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Autumn statement sets out government spending plans

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has today given £42 million to cycling under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), also annoucing an extra £1 billion to spend on roads, in an autumn statement that saw a planned 3p a litre rise in fuel duty scrapped – something that will deprive the government of an estimated £1.5 billion a year that would otherwise have flowed into the public purse.

It’s not immediately clear whether that £42 million mentioned in the autumn statement, which incorporates money for infrastructure and cycle safety, represents additional investment over that previously pledged.

The autumn statement includes a detailed breakdown of £5.5 billion of “additional capital investment over the spending review period” in sectors including transport, housing and education, which makes reference to a total of £50 million – not £42 million - earmarked for cycling under the LSTF.

That breaks down as £20 million in 2013/14 – possibly the same funding announced by transport minister Norman Baker last week – and £30 million for 2014/15.

While those amounts would be boosted by match funding by local authorities as well as external investment, when translated into annual terms they are tiny compared to the near £1 billion pledged by Mayor of London Boris Johnson to cycling in the capital over the next decade.

They also seem to be crumbs from the table when set against some of the spending on some individual road projects announced in today’s statement, which dwarf that money going to the LSTF. A ten-mile or so stretch of the A1 near Richmond in Yorkshire, including the Scotch Corner roundabout, for example, will be upgraded to three lanes, thereby joining two sections of the A1(M). The cost? £314 million.

The chancellor’s spending plans, including £333 million set aside for general maintenance on national and local roads such as repair of potholes that should benefit all road users was welcomed by road safety charity IAM, whose chief executive, Simon Best, said: “Cyclists, motorcyclists, car drivers, lorry drivers and bus and coach passengers should all welcome the £1 billion investment to our roads. Newer roads are safer and should cut journey times.”

However, Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said that the measures announced by Mr Osborne would actually make it harder to get around for those who were worst hit by the economic downturn.

“By continuing to invest in and promote car travel the Chancellor is ignoring the real world and risks leaving millions more people stranded,” he said.

“Oil prices are only going up - already a quarter of people don’t have access to a car and the cost of owning one is a major source of debt for millions more.

”Affordable public transport and better walking and cycling routes are desperately needed to give everyone the chance to access jobs, education and services now and in the future.”

Unsurprisingly, many groups representing business, motorists and consumers welcomed news of that scrapping of the scheduled rise in fuel duty, as well as the investment in roads.

AA President Edmund King said: “Big Ben’s chimes ringing in a nearly £2-a-tank hike in petrol and diesel prices would have backfired on the Government and economy.”

He added: “We welcome the extra money for road schemes and in particular a commitment to upgrade the A1 up to Newcastle to motorway standard which will boost the economy of the North East and improve safety.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.