Conservatives commit to continue infrastructure spending drive

Infrastructure got its own section in the Conservative Party Manifesto launched on Tuesday.  Unlike Labour which gave a  commitment to an infrastructure commission but instantly raided money from the roads piggy bank for a rail fare freeze, the Tories stuck to existing promises on road and rail spending in particular.

Tory manifesto

 “We will commit, alongside running a (budget) surplus, to increase our capital spending – investment in infrastructure – at least in line with our national income. We have set out a plan to invest over £100 billion in our infrastructure over the next Parliament,” the manifesto said.

Focus of public investment will be on rail, roads and broadband as set out in the National Infrastructure Plan and agreed in the latest £38nn Network Rail settlement and the £15bn of financing for Highways England.

The party also committed, like Labour, to HS2’s 50bn budget,  along with ‘HS3’ transport initiatives to support the Northern Powerhouse and to “push forward” Crossrail 2 in London.


On energy infrastructure the Tory Manifesto reprised steps in train to build more generating capacity into a grid that is increasingly close to the edge in terms of being able to supply power to the nation. The expectation was the Hinkley and Swansea tidal lagoon would go ahead, onshore wind farms would not.

The trailed promise to peg rail fares to Retail Price Inflation for the whole of the next parliament was also prominent along with the introduction of smart ticketing and part-time season tickets.

On roads the Conservatives said they would deliver the investment programme planned when Highways England was created, including into the A27 and A358, the two schemes that their Labour rivals had canned to find £200M for their own one year rail fare freeze.

It also promised arguably ambiguously to "respond to the Airports Commission's final report".

New infrastructure would be built in an environmentally sensitive way, the manifesto said. “We will build new roads and railways in a way that limits, as far as possible, their impact on the environment. 

This includes investing £300M in cutting light pollution from new roads, doing more tunnelling, building better noise barriers and helping to restore lost habitat. We will also replace locally any biodiversity lost in the construction of High Speed 2."

Demonstrating that the Conservatives understood the value of infrastructure the manifesto explained, alongside the slightly unnerving promise that the party had a plan for every stage of your life, that “you depend on infrastructure at every stage of your life: to go to school, to go to work, to enable businesses to grow and create jobs for your children and grandchildren. We have a plan of action that will improve our roads, railways, airports and internet connections. We will invest in infrastructure to attract businesses and good jobs across the whole of the UK.”

The commitment to infrastructure was welcomed. “The strategic road network is the backbone of the UK economy and the glue that holds the rest of the transport network together. Industry will welcome plans to commit to the previously announced road investment strategy, said Terry Scuoler, chief executive of manufacturing organisation the EEF. “It is crucial, however, that greater levels of investment in infrastructure is not seen as a proxy for job done.”

 ICE director general Nick Baveystock said: “Infrastructure forms backbone of the economy and society - the Conservative manifesto rightly recognises this and many initiatives launched over the past five years are testimony to that – not least the creation of our first National Infrastructure Plan.

“We are however at a critical time. The scale of the UK’s needs is large and growing, public finances remain tight and we are emerging as an attractive market for investment. We need to now take things to the next level.

“This means developing a long term vision for infrastructure – one which invests in the upkeep of our local roads and flood defences on a longer term basis and builds resilience. Importantly we also need a framework that achieves cross-party consensus on the vision and this is something all parties must take a position on.” 


The big announcements that Housing Association tenants would have the right to buy their homes at a discount and the promise of construction of 200,000 starter homes were prominent.

Brownfield land is to be the target for new home construction. The manifesto said: “We will ensure that brownfield land is used as much as possible for new development.We will require local authorities to have a register of what is available, and ensure that 90 per cent of suitable brownfield sites have planning permission for housing by 2020.

A new London Land Commission, with a mandate to identify and release all surplus brownfield land owned by the public sector would be created, the manifesto said.  

RICS head of policy Jeremy Blackburn was unimpressed with the right to buy announcement. “Extending the right-to-buy policy to housing associations and selling our remaining council housing stock is not a responsible approach to addressing the housing deficit,” he said. “If proceeds from these are to pay for new build, owner occupied houses on brownfield sites, it is not a workable policy that delivers across all tenures

“A brownfield fund has the potential for unlocking land supply to build more houses in the next Parliament and is a welcome commitment from the Prime Minister.  However, for this to replenish public housing, the proceeds must fund like-for-like replacements.”

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