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21 Mar 2023

The Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA) has written to the prime minister urging him to reverse the controversial decision to cut the budget for active travel schemes in England – a move...

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Prime Minister urged to reverse spending cuts on active travel schemes in England.

Posted on in Business News , Cycles News

The Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA) has written to the prime minister urging him to reverse the controversial decision to cut the budget for active travel schemes in England – a move it claims will set back cycling’s growth in the country by more than a decade.

travel cuts

The letter, which also criticised the timing of the cuts and argued that they would “effectively devastate” the “modest” active travel legacy created by recent Conservative governments, was signed by WACA, a coalition of cycling and walking organisations including Cycling UK, Sustrans, British Cycling, and Living Streets, as well as 146 other groups from the bike and environmental world. It was published as a full-page advert in The Times.

It follows earlier news that government funding for cycle lanes, infrastructure, and other active travel schemes in England outside London would be drastically cut.

The cuts, which were included in an update to parliament by Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper, will see funding for active travel schemes effectively reduced by 75% from £200 million a year to just £50 million, according to Cycling UK.

“We remain committed to supporting all forms of transport and have invested over £850 million in active travel between 2020/21 and 2022/23,” Mr Harper announced.

“Despite the need to deliver efficiency in all areas of our budget, we will still commit to spend at least a further £100 million capital into active travel over the remainder of the spending period, as part of a total of around £3 billion investment in active travel over this Parliament, including from City and Region Sustainable Transport settlements and National Highways. We will review these levels as soon as practically possible.”

The reduction announced by Mr Harper now means that less than 0.25% of capital funding for infrastructure projects will be spent on active travel – despite cycling and walking making up two percent of all journeys.

In their letter, WACA and the 146 other groups and businesses called on Rishi Sunak to reverse the proposed cuts.

“We were disappointed to see vital active travel budgets wiped away in England, at the exact time when they are most essential to the UK’s economic, social and environmental prospects,” the letter says.

“We believe these cuts are a backward move for the economy, the climate, and health. This cut will counteract the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent years, driven in part by the commitments to cycling made in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto, the active travel funding you announced as Chancellor, your ongoing commitment to Net Zero, and the commitment to cycling you made in the 2022 Conservative leadership race.

“These cuts will also leave England lagging far behind other UK nations and London, where per capita investment is many times higher, at a time when we need to be raising the bar everywhere.”

Extolling the health, environmental, and economic benefits of active travel schemes, the letter continued: “More than ever, people want and need support to walk, wheel or cycle. These cuts will impact those that would have benefited most and limit choice to travel healthily, cheaply, and emissions-free.

“Over a third of people on low incomes and a similar proportion of disabled people do not have access to a car. For many that do, it is becoming prohibitively expensive to run. In the current economic climate, this funding is more important than ever to help everyone walk, wheel or cycle to access the things they need.

“In light of the clear need to support active travel at this critical time, we urge you to commit to maintain the funding set out in CWIS2 back in July 2022. Furthermore, we seek your reassurance that revenue funding levels will remain at the levels promised.”

Following the letter’s publication, Cycling UK’s chief executive Sarah Mitchell described the funding cuts as “disastrous” and claimed that they will “set back the growth of cycling and walking in England for another decade at least”.

“In one move, this government has effectively devastated the legacy of successive Conservative administrations and their work to get Britain cycling,” Mitchell said.

“At a time when people are faced with a cost-of-living crisis where they are questioning their transport choices, making cycling, and walking easier is a cost-effective area for government investment.

"We know that protected spaces for cycling can help save lives. Cycle lanes are cheap to build, and the consequent uptake in health and wellbeing benefits are well documented, as are the impact on reducing emissions when we have people drive less and cycle more for shorter journeys.

“Government should be providing more for active travel not cutting it. This funding decision is disastrous and will set back the growth of cycling and walking in England for another decade at least.”

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