Text Size

Current Size: 100%

Budget 2021 - Media briefing from Campaign for Better Transport

23 February 2021

Ahead of the Budget on Wednesday (3 March), Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport said: 

“Covid-19 has severely disrupted the transport system, but transport will be essential to the country’s recovery and to a cleaner, fairer future. The Chancellor must use the Budget to ensure communities have access to the public transport services they need both now and after the pandemic, as well as putting in place measures which will create a long-term shift to sustainable transport and away from a car-based recovery. 

“The Chancellor should use the Budget to ensure that the Government’s ambitious plans for green growth and levelling up are not set back by the current crisis. It’s time to end the fuel duty freeze and reform vehicle taxation as we move towards cleaner, lower emission vehicles, and support public transport with a Government-led campaign and incentive scheme to encourage people to get back on board when the time is right. 

“By investing in public transport and sustainable transport infrastructure now, the Government can ensure that when we are able to move around again freely we will have the basis for an integrated transport system that better connects communities, helps economic growth and protects the environment.” 

Here we outline our transport priorities for the Chancellor.

Short term

  • The Government must continue to provide the necessary financial support to keep buses and trains running during the pandemic to ensure services are there for people making essential journeys
  • Investment in modal interchanges, segregated cycle lanes, local bus infrastructure, and rail upgrades and reopenings now will help to create an integrated public transport network fit for the future
  • The Chancellor should look to reform the way buses are funded as part of the forthcoming National Bus Strategy to help increase bus use, ensure socially necessary services that are critical to communities are in place, and help move towards zero emissions.

Medium term 

  • Public transport will have a vital role to play in a green recovery. To encourage more people to return to public transport post-Covid, and avoid an increase in car use, we need to put in place the right financial incentives. The Chancellor should use the Budget to commit to a public transport discount scheme to help stimulate the economy and get people moving again when the time is right
  • Flexible commuter tickets that make rail travel an attractive alternative to driving for people travelling into workplaces part-time must be made available at the earliest opportunity. Delaying their introduction will mean fewer people returning to workplaces, or an increase in car traffic post-Covid, neither are desirable
  • The Government must incentivise the introduction of multi-operator tickets and capped bus fares to make public transport an easy and affordable option for more people.

Longer term 

  • Public transport is crucial to a fair, healthy and sustainable future. To encourage a greater shift to sustainable transport the Government should end the fuel duty freeze and review vehicle taxation as a matter of urgency. The fuel duty freeze has cost the Treasury more than £50bn and sent the wrong signal about travel choices
  • With revenue from vehicle taxation declining due to fuel efficiency and cleaner vehicles, the Government should move towards a distance-based system of road pricing that varies by time of day, location, vehicle size and emission levels. This would be fairer to both the consumer and to society, reflecting more closely the impacts of individual journeys (including road danger, congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions), while supporting the transition to cleaner vehicles
  • In order to further encourage the shift to cleaner vehicles, the Chancellor should introduce targeted incentives to help businesses and operators switch to cleaner vehicles.


For further information please contact the press office on 020 3746 2235 or communications@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. Campaign for Better Transport’s submission to the Budget is available on its website.
  2. While rail and bus fares have continued rising, the fuel duty freeze has made car journeys progressively cheaper, meaning that government has been subsidising the real cost of car ownership. It is estimated that the fuel duty freeze has led to five per cent more traffic, 250 million fewer bus journeys, 75 million fewer rail journeys, an extra five million tonnes of CO2 and an extra 15,000 tonnes of NOx emissions. The freeze has also cost the Treasury more than £50 billion in foregone revenue, which could have been invested in sustainable transport options and other carbon reduction measures.
  3. Currently, if you commute less than five days a week you can choose to buy a season ticket and lose money on the days you don’t use it or buy expensive day return tickets. Campaign for Better Transport has called for flexible season tickets for part-time commuters for many years. The number of people working part time and flexibly has been trending upwards for years, even before the pandemic. In 2019, around 1.7 million people worked mainly from home, and a further four million said they worked from home at least part of the week, with 40 per cent of women in employment working part time. The number of people commuting part time is set to increase with more employers offers home working options; 39 per cent of workers hope to split their time between the workplace and home post-Covid.
  4. Campaign for Better Transport’s report The case for expanding the rail network made the case for a national rail reopening programme. We identified 33 reopening schemes which the Government should prioritise to deliver 72 new stations and 343 miles of reinstated passenger services.
  5. Campaign for Better Transport operates in England and Wales. Campaign for Better Transport's vision is for all communities to have access to high quality, sustainable transport that meets their needs, improves quality of life and protects the environment. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).