.

Cutting emissions will drive our transport policies. We will review public expenditure on transport to ensure that it promotes environmental sustainability and contributes to decarbonisation.

Bus services have been devastated by the Conservatives, despite carrying more people than any other mode of public transport. Women are especially dependent on buses, which also provide a lifeline for both older and younger people and for many economically disadvantaged groups.

Labour will ensure that councils can improve bus services by regulating and taking public ownership of bus networks, and we will give them resources and full legal powers to achieve this cost-effectively, thereby ending the race to the bottom in working conditions for bus workers. Where councils take control of their buses, Labour will introduce free bus travel for under-25s. We will increase and expand local services, reinstating the 3,000 routes that have been cut, particularly hitting rural communities.

Labour will deliver improvements for rail passengers by bringing our railways back into public ownership, using options including franchise expiry. This will enable us to make fares simpler and more affordable, rebuild the fragmented railways as a nationally integrated public service, cut the wastage of private profit, improve accessibility for disabled people, ensure safe staffing levels and end driver-only operation.

Our publicly owned rail company will steer network planning and investments. It will co-ordinate mainline upgrades, resignalling, rolling stock replacement and major projects. We will implement a full, rolling programme of electrification.

Our model will ensure continuity of skills, jobs and supply chain capacity to reduce costs, improve productivity and support the economic benefits of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.

We will introduce a long-term investment plan including delivering Crossrail for the North as part of improved connectivity across the northern regions. We will consult with local communities to reopen branch lines. We will also unlock capacity and extend high-speed rail networks nationwide by completing the full HS2 route to Scotland, taking full account of the environmental impacts of different route options. We will deliver rail electrification and expansion across the whole country, including in Wales. We will ensure that these major infrastructure projects are a model of good employment practice and pay due regard to the environmental impact.

We will 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.

We will increase the funding available for cycling and walking. We will bring together transport and land-use planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choice: safe, accessible, healthy, efficient, economical and pollution-free. We will help children’s health and well-being by ensuring street designs provide freedom for physically active outdoor play and by introducing measures to ensure the zones around our schools are safer, with cleaner air.

Our transport programme is focused on creating better, publicly accessible local transport systems. By improving public transport, Labour will help people to become less reliant on their cars, for our better health, for a cleaner environment and to improve quality of life in our towns and cities. The Conservatives have committed to ending new sales of combustion engine vehicles by 2040. Labour will aim for 2030.

We will position the UK at the forefront of the development and manufacture of ultra-low emission vehicles and will support their sale. We will invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and in electric community car clubs. We will accelerate the transition of our public sector car fleets and our public buses to zero-emissions vehicles.

We will reform taxi and private hire services, including a review of licensing authority jurisdictions, setting national minimum standards of safety and accessibility and updating regulations to keep pace with technological change and to close loopholes to ensure a level playing field.

We will adopt an ambitious Vision Zero approach to UK road safety, striving for zero deaths and serious injuries. Labour will invest to make our neglected local roads, pavements and cycleways safer for the everyday journeys of both drivers and vulnerable road users. We will review all tolled crossings.

Labour recognises the Davies Commission’s assessment of pressures on airport capacity in the South East. Any expansion of airports must pass our tests on air quality, noise pollution, climate change obligations and countrywide benefits. We will examine fiscal and regulatory options to ensure a response to the climate crisis in a way that is fair to consumers and protects the economy.

We will take action to end nationality-based discrimination in seafarer pay.

A Healthy Environment

Our polluted air contributes to over 40,000 premature deaths a year and poisons our environment, with further impacts on children’s health. But the Conservatives’ air-quality measures are so inadequate they have been found to be illegal.

Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act, with a vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zones, complying with World Health Organisation limits for fine particles and nitrous oxides.

In a further press release Labour have announced more detail about its walking and cycling plans.

The next Labour government will make England one of the most cycling and walking friendly places in the world.

Labour is announcing ambitious plans for a new ‘Healthy Streets Programme’ to make our towns and cities cleaner and greener to transform the environment, travel opportunities and quality of life across the country.

Labour’s ‘Healthy Streets’ programme will be modelled on the best towns in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Like Amsterdam where 67% of trips are by foot or bike. Only 29% of trips are made by foot or bike in the UK.

Labour will deliver the boost to cycling and walking needed to urgently tackle the climate emergency, the local air pollution crisis and the epidemic of ill-health caused by a lack of investment in walking and cycling. Labour’s investment in walking and cycling will, for the first time, make active travel a genuine option for the many, not just the brave.

