The Government says it will continue to support sustainable transport with a new £580m ‘Access’ fund for England which will run until 2019-20. However, the funding equates to little less than £3 per person per year – far below the £10 per person per year level the Prime Minister said he would be aiming for.
Asked by Lord Crathorne in the House of Lords whether the government had any plans to build bicycle tracks when new roads are constructed in the UK, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, said that there was to be a new £580m ‘Access’ fund supporting growth in cycling and walking that would build on the legacy of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
In April, Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Conservative Party was aiming to increase funding for cycling to £10 per person per year, aiming to double levels of cycling by 2025. While the government is keen to point out that spend per head is currently over £10 in the eight Cycle City Ambition cities and in London, elsewhere it is far below.
Spanning the period from when the Department for Transport (DfT) publishes the long-awaited Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in spring until 2019-20, the Access Fund works out at £145m per year, so less than £3 per head based on England's population of 53 million at the 2011 Census.
Highways England and the strategic road network
Lord Ahmad also mentioned that Highways England is investing £100m in cycle facilities on or near the strategic road network up until 2020/21.
England’s strategic road network comprises around 4,300 miles of motorways and major ‘A’ roads. Although it represents only around two per cent of the road network in length, it carries a third of all traffic by mileage, including around two thirds of all heavy goods vehicle traffic. All other roads in England are managed by local and regional authorities.
Published in March, the Highways England Delivery Plan 2015-2020 says there will be “a dedicated programme of work to improve cycle facilities on or near our network.”
Cycling is prohibited on motorways and, in the words of the document, “incompatible with major parts of our network,” but twin objectives are listed:
- Facilitate cycling on or near the trunk road network for all types of cyclist and make cycling on and over our network safer and easier
- Reduce the impact of our network as a barrier to cycling journeys
The plan says that facilities will be designed to provide safe, direct and attractive routes, linking with wider cycle networks where appropriate.
£78m of the £100m total will go towards improving provision for cyclists on the all-purpose trunk road network. An example given of the kind of work that would be carried out is improvement work that has been completed along the A63 corridor in Hull, which has involved the creation of a shared pedestrian and cycle path.
More recently, the Cannock Mercury reports that Highways England plans to provide a cycle route along the A5 trunk road between the A5, A34, A460, M6T Churchbridge Junction, near Cannock, and Brownhills.
The money will also go towards provision of improved crossing points.
Over 40 cycling schemes were identified for 2015-16 with similar numbers to be added each year. The report also says that Highways England’s first Cycling Strategy will be released this month.