Highlights include a £500m grant in Cambridge, another fuel duty freeze and a rolling tax exemption for heritage vehicles
In the 2014 Budget, released on Wednesday, March 19, Chancellor George Osborne announced several developments which will effect the coach and bus industry.
He confirmed that fuel duty will be frozen until spring 2015, abandoning a planned rise in September. However, plans for vehicle excise duty changes remained, meaning vehicles from band D upwards can expect an increase. While there will be greater flexibility in how this is paid, on a monthly, biannual or annual basis, the tax is no longer transferable when a vehicle is sold.
There was good news for classic vehicles though. An exemption from excise duty for vehicles will move to a 40-year rolling period, taking effect from April 1, 2014. Previously only vehicles built before January 1, 1973 were exempt from the tax.
There were also announcements of new Government investment.
The transport network around Cambridge is to benefit from a grant of up to £500m, which is expected to be released over 15 to 20 years under the ‘city deal’ between Cambridge and the Government, and will be topped up to £1bn by local authorities using proceeds from growth, such as developers’ contributions and increased tax income.
The cash is to be invested in public transport and cycling links to help the city cope with additional housing.
Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council plan to create a joint authority overseeing transport and housing strategy to decide how the money is spent.
The first £100m is expected to be released next year. The majority of it is likely to be spent on new cycle links, new bus lanes and bus priority measures.
Two further tranches, each of £200m, would be released if the city meets targets for economic growth, house building and reducing congestion.
Investment is likely to focus on growth corridors – the A10 to Waterbeach and Ely, the A428 to Cambourne and St Neots, and the A1307.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Cambridge in December to sign a memorandum of understanding for the deal.
On a more national scale, a £200m fund was announced for local authorities to repair potholes.
The move was cautiously welcomed by the industry, with many believing road maintenance is poorly managed.
Neil Greig, the Institute of Advanced Motorist’s Director of Policy and Research, said: “Every little helps and it will be welcomed in many areas hit by this year’s bad weather. With a £10bn back log in repairs, however, it is only through consistent long-term funding that the pothole problem can finally be fixed.”
David Bizley, the RAC’s Technical Director, added: “We need whole stretches of road to be resurfaced regularly rather than just patching them when they start to fall apart. Simply filling potholes is a massive false economy which has now unfortunately become necessity. We really need to put an end to this by making sure roads are never allowed to degenerate to the point where potholes develop.”
In London, £200m was made available to help Mayor Boris Johnson deliver a proposed ultralow emission zone by 2020, in order to tackle poor air quality in the capital. The funding will be used to encourage the upgrading of black cabs to zero-emission vehicles and to pay for new electric single-decker buses.
Another major announcement in the budget which is sure to effect much of the industry is the new pound coin.
The Royal Mint claimed it will be the most secure coin in the world when it is introduced in 2017. It is hoped the 12-sided coin will counteract the estimated 45 million forgeries of pound coins in the UK.
Jeff Carr, Managing Director of cash processing equipment supplier Scan Coin, said: “After some 30 years in circulation of the current coin, the announcement of a new one pound coin is welcome news.
“Recently counterfeits have entered circulation which are almost indistinguishable from the real coins. This has been a challenge for both Scan Coin and our customers.
“The design of new coins and coin recognition technology have advanced considerably in recent times. The introduction of improved security features in high value coins has resulted in better discrimination of counterfeits.
“The present pound coin has lacked the necessary security deterrents for such a high value coin making it vulnerable to counterfeit. The new coin will provide the UK currency with an appropriate coin to ensure quality and security for the future.
“Scan Coin will work with our customers to ensure a smooth transition during the introduction of the new pound coin.”