9 June 2011: Within the next month, the first decisions on which transport authorities will get money from the Government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund will be announced.This fund, which we and others lobbied for, is ring-fenced money to pay for sustainable transport projects of all kinds (it covers England outside London, though there have been similar funds in Scotland and Wales).
The fund has already had a good response – 70 bids covering a very wide range of projects for the first tranche of funding. This covers projects under £5m and also some “key components” for more major bids. Decisions on which of the major bids (up to £50m) will be shortlisted for funding will also be announced. The final decisions on these major bids, and a second tranche of smaller bids, will be announced in November. I’ve been on the panel advising DfT on which bids to fund, so I can’t say anything in detail, but it is clear that some very good bids have come in and the aim we had – of taking on the “smarter choices” agenda and spreading the success of the three sustainable travel towns – is likely to be achieved.
For local groups, there are some opportunities here. With authorities that get funding and already have a track record of doing good things, the story is clear – this is about rewarding success. However, where authorities have previously pursued big roads and shown little interest in sustainable transport, and now get funding, this is an opportunity to welcome a change of direction and use it as a peg to influence wider policies. And where authorities don’t get funding or haven’t applied, it’s an opportunity to make the case for a change of direction and to press authorities to apply for the second round of funding.
It’s important to be clear that the Fund isn’t the answer to everything. It won’t make up for the bus cuts being implemented by several councils, nor the moves being made by many authorities to take out bus priority measures or speed cameras, cut parking charges and generally increase car dependence and worsen sustainable modes. But it does offer some practical help for some projects that will make a difference.
Written by guest blogger Stephen Joseph