Active travel campaigners have today reacted angrily when Transport Secretary Philip Hammond gave the green light to additional motorway building schemes costing billions of pounds. Earlier this month the Department for Transport scrapped Cycling England, saving £200,000 per year (the cost of about five metres of motorway).
The Department for Transport is billing its latest road building programme as a “major boost to the UK economy”. 24 schemes will now go ahead (one of them – a bus scheme in Ipswich – includes a tiny amount of cycle routing).
The DfT said eight schemes were announced in last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review and more have been wheeled out today in order to “relieve congestion.”
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said:
“Whilst we have had to make some tough choices, I am pleased that spending on transport was treated as a priority for the Government in the Spending Review.
“This Government sees transport as a key driver of growth nationally and in the regions. So I am delighted to be able to give the green light to 24 new transport projects and a fund worth over £600m for many more schemes to bid for.
“Taken together, this investment will not only bring benefits in terms of reduced congestion, shorter journey times and more efficient public transport, but also provide a vital economic boost. For every pound we spend on Highways Agency schemes, on average we will get back £6 of benefits and in many cases there are even higher returns for local authority schemes.
But Sustrans has reacted strongly to Hammond’s announcement.
Jason Torrance, Sustrans’ Policy Manager, said:
“Sustrans is dismayed that the Government is missing a golden opportunity to put right a broken transport system, despite its green promises.
“The Secretary of State for Transport proudly boasts that his lengthy list of road transport schemes bring benefits of £6 for every £1 spent. But sustainable transport schemes that encourage active travel offer much better value, at £8 for every £1 spent. And they directly address the congestion issues that today’s announcement claims to solve.
“And there are other benefits. Given that 1 in 20 UK people are now being treated for type 2 diabetes and 1 in 10 for obesity – both illnesses that are exacerbated by physical inactivity – improving the health of the nation, and tackling the costs attached to that, has to be seen as critical. With this in mind not prioritising walking and cycling should be unthinkable.”