Public transport in 2020 – what could be in store for the UK?

20th December 2019

As 2019 draws to a close and we hurtle into the next decade (yes, really!), we take a moment to look over some of the possibilities for the UK’s public transport network in the next year. The countdown is on, and 2020 will be here before you know it – so what could be in store? We take a look at 3 topics to watch out for.

Further delay on Heathrow’s expansion

There’s no surprise on this one. The controversial battle over the proposed expansion of the UKs largest airport is set to continue into 2020, after the project to build a third runway at the airport was delayed by at least another 12 months – due to the rejection of spending plans by the Civil Aviation Authority. The plans would have hiked up spending from £650 million to £2.4 billion before planning consent has even been granted, but the CAA is keen that early construction costs are limited to £1.6 billion.

The third runway isn’t now expected until 2028 or 2029. However, many doubt this timescale, such as the Emirates Chief, Sir Tim Clark, who predicts that it won’t be complete until at least 2035 – and is sceptical that it’ll happen at all.

More clarity on HS2

To be or not to be – that’s certainly the question when it comes to HS2. And one that’s still being fiercely debated, despite the fact that work started on the project back in 2017. The intended high-speed train network would run from London to Birmingham, and in the second phase, to the North of the country – linking cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield with the capital. It’s hailed to be the largest infrastructure project in Europe. If it goes ahead.

Critics argue that escalating costs and the impacts on residents and the environment along the route mean that it should be ditched. However, many others argue that it’s needed to help heal the North-South divide and to boost investment in cities other than London, increasing opportunities for those living and working in them.

There has been a huge amount of toing and froing on the subject. Although some parts of the scheme are underway already, the results of the Oakervee Review, launched this summer – and looking into whether the scheme should go ahead, is yet to be reported. However, an alleged leaked draft states that the project should proceed with minor alternations.  The government has also just announced their plans to legislate on the second phase – so it looks very likely that the network will continue to be built.

More talk of a light railway for Leeds?

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, has just implied that a new transport system for Leeds could be on the cards, when he spoke in parliament after the Queen’s speech – owing to the fact that Leeds is the largest city in western Europe without a metro or light railway, and claiming that the government must ‘remedy the scandal’. Should he follow through on this promise, then we would expect to hear more detail on a proposed network for the Leeds area.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that it’s nigh on impossible to predict what the next one has in store. But as public transport is such a huge topic, which greatly effects our daily lives, and holds huge power in the fight against global warming; then you can certainly bet that there’ll be plenty of developments in 2020.

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