Everyday transport at risk claim

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‘Everyday transport’ – local roads and pavements, bus services, cycling and walking – is at risk of very large government budget cuts according to the Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Living Streets, pteg and Sustrans.

In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, the groups note that his department’s unprotected budget faces a cut of 25-40% in the Chancellor’s spending review. Since major investment programmes for roads and railways are ring-fenced, this means cuts are expected to fall disproportionately on local transport.

The letter warns that as a result local roads, which already have a £8.6bn backlog in funding for essential maintenance work, are likely to fall further into disrepair, local bus services will see further reductions in services and increases in fares, and existing government commitments to encourage more cycling and walking will be impossible to meet.

The groups point out that these cuts would have hugely damaging economic and social consequences. For example, by reducing access to jobs for unemployed people, increasing isolation among those reliant on buses, undermining regeneration programmes and discouraging people from making active and more healthy travel choices.

They want to see the government protect and enhance everyday transport, through: smarter spending such as creating efficient cross-government funding programmes; rebalancing capital and revenue funding; and reviewing major transport programmes, especially the Road Investment Strategy.

Jon Lamonte, Chairman of pteg (the Passenger Transport Executive Group) and Chief Executive of Transport for Greater Manchester, said: “The city-regions need to see long term sustained investment in local transport, including on buses and road maintenance. Cuts in these budgets will undermine the economic health of the major cities and our programmes for cutting unemployment and regenerating our economies.”

Ralph Smyth, Transport Manager, Barrister at Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), added: “Investment in the ‘last mile’ of transport networks is essential, particularly in rural areas, if the benefits of national upgrades are to reach our homes and businesses. Cutting back investment in safe routes to stations or maintenance of local roads is as foolish as failing to upgrade the final leg of our broadband connections.”

The groups plan to push their case in responses to the Treasury’s consultation on the Spending Review, which closes on September 4, and to MPs when Parliament returns in the autumn.