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Spending Round - briefing and response

26 June 2013
Campaign for Better Transport have responded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement on the 2015/16 spending round.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

"At first sight, the Chancellor’s announcement means big new roads carved across the countryside while potholes multiply and local buses get cut."

"Massive spending on new roads might have been in vogue 50 years ago, but what the country needs now is better management of our increasingly potholed network and to provide real choices about how to get around. The cuts in revenue spending will condemn us to poorly maintained roads, more expensive train fares and cuts in bus services.”

Rail

  • The Department for Transport has seen its overall budget cut of 9%
  • The majority of this is coming from savings in ‘rail administration’.
  • Rail passengers will, however, see none of the benefits of the savings - the Spending Review announcement confirmed the continuation of the policy of above inflation fares rises.
  • Recent rail passenger statistics suggest that after a decade of above inflation fares rises, passengers are being priced off the railways

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

 

“Despite the Chancellor's talk of helping families with the cost of living, in practice rail passengers will carry on getting above inflation fares rises. This is an increased tax on work - in effect passengers are paying for other transport like big new roads.”

Roads

  • The Chancellor announced the largest programme of road building in half a century. Fifty years ago road building was being spearheaded by Transport Minister, Ernest Marples, a major shareholder of a road building company who also appointed Dr Richard Beeching as Chairman of the British Railways Board
  • The Government has made promises of major road building more recently. Quarter of a century ago, the then Conservative Government promised the “biggest road-building programme since the Romans”. This collapsed as it was unfundable, unjustified and the subject of widespread and intense opposition
  • Trends in transport patterns offer no justification for major road building, with road user demand either static or falling in many parts of the country.
  • With the backlog of potholes approaching £11bn, there is instead a pressing need to invest in road maintenance. It is unclear whether funding is being made available to address this, although local government’s ability to meet its responsibility in this area is being hit by a 10% cut in its overall budget.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

 

“The Chancellor's commitment to a huge new road programme will bring him into conflict with many local communities. It will trash the environment - and it won't help motorists or the economy.

“In an era of "peak car", when traffic has stopped growing, the Chancellor should be investing in smarter travel, using new technology to make better use of the roads we have not locking even more people into car dependence. Transport experts know that it's not possible to build your way out of congestion but the Chancellor is ignoring this evidence and chasing down a transport cul de sac.”

Buses

  • The indications are that the Chancellor has protected the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG), a fuel duty rebate available to operators of commercial and non-commercial services
  • However, the other main source of funding for buses - from local authorities - will be hit by the 10% cut in DCLG’s support for local government.
  • The impact of this cut on bus users will be particularly hard as local authority support is targeted at services which are socially useful, but would not be provided by commercial operators. These services are a vital for accessing work, education and training, and as a social lifeline for young people, the elderly and those on low incomes

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport said

 

“We're glad the Chancellor has listened to us and others and protected bus grants, but the cuts in council funding will see more services disappear and fares increase. Rail and roads are promised long term funding - buses should get it too.”

ENDS