Labour will:

  • Double cycling journeys by adults and children.
  • Build 5000km of cycleways.
  • Create safe cycling and walking routes to 10,000 primary schools.
  • Deliver universal affordable access to bicycles and grants for e-bike purchase.
  • Provide cycle training for all primary school children and their parents, plus extend training to secondary schools and make it available for all adults.

In the more detailed version of the press release, including notes to editors, it states

  • The capital funding element of this announcement will cost £4.7bn in England, paid for from Labour’s Green Transformation Fund.
  • Labour will ensure that annual funding for walking and cycling reaches £50 per person.
  • In addition, Labour will also provide £2.5bn of revenue funding during its first term of government to expand Bikeability and Walk to School schemes, ‘social prescribing’ of cycling and a “A Cycling and Walking Social Investment Fund to support walking and cycling in left-behind areas.”

A further press release details proposals to cut the price of rail travel.


Download the full manifesto from:

A transport revolution

A key part of our plan to level up the UK’s cities and regions is to connect them. Leeds is the largest city in Western Europe without a light rail or metro system. And European cities are often more productive than our own in large part because they have better infrastructure.

We will connect our cities:

  • We will build Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester and then focus on Liverpool, Tees Valley, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle.
  • We will invest in the Midlands Rail Hub, strengthening rail links including those between Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Coventry, Derby, Hereford and Worcester.
  • We will also invest in improving train lines to the South West and East Anglia.
  • We will extend contactless pay-as- you go ticketing to almost 200 more stations in the South East, meaning that 50 per cent of all rail journeys and almost all London commuter journeys can be completed using a contactless bank card.
  • We will give city regions the funding to upgrade their bus, tram and train services to make them as good as London’s, with more frequent, better-integrated services, more electrification, modern buses and trains and smart ticketing – such as the vision proposed by Andy Street for the West Midlands.
  • The railways need accountability, not nationalisation. So we will end the complicated franchising model and create a simpler, more effective rail system, including giving metro mayors control over services in their areas.
  • We will make a £28.8 billion investment in strategic and local roads. We will invest £1 billion in completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station. We will consult on the earliest date we can phase out the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars, while minimising the impact on drivers and businesses.
  • We will require that a minimum service operates during transport strikes. Rail workers deserve a fair deal, but it is not fair to let the trade unions undermine the livelihoods of others.
  • HS2 is a great ambition, but will now cost at least £81 billion and will not reach Leeds or Manchester until as late as 2040. We will consider the findings of the Oakervee review into costs and timings and work with leaders of the Midlands and the North to decide the optimal outcome.
  • Connectivity is not just about the UK’s great cities. To help communities across the country, we will restore many of the Beeching lines, reconnecting smaller towns such as Fleetwood and Willenhall that have suffered permanent disadvantage since they were removed from the rail network in the 1960s.
  • We will invest in superbus networks with lower fares – flat fares in urban areas – and increased frequency. We will keep bus fares low, bring back and protect rural routes, and speed up your journeys. We will invest in electric buses, developing the UK’s first all- electric-bus town.
  • We will launch the biggest ever pothole-filling programme as part of our National Infrastructure Strategy – and our major investment in roads will ensure new potholes are much less likely to appear in the future.
  • We will support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work and more families can go out together. We will create a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes. We will extend Bikeability – cycling proficiency training – to every child. And we will work with the NHS to promote cycling for healthier living.
  • Parliament has voted in principle to support a third runway at Heathrow, but it is a private sector project. 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 scheme will receive no new public money. More broadly, we will use new air traffic control technology to cut the time aircraft spend waiting to land, reducing delays, noise nuisance and pollution. We will also build on Britain’s pioneering work in electric and low-carbon flight.

Stewards of our environment

Our Environment Bill will guarantee that we will protect and restore our natural environment after leaving the EU. Because conservation has always been at the very heart of Conservatism.

  • We will set up a new independent Office For Environmental Protection and introduce our own legal targets, including for air quality.

Download the full manifesto from:

The Green New Deal for transport

Our transport system is built on fossil fuels. As well as destabilising our climate, this reliance traps us into stressful, unhealthy and expensive forms of travel. Car dependency contributes to congestion, road danger and air pollution whilst reducing physical activity.

The Green New Deal will revolutionise our transport system by ending dependence on carbon, and investing instead in alternatives that work for better for the climate and for people. This means more reliable and affordable trains, electric buses and trams, and better options for cycling and walking.

From new trains and targeted fare reductions, to rapidly expanding bike hire schemes, we think it’s time to transform the way the UK moves.

