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Chancellor urged to support sustainable transport in upcoming Spending Review

29 October 2020

Campaign for Better Transport has written to the Chancellor ahead of next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review urging him to support sustainable transport as part of a green recovery.

Alice Ridley, Head of Media and Communications at Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“The money the Government sets aside for transport and transport infrastructure will shape not just transport provision, but have implications for our environment, the health and wellbeing of our communities, and the economy for years to come.

“In planning for the immediate term, we must not lose sight of a future post-Covid and what that transport system should look like. Public transport has a vital role to play in a green recovery and a fair, healthy, sustainable future. Now, more than ever, the Government must protect and renew public transport for the future and prevent a car-led recovery.”

In the letter the transport charity outlined four key areas where the Treasury should act to support and encourage the use of sustainable transport.

The cost of transport

The Chancellor should use the Spending Review to cancel the planned January 2021 rail fare rise to help make trains a more affordable alternative to the car. In the longer term, linking future increases to the Consumer Price Index and introducing a simplified fare structure with a range of flexible season tickets and reduced fares for specific groups will help make rail travel a cheaper alternative to driving for more people. In order to further rebalance the cost of public transport, the Chancellor should end the fuel duty freeze at the earliest opportunity and conduct a review of vehicle taxation with a view to replacing Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and fuel duty with distance-based, variable road charges instead.

Public transport

To improve services and give more people access to a reliable, affordable and well-integrated public transport network, the Chancellor should continue the Covid-19 emergency funding arrangements for both bus and rail until longer-term arrangements are agreed. The Treasury should develop tools for capturing the benefits of rail, such as land value capture and recycling Community Infrastructure Levy revenue, and announce direct capital investment towards transport interchanges, local bus infrastructure - including priority bus lanes to reduce the impact of congestion on the reliability of services - and rail upgrades and reopenings of former lines and stations.

Sustainable infrastructure investment

To tackle increasing congestion on our roads and reduce carbon emissions, the government must do more to encourage people to swap car journeys for public transport and active travel. To help achieve this, the Chancellor should allocate a significant proportion of the £27.4 billion second Road Investment Strategy fund to active travel, bus network infrastructure projects and improving existing roads. He should also safeguard and expand the £2 billion allocated for walking and cycling and ensure that Active Travel England is well resourced to carry out its role.

Zero emission vehicles

To achieve net zero emissions by 2050 we must step up our efforts to decarbonise the transport sector. As part of its green recovery programme to support job creation, economic activity and meet net zero, the government should accelerate its clean-up of transport. The Chancellor should use the Spending Review to incentivise the take up of zero emission cars and vans with lower upfront costs for businesses, VED rates linked to emissions, and charging hub grants for local authorities. The Government should support the UK manufacturing sector with a sector-specific deal for both electric and hydrogen buses and trains to boost UK supply chains and reduce reliance on overseas technology and suppliers.


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

Notes to Editors

  1. Read Campaign for Better Transport’s full submission to the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
  2. Campaign for Better Transport’s letter to the Chancellor included a selection of comments from the public on why sustainable transport was important to them. You can read their comments here.
  3. Campaign for Better Transport’s report The case for expanding the rail network made the case for a national rail reopening programme. It found that by investing between £4.74 billion and £6.37 billion the Government could deliver at least 33 reopening schemes with 72 new stations and 343 miles of reinstated passenger services.
  4. 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.
  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).