Sajid Javid will detail a multibillion pound spending blitz on roads, buses and broadband as the Tories continue their fightback at their conference in Manchester.
The chancellor’s infrastructure spending spree – aimed at diverting attention from criticism of Boris Johnson on Brexit and his friendship with an American businesswoman – includes plans for an all-electric bus town.
Hailing an “infrastructure revolution”, Mr Javid told Sky News ahead of his conference speech: “It will be the biggest increase in infrastructure investment by the government that this country has ever seen.
“These are the things that we rely on every day: the roads that take us to work, take our kids to school, the fibre optics that can help small businesses trade with people throughout the world.
“So many other countries have made advances on this and we have done a lot over the last few years, but we can do so much more.”
But Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell has already dismissed Mr Javid’s plans as “reannouncements and damp squibs”, also describing them as “tinkering around the edges”.
The spending pledges, on day two of the Tory conference, come as opposition party leaders meet at Westminster to plot their latest moves to block no-deal, thwart Brexit or even oust Mr Johnson from 10 Downing Street.
The Conservatives are said to have placed cars and even helicopters on standby to rush ministers and MPs from Manchester to London in case of a parliamentary ambush and knife-edge votes in the House of Commons this week.
The infrastructure measures Mr Javid will outline include:
- Funding for the first projects in the government’s forthcoming second Road Investment Strategy – which will set out plans to deliver on more than £25bn already committed for strategic roads between 2020 and 2025.
- 14 new local road schemes being brought into development to make improvements and upgrades; including work to complete the dualling of the A66 Trans-Pennine expressway from Scotch Corner to Penrith and the A46 Newark bypass; improving the M60 Simister Island interchange in Manchester; and starting construction on the A428 in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire.
- £220m for bus services across England. This includes new “superbus” networks, including the creation of Britain’s first ever all-electric bus town, and expanding the fleet of low emission buses.
- The chancellor will also set out new plans to invest £5bn to support the roll-out of full-fibre, 5G and other gigabit capable networks to the hardest to reach 20% of the country.
Mr Javid – the son of a bus driver – also says the government will make sure that passengers using the bus get the best experience and best value for money. This will include:
- Making more information available to app developers, which means that fares and location data on buses nationwide will be available to passengers online.
- Working with industry to ensure that all buses accept contactless payments.
- Investing an additional £30m to improve existing routes and restore lost services.
- £20m on trialling on-demand bus services that will pick people up from their communities at a time that is convenient to them.
Responding to Mr Javid’s infrastructure announcements, Mr McDonnell said: “This combination of reannouncements and damp squibs shows up the real difference between the parties: the Tories tinkering around the edges, versus Labour’s fundamental shift of power and wealth from the few – to the many.
“One hundred and thirteen times more for roads than for public transport makes a mockery of the Tories’ so-called green credentials.
“And yet another headline pledge, this time on broadband, turns out to be false: Boris Johnson called for full-fibre for all premises by 2025, but the chancellor now says he’ll invest £5bn in lower grade ‘gigabit-capable’ technology, less than a sixth of what it will take to deliver full fibre to all.
“Labour will kick-start half a trillion of spending and lending to finance a Green Industrial Revolution and deliver a long-overdue rise in living standards after years of stagnating wages.”