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Tory conference: Government confirms £25bn for road upgrades

Cars on motorway

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Fourteen road upgrades for England are to be funded at a cost of £25bn under plans to improve infrastructure, the chancellor is to announce.

A national bus strategy and £5bn for ultrafast broadband internet across the UK will also be outlined by Sajid Javid at the Conservative Party conference.

The funding for 2020-2025 had been set aside provisionally by his predecessor.

Meanwhile, at Westminster, opposition parties are expected to discuss their plans to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The gathering of Tory MPs and party members in Manchester comes after a stormy week for their leader Boris Johnson.

It culminated on Sunday in No 10 denying accusations that in 1999 the prime minister squeezed the thigh of a female journalist under a table at a private lunch.

Other MPs will be in Westminster – after they voted down a motion to grant a three-day recess to cover the conference – and opposition parties are expected to meet to discuss their next moves on Brexit.

The SNP has also said the party wants to look at the possibility of holding a no confidence vote in the government.

Analysis

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By BBC political correspondent Chris Mason

The banners that dangle from the conference hall ceiling here tell a story.

Invest, invest, invest they say – in schools, the NHS and the police. In other words, spend, spend, spend.

What a contrast with a few years ago, when the focus was on cuts.

The Conservatives argue that is because the public finances can now support a new approach.

But vast uncertainty still swirls around Brexit – and what it might mean for the national balance sheet.

Since the start of this conference, the party has fleshed out details on how it will spend more than £50bn.

Chancellor Sajid Javid will later make his contribution to this tally with promises on roads, buses and broadband.

‘Decade of renewal’

The Tories have so far made spending vows of more than £50bn at their conference.

In his speech later, the chancellor will say the full benefits of the infrastructure investment “may not be felt for some time”, but: “The work must start here and now.”

The first projects to be funded by the £25bn pot will be:

  • Completing the dualling of the A66 Trans-Pennine expressway and the A46 Newark bypass
  • Improving the M60 Simister Island interchange in Manchester
  • Starting construction on the A428 to improve journeys between Cambridge and Milton Keynes and widening the A12 in east England

At least £5bn will also be set aside to maintain and renew other strategic roads in the same period.

The chancellor will also renew his pledge from the spending round earlier this month to invest £220m into a improved bus services in England, including £50m for the country’s first all-electric bus town or city.

He will also set a goal for contactless payments to be made available on every city bus.

And plans for so-called superbus networks, where local authorities will invest in bus lanes in exchange for more services from operators, will be announced. A pilot is planned for Cornwall in 2020.

Mr Javid is expected to say: “Investment in our infrastructure will be key to making the next decade one of renewal – boosting our economy and making life easier for people all across the country.

“This new multi-billion pound investment to deliver gigabit-capable broadband for all the UK and investment in roads and buses will help people to get around and businesses to grow, ensuring no community is left behind.

“This will make the UK a better place to live and work, extending opportunity and raising living standards for all.”

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Image caption

Sajid Javid arrived at conference on Sunday

The digital infrastructure will also get a boost, with the £5bn investment to support the roll-out of gigabit-capable internet, and mobile networks – including 5G.

The ambition is to rollout connectivity to the hardest to reach 20% of the country – upping the earlier target of 10%. However, a deadline to reach this goal has not been confirmed.

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “Our rural communities are a thriving hotbed of industry and technology and for them resilient digital connectivity is vital.

“Our country’s digital infrastructure is essential to our future economic growth and productivity and we want everyone in the UK to benefit from world-class connectivity no matter where they live or work.”

But Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, accused the Tories of only offering “a combination of re-announcements and damp squibs”.

He added the announcement showed “the real difference between the parties, saying the Tories were tinkering around the edges, while Labour was proposing a fundamental shift of power and wealth from the few to the many”.

In another announcement, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will pledge to create a simpler planning system to speed up the building of new homes.

The pledge is a continuation of the work done by his predecessor in the role, James Brokenshire, which will include making it easier for families to extend their homes, for small developers to face lighter planning system requirements and for a new route for redeveloping disused commercial buildings.

Mr Jenrick said: “The bold changes to the planning process will make a real difference to people up and down the nation.”

Tory conference: Government confirms £25bn for road upgrades}

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