General election: What the Labour Party says about travel in its manifesto

The Labour Party has unveiled its manifesto for the general election on 12 December 2019. These are the key points on transport and travel.

Mission statement

“A sustainable, affordable, accessible and integrated transport system, founded on the principle that transport is an essential public service.”

Key ideas

Labour would effectively reinstate British Rail. It plans to bring railways back into public ownership as franchises expire, and “rebuild the fragmented railways as a nationally integrated public service”. The “wastage of private profit” would end. 

A publicly owned rail company “will steer network planning and investments. It will co-ordinate mainline upgrades, resignalling, rolling stock replacement and major projects”. One such project would be “Crossrail for the North”.

All lines would eventually be electrified.

The party would make rail fares “simpler and more affordable” – yet at the same time end driver-only operation of trains, as the RMT union demands.

A Labour government would take public ownership of bus networks, “ending the race to the bottom in working conditions for bus workers”. Labour would reinstate all 3,000 routes that it says have been cut. Where councils take control of their buses, under-25s will travel free.

“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.”

Labour will aim to end “new sales of combustion engine vehicles” by 2030, and aim for zero deaths and serious injuries on the roads.

High Speed 2 rail project

Not only would Labour go ahead with the present scheme from London via Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, it would complete what it calls “the full HS2 route to Scotland, taking full account of the environmental impacts of different route options”.

Heathrow airport expansion

“Any expansion of airports must pass our tests on air quality, noise pollution, climate change obligations and countrywide benefits.” The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who is also MP for the Heathrow area, is set against any expansion at Britain’s biggest airport.


The only reference to the industry is in the section on Culture, which says: “Britain’s thriving arts, culture and creative industries drive investments and encourage tourism.”

Independent analysis

Rail nationalisation is a policy that has played well for Jeremy Corbyn, and the promise to return to the pre-privatisation days of BR will be welcomed by many. The vow to abolish driver-only operation will be welcomed by Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, whose union has organised years of strikes over the role of guards – but the policy will increase costs at the same time as fares are promised to fall in real terms.

Passengers and environmentalists will approve of the full electrification of the network, but given the sluggish pace of installing wires on the Great Western, East Midlands and Northern networks it could take decades before, say, the people of Penzance, Pwllheli and Plockton in northwest Scotland enjoy electric rail services.

Restoring 3,000 bus routes is an ambitious target, and since some of them will have been cut due to poor usage the prospect is raised of empty vehicles shuttling around the countryside. But at least some seats will be filled with under-25s travelling for free.

The appearance of road safety as a political goal is to be applauded. Even though the UK has the lowest death rate of any major country, there are still five fatalities a day on average.

Yet the omission of any policy on British tourism – which is jeopardised by Brexit – will raise alarm in the industry, especially since the Liberal Democrats appear to take the sector much more seriously.


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