Conservatives pledge new £4.2bn fund to 'change the face' of local transport
The Conservatives have announced a fresh £4.2bn fund which they claim will "change the face" of local transport networks.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the multi-billion-pound Local Public Transport fund would hand eight combined authorities across England new powers to invest in major transport projects and upgrade existing services.
The ring-fenced fund forms part of the government's committment to spend £100bn on infrastructure during the new parliament, with the councils being able to bid for cash from 2020.
While the mayoral or combined authorities will make decisions on where to invest the cash, the party said it expects the fund would be used to deliver a new Metro system in West Yorkshire, extensions to the West Midlands Metro tram, and a boost to bus services across the country.
The areas eligible for the cash are North East Combined Authority, Tees Valley, West Yorkshire, Sheffield City Region, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, West Midlands and West of England.
Meanwhile, the party pledged to hand more powers to local leaders to make decisions about train services, including the ability to set fares and change service patterns, if they win a Commons majority later this month.
Announcing the scheme, Mr Shapps said: "These plans will change the face of local transport in towns and cities across the country.
"They will kickstart the transformation of services so they match those in London, ensuring more frequent and better services, more electrification, modern buses and trains and contactless smart ticketing.
"While Labour has confirmed it will raid the budget to build roads, the Conservatives believe in raising funding, improving quality and delivering value for commuters across the UK."
He added: "This goes to the heart of the choice on the 12th December: a Conservative majority government that will get Brexit done and deliver the transport investment that our towns and cities need."
But responding to the plans, Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald, said: “This announcement is a pathetic attempt to cover up the government’s disastrous and incompetent failure to invest in public transport.
"Tory cuts have caused public transport fares to rise at twice the rate of wages and thousands of bus routes to be cut, worsening congestion on our roads as a result."
He added: “You can’t trust the Tories to deliver on transport in your region. The North is set to receive £2,389 less per person than London on transport. The Tories have presided over an unbalanced and unequal economy."
The announcement comes after Labour vowed to slash the price of rail fares across England by 33% if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister.
Mr Corbyn has already pledged to create a "one-stop shop" for purchasing rail tickets in a bid to push out third-party operators and standardise prices across the network.
The Labour leader said the plan was the first step in his long term ambition to bring rail and bus franchises in England into public ownership.