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Roads to Nowhere

Local transport funds still favour road building as cycling and buses lose out

26 September 2013
The Government's initiative to increase local control over £1.3bn in transport spending has resulted in over half going on 123 schemes to build or widen roads, with only 15 schemes to provide bus facilities and no dedicated cycling projects.

The first authoritative assessment of how the newly formed Local Transport Bodies (LTBs) are allocating central government money has been carried out by Campaign for Better Transport and The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The report sets out how the LTBs plan to spend £710m from 2015 on new road capacity for cars and lorries, with only £442m going on more sustainable transport such as public transport, walking and cycling.

Of the 210 transport projects proposed across England, more than half (123) deal solely with new road capacity and a further 29 provide new roads with support for other modes, such as bus lanes. Only 21 are rail schemes, 3 tackle road maintenance and just 6 include walking or public realm improvements for town or city centres. With no cycling schemes prioritised anywhere in the country, talk of supporting cycling from central government has failed to translate into any actual funding or proposals at the local level.

Sian Berry, Roads & Sustainable Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, said: “This is the first analysis of Local Transport Bodies’ plans and the results are worrying. Some have looked for new ideas and funded projects to tackle real transport problems, but others have simply reheated a list of road projects behind closed doors. Lessons must be learned from this, with the worst proposals sent back by the Department for Transport. LTBs need to think beyond road building, do more to find out what local people need and consider wider objectives, such as public health or the vitality of town centres when making their decisions.”

Fiona Howie, a spokesperson for CPRE, said: "The UK is one of the most car dependent and congested countries in the whole of Europe. Prioritising additional expensive roads won’t address this, but it could come at a high cost to the countryside. LTBs need to work with local communities to prioritise what is really needed in their local area – this may be some new road capacity but it should not be the only option available. While much of the report makes depressing reading, there are some fantastic examples in there of innovative Bodies that have listened to local views and are now proposing to transform how people can get around in the future."

The report ranks the 38 LTBs according to scheme choice, sustainability and transparency. The best LBTs were Gloucestershire, Coventry & Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham & Solihull who considered a wide range of schemes, prioritised sustainability and consulted the public in a democratic and transparent way. The worst were Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Tees Valley who carried out no public consultation, restricted funding to a narrow number of schemes, in the case of Tees Valley to only road-building schemes, or simply allocated money to pre-existing road schemes already in the planning process.

Out of 38 Local Transport Bodies 8 are planning only road-building projects, while just 12 have objectives that include social or environmental aims only 12 are clearly inviting public comments or having a full public consultation.

The report makes a number of recommendations which include asking the Department for Transport not to accept lists of priorities until more public consultation has been carried out on proposed schemes. For the LTBs, the report urges them to seek out a wider range of schemes and set broader goals for their funding to support real sustainable development, including public health, town centre regeneration, public and open spaces, heritage and reducing carbon emissions.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The report, Where the money’s going – Are the new Local Transport Bodies heading in the right direction?, is available here - pdf document.

2. From 2015 the new Local Transport Bodies will take over allocating transport funding in their areas. The areas covered by the new Local Transport Bodies are larger than Local Authority areas and currently follow the same boundaries as the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). Membership of LTBs includes representatives from LEPs and local transport authorities (county councils and unitary authorities). It may also include representatives from other local authorities, such as district and parish councils, and in theory stakeholders from the community, such as environmental groups, but this is not common.

3. 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).

4. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations.