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Ministers under pressure to prioritise road building and rail upgrade projects

Four government departments, including the Department for Transport (DfT) have agreed to spending cuts of eight per cent a year, reports the BBC. With road building and rail upgrade projects likely to be prioritised when five-year budgets are set out next month, just how much is cycling likely to suffer?

The Treasury and the Departments of Transport, Environment, and Communities and Local Government have all agreed cuts of 30 per cent over the next four years.

“A surplus will make our country more resilient, safe and secure,” said the Chancellor, George Osborne, in explaining the move. “It means that next time we have the money to help us through the tough times when the storms come.”

The full details of spending plans will be announced in the Spending Review on November 25, but we’ve already reported that ministers are under pressure to protect a £15.2bn programme to upgrade a hundred A roads and motorways as well as Network Rail’s £38.5bn upgrade plan. This is likely to have an impact on any funding for a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), regardless of the fact that the government has now made a legal commitment to it.

Sam Jones from CTC, the national charity, points out that with Local Sustainable Transport funding ending in April, money for cycling suddenly seems rather thin on the ground.

“Funding for the CWIS may not even appear until the end of 2016. It is sadly unlikely that the level of funding will be anywhere close to the £10 a head annual figure which is the very least needed to introduce real results. This figure has been recognised by both the Prime Minister and Cycling Minister Robert Goodwill MP as the standard to aim for, but it very much appears to be rejected by the Chancellor.

“The delay and potential cuts to funding provision for the CWIS are further compounded by the end of Local Sustainable Transport Funding in April 2016. This means effectively that funding outside of London and the eight Cycling Cities will evaporate, and the UK will be back to the “stop start” cycle funding which is responsible for so many delays.

“It’s an unpleasant form of torture HM Treasury are inflicting on cycling: death by a thousand cuts. It means under the Chancellor, the Prime Minister’s “Cycling Revolution” is becoming “Cycling’s Dissolution.”

Last week, British Cycling’s #ChooseCycling Network – a group of major British businesses including GlaxoSmithKline, The AA, Sky, Virgin Trains and the National Grid – called on George Osborne to invest in cycling to create a healthier workforce and so boost productivity. In an open letter, they said that “a modest investment from government now will create jobs in the short term and deliver huge long-term benefits for society.”

Jones points out that in cutting funding for cycle infrastructure, the government is effectively reneging on its manifesto commitment to “reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year”.

CTC says it will call on its supporters to campaign against the planned course of action.

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