The Chancellor’s announcement of a freeze in fuel duty for the seventh year in a row and a £23bn Productivity Investment Fund that focusses on transport infrastructure without associated revenue funding will do little to improve the majority of journeys that we make every day on local roads and pavements. With Revenue Funding for local transport in England in steep decline the opportunity of low-cost, high return, revenue investments to complement Capital Investments seems to have been missed.
Large scale capital investments in English transport networks make up a large part of the Productivity Investment Fund; including: £1.1 billion of investment for English transport networks, £2.3 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund; and the previously promised £1.8 billion of Local Growth Funding. Despite the fact that there is no guarantee that this money will be invested in improving local travel choice, the reality – and the opportunity remains – that combining this Capital with Revenue investment would add huge value.
Sustrans has a rich and varied experience that concludes that Capital investments mixed with Revenue investment can lead to big results for local communities. Improving travel choice has wider benefits, we estimate that there is a net benefit of 67p to society for every mile cycled rather than driven. Yet, capital only improvements to roads and reducing fuel-duty will do nothing to realise these benefits.
The need to invest in local solutions
To compound the challenges faced by local bodies wanting to invest in cycling and walking has been a shift in expectation from Central Government for investments to be made primarily from local funds. With central Government dedicated investment for cycling and walking down a third over the last year and revenue funding reduced by 70% - the emphasis now has to shift to connections with Local Growth Funding and other devolved local funding. We know that investing in cycling and walking has huge and wide ranging benefits. A recently published evaluation of the 2013-14 Linking Communities programme that links people to areas of economic activity and local facilities through improved cycling and walking infrastructure. The programme of 45 schemes have large health benefits of £1.5million over 30 years per scheme and 6.2 FTE jobs per £1 million spent.
Furthermore, as part of our collaboration with seven cities in the UK towards making cycling an attractive and everyday means of travel we now understand that there is a huge appetite for change. Results from the biggest survey ever conducted on attitudes to cycling in the UK couldn’t be clearer: there’s a desire to cycle more, but that a lack of safe places to ride bikes is off-putting.
As Government progresses with billions of pounds of transport infrastructure investment we must as a sector identify and advocate for opportunities that see capital transport investments supported by revenue investment. Now is surely time for action on the many challenges facing us - such as deteriorating air quality - providing a transport system that gives everyone a choice about how they get around and an economy that works for all.
Xavier is passionate about improving how we travel for the better. He believes that the way we choose to get around shapes how happy we are as individuals and as a society.
Xavier joined Sustrans in June 2016 from Transport for London where he held a variety of roles, including leading the modernisation of London Underground’s stations and developing a new cycling strategy for the city, which led to the introduction of the Cycle Superhighways and Cycle Hire Scheme. Before this Xavier advised international businesses and organisations on their strategies.