In the main, perhaps with the exception of the Greens, there is little that separates the main political parties on the subject of transport in Wales. The Greens inevitably favour less travel, particularly reducing car dependency and increasing the provision of accessible public transport.
Manifestos for the 2011 Assembly Election each spoke of the importance of integrating transport planning and delivery, with an emphasis on the key role of community transport, particularly in more rural parts of Wales. Having been in coalition with Welsh Labour since 2007, Plaid Cymru were keen to emphasise the achievements made in this area, under Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones.
In terms of the rail franchise, Welsh Labour pledged to establish a not for dividend rail company, a commitment it has delivered on. It would also like to see publicly owned companies bidding for franchises in Wales as in Scotland. Plaid Cymru and the Greens were steadfast in their commitment that the railways should be brought back into public ownership.
All the 2011 manifestos were committed to electrification of the Swansea to London and Valley Lines services. In 2015 the Welsh Conservatives also supported the business case for electrifying the North Wales Main Line (NWML) but failed to pay in full for Valley Lines electrification.
Plaid Cymru and Welsh Labour support the South Wales Metro; Plaid, along with the Liberal Democrats wanting rail capital expenditure funded as in Scotland. There was also agreement on the need for Network Rail to be more accountable to the Welsh Government, with the possibility of its functions being fully devolved.
All the parties pledged to retain over 60’s bus passes, with Labour and Plaid Cymru both pledging to expand TrawsCymru and Bwcabus services in rural areas and to base the Traffic Commissioner in Wales. All parties except the Conservatives, who would limit the change to registration, support the transfer of bus regulation policy powers.
Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru intended to have both Severn Bridges in Welsh Government ownership by 2018 with reduced tolls. The Welsh Conservatives and UKIP also proposed reduced tolls, to be used for reinvestment while the Welsh Liberal Democrats pledged to remove the tolls altogether.
In addition it is UKIP’s policy to end road tolls wherever possible and to “support British HGV drivers” by charging foreign lorries extra to use our roads.
Controversy and debate continues around the issue of the M4 relief road, a key Welsh Labour commitment, which does have the support of the Welsh Conservatives. Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats have backed an alternative, cheaper “blue route” option, instead upgrading the A48 Southern Distributor road at a third of the cost. On the other end of the scale, the Greens are committed to halting all new road building and incremental road improvements. While the Welsh Government struck a budget deal at the end of 2014, with the Liberal Democrats, that construction work would not begin on any part of the project before the next Assembly elections in 2016, Edwina Hart recently swiftly rejected speculation that it has been ‘quietly dropped’.
In 2011, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, as did the Greens, pledged to scrap the wasteful ‘Ieuan Air’ airlink between North and South Wales, and prioritise green transport, including rail and bus travel.