Government announces £20.6m green transport fund

Money will act as a stop-gap between funding streams, but it's not nearly enough, say critics - and will leave many skilled staff's jobs at risk...

The Department for Transport has announced the winners of a green transport fund totalling £20.6m.

The money was awarded to 23 cycling and walking projects across the country, and will act as a stop gap between the end of the old Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) and money allocated as part of the forthcoming Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.

However, critics say funding for cycling will be increasingly hard for local authorities to access after LSTF ends, and without leadership from Government cash-and staff-stretched councils are unlikely to tap the full potential of the many and diverse pots of cash for healthy modes of transport.

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Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said: “Green transport cuts congestion and improves air quality. It also offers the cheapest and healthiest way for people to access jobs and education.

“The schemes will make a real difference for residents and help provide better air quality for everyone. Our £21 million funding shows we are committed to improving lives through investment in sustainable transport.”

More than £300m is committed for cycling and walking over this parliament, but this equates to just £2.02 per person per year until 2018, after which it drops to 99p until 2019, and 72p by 2020. Experts recommend at least £10 per person per head is needed to increase cycling levels in the UK.

Cycling UK’s Sam Jones said the green transport fund will help a small number of local authorities keep skilled staff on in the gap between old funding streams and new, so councils are are not “starting from scratch” once CWIS funding begins. However, he says funding for cycling is too low and targets lacking to achieve the Government’s goal of a cycling revolution.

Jones told road.cc: “It’s encouraging that it is recognised that we do need to keep skilled staff on board rather than starting from scratch when the CWIS comes into operation.

“However, it is not resolving the fundamental issue that local authorities aren’t getting the leadership to provide greener transport."

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He said many councils’ specialist sustainable transport staff have been left wondering if they will still have a job in the coming weeks, and the £20.6m only provides relief to the minority of councils awarded the stop-gap funding.  

He said: “Transport minister, Robert Goodwill, has said local authorities will be able to tap into these various pots of cash, but they are going to be doing this with health budgets, too… they need active encouragement and incentives or they aren’t going to realise the impact [of active travel] and allocate resources to it”.

Among projects funded are £543,000 for the Luton to Dunstable Cycle Superhighway, and £2.5m for Sheffield schemes to promote cycling, including loans for electric bikes, cycle lessons, as well as a programme to make HGVs, buses, coaches and vans more fuel efficient. Bristol received £2.2m for its Travel WEST Transition, which has a “strong focus” on walking and cycling.

Councillor Julie Dore, Transport lead for the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said: “The news that Sheffield City Region has secured £2.5m of revenue funding from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund is very welcome. It will help us sustain a number of successful, locally developed schemes that encourage sustainable travel, and will provide a platform for more substantial bids later in the year.”

Martin McKervey, Sheffield City Region LEP Board member, said: “This investment by Government in sustainable transport in Sheffield City Region is excellent news. As a LEP we are committed to bringing together the public and private sectors to make it even easier to do business in the City Region. Connectivity is key to this and this additional funding will enable us to continue on our journey to build a better connected economy which supports businesses to grow and creates job opportunities for residents.”

Funds were awarded following a bidding process for projects helping people travel to work and education by walking, cycling and public transport. The full list of funded projects are here

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