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Budget 2017 - Media briefing from Campaign for Better Transport

2 March 2017

On Wednesday (8 March), Philip Hammond will deliver his first Budget speech. The Chancellor is not expected to make major new spending announcements in transport, but support existing policy for delivering large proposed schemes, such as the Road Investment Strategy, HS2, Northern Powerhouse and the Heathrow third runway. 

The Autumn Statement included some welcome support for smaller local projects in a more "fix it first" approach which can help deliver support for the economy and improvements for people across the country more quickly. Campaign for Better Transport hopes that this approach is extended, and that spending on proposed damaging infrastructure schemes is pulled back in order to fund greener, congestion busting local projects.

A "fix it first" approach can shift focus to local roads and railways, and on smaller individual projects or packages of schemes to upgrade local transport and improve local transport services. This would generate better and more timely results for the economy, employment and communities than spending on a few isolated large infrastructure projects. This chimes strongly with public opinion, whose primary experience of transport is of poorly maintained local roads and declining bus services. 

Below we outline the key priorities for the Chancellor that will need to be addressed in the Budget.

Reform Vehicle Excise Duty

It is expected that the Chancellor will address the need to tackle the air pollution crisis by encouraging a reduction in diesel vehicle use. We, supported by a range of environmental groups, recommend a one off payment of £800 on the first year Vehicle Excise Duty rate for new diesel cars, not including existing diesel cars, with the additional money raised to be used to fund measures to improve air quality. Crucially, any new scrappage scheme must support greener alternatives such as season tickets, e-bikes, or car club membership, not just replacing diesel vehicles with other vehicles as this will not help tackle congestion, car dependency or sufficiently reduce pollution.

Local road maintenance

The £1.3 billion roads funding package announced in the Autumn Statement included a welcome Congestion Busting and Repairing Roads Fund, along with funds for quick improvements on the Strategic Road Network and for improving safety on local roads. Local roads are starved of investment while money continues to be pumped into expanding the motorways, which will worsen traffic and pollution. What’s needed is a more structured approach, bringing up standards of local road maintenance with long term investment. This must include ring-fenced funding and incentives for investment and apprenticeships – a model for this is already operational in London where Transport for London has joined with boroughs to promote long- term road maintenance plans.

Transport measures to support local economies

None of the new roads funding is allocated to investing in decent quality public transport that gives people an alternative to driving, and far too much is still being committed to new major road building, which will add to traffic jams and worsen air pollution. Car dependency is worsening, not improving, in many areas where available funding for local public and active transport is being restricted.

In January, the Government announced £60 million of spending as part of its Sustainable Travel Access Fund. These are welcome measures which can remove barriers to work, help local communities and businesses and also tackle local transport problems by giving people attractive alternatives to car use. We advocate increasing the Sustainable Travel Access Fund to help more local authorities deliver packages of transport schemes to support their local economies. Raising both capital and revenue funding would make the fund more flexible and easier to use.

Cycling and walking, and public realm schemes

In January, the Government also announced £4 million spending from its Cycling and Walking to Work Fund. However we are still awaiting the overdue publication of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, the draft of which did not include any new funding. We therefore advocate new dedicated funding to support the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and further funding for existing programmes. We also suggest the Government support regeneration of high streets and town centres through a public realm investment fund to improve public experience.

Small scale rail schemes, including new/reopened stations and lines

Amid the plans for major rail investment, there are a number of short term measures that together would improve reliability and journey times on key routes. In addition, there is significant interest in adding to the rail network, through extra stations and in some cases reopened lines.

We therefore recommend new rail line upgrade funds to improve reliability and journey times, and further rounds of the New Stations Fund which could also support reopenings of rail lines.

Green and community buses

There is urgent need for the Government to step in to protect the bus network particularly in rural areas, which has suffered as a result of cuts from local authority grants supporting vital services. The Government should include a Bus & Coach Investment Strategy in the Bus Services Bill now going through Parliament, and include bus funding within the Sustainable Travel Access Fund. The Government could also commit further rounds of the Green Bus Fund, which supports electric and low carbon vehicles, and the Community Minibus Fund, which is used to support community services.

Restore the rail freight grants

The Government must support its own rail freight strategy of September 2016 by reversing the planned 21 per cent cut to the Mode Shift Revenue Support Grants, which are paid for traffic removed from roads, and represent excellent value for money to the taxpayer. These grants compensate the rail freight industry for the market distortion whereby lorries pay less than a third of the costs they impose on the tax payer in terms of crashes, congestion, road damage and pollution. The cut, effective from April, will force trainloads of freight back onto our roads. Rail freight is the safer, faster and cleaner way to transport freight between our ports and cities.

ENDS

Campaign for Better Transport has spokespeople available for comment.

For further information please contact:

Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk   

Richard Watkins on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773 468 richard.watkins@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  • Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).
  • View Campaign for Better Transport’s ‘Fix it First’ briefing - here.