Political uncertainty and the impact on transport

Political fortunes may always be shifting, but they have been shifting faster than ever in recent years. Now, with another new Prime Minister in place, certainty is far from assured. But what does this mean for transport?

By the time anyone reads this article, there is a real danger that it will already be out of date. The 'mini-Budget' announced by then Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng sent so many political and economic shockwaves around the world that its measures have already been reversed.

The new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is now warning of significant cuts in public expenditure that may make the austerity years of George Osborne look relatively modest. Across public transport especially, many still bear the scars of cuts in service and provision, in addition to the cancelled projects that came about as a result of the austerity years.

In her attempt to reassure the country that she remained in office and in power, in an interview with the BBC's Chris Mason, the former Prime Minister, Liz Truss, mentioned new roads four times as part of 'delivering for the public.' That was just before she announced her resignation.

If spending is at risk, aside from on roads, then where does this leave planned local and national projects?

Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has also announced to the Transport Committee that the promised Transport Bill has been pushed back due to lack of parliamentary time. She is instead trying to secure a narrower Bill to be introduced around the future of transport technologies. But even that cannot be guaranteed.

Where does this leave the establishment of Great British Railways? With a 2030 deadline to transition away from new petrol and diesel car and van sales in place, how will sufficient electric vehicle charge points be installed throughout the UK in order to meet this timeline?

With both transport policy and projects at risk from political uncertainty, this makes engagement across the political spectrum, critical.

The more the polls shift in favour of Labour, and the credibility of the Conservative Party is undermined, the more likely the prospect of a Labour Government after the next General Election.

The current Government are not suddenly abandoning every aspect of transport policy, but changes are obviously coming. All those involved in the development and delivery of transport, locally and nationally, need to fight their corner.

There may be alliances required to increase the pressure on Government. The more such alliances bring together unlikely bedfellows, the greater the prospects of success. Another option may be a large and vocal public campaign. The Truss government has already demonstrated a propensity to 'U turn' so what is another reversal amongst friends?

We can expect a series of loud public campaigns over the coming month across a variety of sectors as organisations try to get the Government to focus on their needs and priorities. It will be an ultra-competitive space both in terms of ideas and, of course, finance.

It could be transport vs health vs education, but we are also likely to see increased competition across transport as well: currently few projects look safe. Success will be all about motivating friends and allies in support of your campaign and taking that to the Government, as well as the Opposition.

This may all sound a little gloomy, but it reflects the reality of the current political uncertainty. If that reality is not recognised, then transport could lose out.