A report into how Local Transport Bodies (LTBs), established by the Coalition Government to prioritise spending on funding for transport projects in England, has found that roads are set to take an increasing share of spending at the expense of other areas of transport spending - and cycling gets nothing. The report also sounds the alarm over how major cycling projects may be funded once the current funding round ceases in 2015.
Sustainable transport charity Sustrans says that the draft spending plans discriminate against the one in four British households that do not have access to a car, and that it is a fallacy to try and boost the economy by building new roads.
In thir report called Where the Money’s Going - Local Transport Body Plans, the Campaign for Better Transport and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have analysed those draft policies to see which projects are neing prioritised, and how money is proposed to be spent, summarised in the chart above.
LTBs were set up following a consultation last year, their first task being to publish draft priorities, by August 2013, for capital expenditure for the period 2015-19.
They deal with funding for projects of £5 million and above, for which local authorities previously bid for money directly from the Department for Transport (DfT).
Under the government's decentralisation drive, however, while money will still come from the DfT, those decisions will be taken by the new Local Transport Boards, of which there are 39 throughout England.
The report from the Campaign for Better Transport and CPRE analysed the lists of projects submitted to the DfT from 37 of the 38 Local Transport Boards outside London.
Some 59 per cent fo the funding sought - £710 million, spread across 123 projects - is for road building or expanding capacity of existing roads.
While 27 mixed projects did have a cycling element - although it was impossible to identify how much of an element of each project it represented - the report's authors raised concerns over how major cycling schemes might be funded in the future.
"During the summer, the Government announced additional funding for cycling as part of its ambition to help more people cycle," they noted.
"Yet this funding ends in 2016, just as LTBs take over prioritisation of transport spending. This included new funding to ‘cycle-proof’ trunk roads.
"So, it was extremely concerning to see that although six cycling-focused schemes appeared on long lists, no such schemes made it through to the list of schemes submitted to the DfT.
The report found that while some LTBs conducted consultation and took into account a range of transport options in making their decisions over projects, others were less open and focused exclusively on roads.
This map, taken from the report, shows the planned spending by type of project for each LTB; the pie chatrts indicate the proportion of LTB contributions for each type of project within the LTB priority lists:
Source: Campaign for Better Transport, CPRE
In a foreword to the report, Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Improving transport is central to strengthening local and regional economies but choosing the right schemes is important.
"This report is the first analysis of how the new Local Transport Bodies (LTBs) have chosen their priorities and a wide variety of approaches has emerged.
"Some have made choices in a transparent way, seeking out local views and considering a full range of transport modes. This has led to balanced and imaginative packages of projects to support local economies and reduce car dependency, building on the good work of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF).
"This is a Government initiative that has produced effective, good value projects by combining smaller sustainable transport measures that tackle transport problems on multiple levels bringing together different types of transport.
"Others have been less forward thinking. Several have adopted closed decision-making processes and there is a tendency overall to favour road building and widening over more cost effective options. Our analysis shows there is much to learn from the first round of LTB spending plans.
"If LTBs are to help their local economies and come up with real solutions to the transport problems they face, they will need clear and open decision making based on good evidence, together with guidance and oversight from central Government."
Among the recommendations of the report are that LTBs should undertake public consultation on their lists of projects, if that has not already been done, possibly resulting in a revision to their priorities, and that "they should seek out a wider range of options and new ideas, not just established ‘local needs’. Public transport, cycling and public realm projects should be prioritised for development for this and subsequent priority lists."
It also recommended that "LTB objectives should be amended to support real sustainable development, including public health, town centre regeneration, public and open spaces, heritage and reducing carbon emissions."
The report also ranked the LTBs on three criteria - scheme choice, sustainability, and transparency, each ranked out of 10 and with some bonus points available.
The three highest ranked LTBs were Gloucestershire Local Transport Board (scoring 27.3), Coventry & Warwickshire Local Transport Body (27.1) and Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Transport Board (23.6).
Bottom of the pile were Oxfordshire Local Transport Board (3.2), Buckinghamshire Local Transport Body (2.8) and Tees Valley Local Transport Body (2.2). Transport for Lancashire, yet to provide a list when the report was compiled, was given a score of 2.0.
Commenting on the report, Sustrans’ Policy Director, JasonTorrance, said: “The poverty of ambition revealed by these results is incredibly concerning, particularly when it is local governments that should be fighting the hardest for a vibrant economy and healthy lifestyle for their community.
“We cannot continue to rely on new roads to boost the economy and help getpeople around, especially when a quarter of British households do not haveaccess to a car and many more are cut off from jobs and essential servicesby the rising cost of public transport.
“Not one of the prioritised schemes will help get people cycling – localcommunities should be alarmed and angered that their right to affordableand healthy transport choices has been abandoned.”
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.