Our pothole-ravaged roads, creaking airports & lousy trains are a national embarrassment… & no party has plan to fix it

READING the Labour and Tory manifestos, you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a programme of government for Teletubbyland.

They speak of a glorious green future in which Britain will achieve net zero carbon emissions, thanks to a few wind turbines.

GettyRush hour on the M56 at Helsby, Cheshire[/caption]

AlamyJust what has happened to the £2.5bn Potholes Fund announced by ChancellorSunak in 2020?[/caption]

AlamyIn the years we’ve been talking about a third Heathrow runway, China has built 70 new airports[/caption]

But they fail to explain how we are going to manage to invest the required billions when we cannot even seem to do the basics, such as keeping roads free of potholes, trains running and water supplies flowing without resorting to hosepipe bans.

Realistically, all the main parties are likely to achieve through their green plans is to add yet one more problem for our creaking and broken infrastructure — regular blackouts.

Labour’s most fanciful, and most expensive, promise is to deliver an electricity grid made up entirely of green energy, all by 2030.

It is going to achieve it, apparently, by setting up a publicly owned company, Great British Energy, to build the required green energy infrastructure “to cut bills for good and boost energy security, paid for by a windfall tax on oil and gas giants”.

Labour’s energy plans are complete fantasy.

Getting anywhere near net zero by 2050, or even just decarbonising electricity by 2030, would require investment on an unprecedented scale.

Not only would we need many thousands more wind turbines and solar farms, we would need massive spending on energy storage to ensure we can keep the lights on when wind and solar farms are producing little or nothing.

We would need, too, many hundreds of miles of new pylons and cables to distribute the power.

At the moment, green energy companies are being told they will have to wait 15 years to have their wind and solar farms connected, such is the inadequacy of the grid.

National Grid ESO, the company which manages our electricity supply, has estimated decarbonising Britain’s entire energy system will cost between £2.8trillion and £3trillion between now and 2050, working out at between £108billion and £115billion a year.

Yet Labour is claiming it can do the job for just £4.7billion a year.

How is it going to raise even that money?

Oil and gas companies are already withdrawing investment, or threatening to do so, thanks to Labour’s refusal to issue licences for new oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

So there will be fewer and fewer “windfalls” to tax.

Of course, not all investment in public services necessarily requires public money.

But if we are going to have private investment, someone is going to have to pay for it, and the costs will inevitably fall on energy consumers.

Net zero certainly isn’t going to be saving money on our energy bills, as Labour preposterously claims.

The Conservatives have raised a feeble protest about Labour’s unrealistic plans but cannot really get to the nub of the problem because their own plans are nearly as unrealistic.

They, too, are committed to achieving net zero by 2050, albeit with the slightly more relaxed interim target of decarbonising the grid by 2035, rather than 2030.

Both Labour and the Tories want us to drive electric cars, with the former saying they will ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and the latter by 2035.

Feeble protest

What neither of them is admitting is the vast black hole this will leave in the public finances.

In 2023/24 the Government raised £24.7billion in fuel duty — 2.2 per cent of all government revenue.

But owners of electric cars do not pay fuel duty.

So, as we are all forced to go electric, this source of revenue will steadily disappear.

The next government will have to either find other ways of taxing motorists or jack up other taxes — which neither party is admitting to.

Without new taxes there won’t be a single penny to spend on the roads.

The Government spent more than £11billion last year maintaining them nationally and locally.

Either way, the switch to electric cars is not going to make us better off.

Just what has happened to the £2.5billion Potholes Fund the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his 2020 Budget?

The money certainly hasn’t found its way into repairing the roads around my way, which are in a worse condition than I can remember at any point in the past 25 years.

That is why I am sceptical of the Conservatives’ promise to spend a further £8.3billion on repairing potholes and resurfacing roads, or of Labour’s promise to fill a million potholes a year.

Money paid out to highway authorities seems to get diverted to other causes.

PATories have chopped and changed on rail so often it’s hard to take them seriously and Labour would give more power to the unions[/caption]

GettyLabour and Tories say they will ban sales of new petrol/diesel cars by 2030-2035. It will cost £24.7bn in fuel duty – 2.2% of Govt revenue[/caption]

GettyNational Grid says decarbonising will cost £115bn a year until 2050. Labour says it can do it for £4.7bn[/caption]

GettyWe would need 100s of miles of new pylons & cables. Wind and solar firms face a 15-year wait to be connected to the grid[/caption]

Take Lancashire County Council, which recently refused to pay £100 compensation to a woman who tripped in a pothole — on the basis that potholes are a mere “fact of life”.

It might not get round to keeping its roads properly maintained but at least Lancashire council has a “highways decarbonisation strategy” which forces contractors to use a “low-carbon material calculator” and demands that all vehicles and Portakabins they use are zero carbon by 2035.

That is the kind of bureaucracy which holds up infrastructure investment in Britain, on everything from road maintenance to building new motorways, railways and airports.

Unbelievably, it is almost 80 years since Heathrow was first proposed, to be built across land now also earmarked for the airport’s third runway.

Theresa May’s government approved Heathrow’s plans for the new runway nearly a decade ago — and yet still nothing has been built.

In the time Britain has just talked about building it, spending vast sums on studies and inquiries, China has built around 70 entirely new airports.

What are our two main political parties going to do about our snail-pace, stop-start infrastructure programme?

Labour says it wants to reform the planning system but won’t tell us how.

Given the party has opposed what it calls the Government’s “reckless” plans to water down rules left over from our EU membership, which demand house-builders prove their developments will not add to nitrate emissions, and have held up the building of thousands of new homes, it is hard to see how the party will make progress.

As for the Tories, they promise they will make it more difficult for campaign groups to frustrate new infrastructure projects with judicial reviews.

Lousy services

Yet the Government has encouraged campaigners to take it to court by making its net zero targets legally binding.

On the railways, the Conservatives have chopped and changed plans so often — not just with HS2 but also electrification of the Transpennine line and other projects — that it is a job to take it seriously.

Labour, on the other hand, is promising to renationalise the railways but cannot say how going back to the days of British Rail will improve lousy services.

In one respect it will make life far worse for passengers — it says it will repeal the Conservatives’ law which requires unions to allow a minimum service level on strike days.

That will allow rail unions to hold passengers to ransom even more than they do now.

With its growing population, Britain is crying out for new roads, railways, power stations, reservoirs and all the other infrastructure on which a developed country relies.

But there is scant sign that much will be delivered, whoever wins the election.

We are doomed to remain on our long slide towards national paralysis.

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