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Avoid more big projects - ‘fix it first’ focus on transport spending would best serve the UK economy

20 September 2016

Boosting spending on fixing existing transport infrastructure and on local schemes is the best practical way of helping the UK economy now, according to a briefing from Campaign for Better Transport.

Following comments by Chancellor Philip Hammond about the need for an infrastructure boost in the upcoming Autumn Statement (23 November), the briefing uses evidence from the UK and the US to argue that a ‘fix it first’ approach on transport spending would better serve the economy than the big projects usually favoured by politicians and commentators.

Campaign for Better Transport maintains that the current focus on a few large scale infrastructure projects that require huge capital commitments and take a long time to plan and deliver actually offers a very slow return on proposed investment and, at least in some cases, are of direct benefit to only a limited number of people.

A ‘fix it first’ approach would not only provide better value for money and produce results quicker, it would also chime strongly with the public, whose primary experience of transport is of poorly maintained local roads and declining bus services.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We want to see a shift in government policy so that new infrastructure spending focuses on fixing what we already have, especially local roads and railways, and on smaller individual projects or packages of schemes to upgrade local transport and improve local transport services.

“The previous Chancellor’s focus on totemic infrastructure projects actually goes against evidence from the UK and elsewhere that shows local transport investment generates better and more timely results for the economy, employment and communities than spending on a few isolated large projects.”

Campaign for Better Transport argues that future investment should support the following initiatives:

1. Local road maintenance

Introduce a new Road Repair and Renewals Fund to tackle the road and pavement maintenance backlog, with ring-fenced funding and incentives for investment and apprenticeships.

2. Transport measures to support local economies

Increase the current 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.

3. Cycling and walking, and public realm schemes

Introduce a new dedicated fund to support the Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy, increase funding for existing programmes and introduce a Public Realm Investment Fund to support regeneration of high streets and town centres.

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

An enhanced New Stations Fund to improve reliability and journey times on rail lines and support reopenings of rail lines.

5. Green and community buses

Increase investment in the quality and extent of bus services with further rounds of the Green Bus Fund and the Community Minibus Fund. The Government should also consider other investment in buses through a Bus & Coach Investment Strategy.


For further information please contact Alice Ridley on 020 7566 6495 / 07984 773 468 or alice.ridley@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. View Campaign for Better Transport’s briefing in full here.
  2. The Autumn Spending Review on November 23 will be the new Chancellor’s first opportunity to outline future transport spending policy.
  3. Since 2010, the Government has produced annual National Infrastructure Plans, augmented from 2013 by regular National Infrastructure Pipeline reports and from 2016 by a five-year National Infrastructure Delivery Plan.  The nine schemes referred to in 2011 National Infrastructure Plan represent a £75 billion investment in the strategic infrastructure of the country. But despite large amounts of public money being spent on their planning, they are yet to generate any direct benefit. None of the 2011 schemes has yet been completed and five are yet to even start construction.
  4. Across England and Wales, one in five local roads is now described as in poor condition. Local authorities estimate that £11.8 billion would be needed to bring their roads back into reasonable condition. Local authorities and their insurers spent £28.4 million on road user compensation claims last year, 76 per cent of which were related specifically to potholes.
  5. 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).