Our Green New Deal for transport will invest in public transport, walking and cycling so wherever people live they are not forced to use a car, by:

  • Spending £2.5 billion a year on new cycleways and footpaths, built using sustainable materials, such as woodchips and sawdust.
  • Making travelling by public transport cheaper than travelling by car, by reducing the cost of travelling by train and bus. Coach travel will also be encouraged, with new routes for electric coaches provided across the country.
  • Creating a new golden age of train by opening new rail connections that remove bottlenecks, increase rail freight capacity, improve journey times and frequencies, enhance capacity in the South West, Midlands and North, and connect currently unconnected urban areas. We would also look, where possible, to re-open closed stations. These rail improvements will benefit from funding switched from the damaging HS2 scheme, which we will cancel (see ‘Ending wasteful spending’ section below for more details).
  • Electrifying all railway lines that connect cities, improving punctuality.
  • Creating a government-owned rolling stock company which would invest in a fleet of new electric trains to run on newly electrified lines.
  • Giving responsibility for running short-distance passenger rail franchises to councils, or groups of councils that come together to work on local transport. This will give local communities a greater say in the running of the rail services they rely on. We will bring all railways back into public ownership over ten years.
  • Ensuring good railway connections with all ports to enable more freight between ports and inland terminals to be carried on rail. We will invest in additional freight routes resulting in the majority of long-distance freight switching from road to rail.
  • Giving all local authorities control over bus services (as London currently has) and supporting local authorities to restore lost bus routes and open new ones. Local authorities serving urban areas will be encouraged to explore tramways as an additional public transport option.
  • Providing more bus priority measures on the roads to improve punctuality.
  • Funding local authorities to improve the appearance and facilities of
    bus stops, bus stations and train stations, to make them more user friendly and convenient for both passengers and transport staff. This includes the provision of more public toilets, and ensuring full accessibility for disabled people.
  • Apply a Carbon Tax on all fossil fuels, as outlined above in the ‘Green New Deal for energy’ section, which will increase the cost of petrol, diesel and shipping fuel, as well as on aviation fuel for domestic flights. Domestic flights will also lose their VAT exemption and there will be an additional surcharge on domestic aviation fuel to account for the increased warming effect of emissions release at altitude. We will lobby > against the international rules that prevent action being taken to tax international aviation fuel.
  • Ban advertising for flights, and introduce a Frequent Flyer Levy to reduce the impact of the 15% of people who take 70% of flights. This Frequent Flyer Levy only applies to people who take more than one (return) flight a year, discouraging excessive flying.
  • Stop the building of new runways and all increased road capacity, saving thousands of acres of countryside every year and protecting people from the harm of increased air pollution and traffic danger.
  • End the sale of new petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles by 2030. Over the next ten years we will ease this transition by incentivising the replacement of diesel and petrol vans, lorries and coaches with electric vehicles. Our priority is reducing overall mileage and the number of vehicles on our roads these further measures will ensure that the vehicles still on our roads in 2030 create the minimum of pollution. Even electric vehicles pollute, so they represent an improvement on the current situation, not a solution in themselves.
  • Create a network of electric vehicle charging points across the country, by requiring their construction through the planning system and encouraging the private sector to deliver them. We will ensure that these charging points are located in public places, and do not take up pavement and cycling space. We will require all existing petrol stations and motorway service stations to offer electric vehicle charging points by 2025.
  • Civilise our streets by making Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (in which rat-running is blocked) the norm for residential areas and making 20 miles per hour the default speed limit. These changes would reduce traffic, carbon emissions and danger to people walking and cycling. They would restore our streets to all people. They would also form part of a wider commitment to the core principle of the Vision Zero campaign – that there should be no fatalities or serious injuries as a result of road traffic collisions.
  • Make 40 miles per hour the default speed limit in non-residential areas except on major roads.
  • Ensure through the planning system that all new housing is served by high quality walking and cycling routes and much improved bus, tram and local rail services. New residents must not be forced into car use.
  • Incentivise changes to travelling behaviour by promoting more stay at home working (with working hours’ heating, electricity and Wi-Fi costs reimbursed by employers for low income workers working from home), more business teleconferencing, more local work station hubs and more car club schemes. We will also encourage more domestic holiday travel, through removing VAT from UK hotel and holiday home stays and attractions.

Download the full manifesto from:

The Brexit Party pledges include:

  • Scrapping HS2
  • Investing “at least £50bn in local road and rail schemes.”
  • Free Wi-Fi on all public transport.

One thought on “General Election 2019

  1. Stephen Brown

    Dear space for Gosforth thanks for producing this very interesting article,liked the extracts from party manifestos showing their ideas and policies for the future of transport .

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