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New Conservative government could scrap Active Travel England, Boris Johnson’s transport advisor warns

Andrew Gilligan told a fringe event at the Tory conference that he fears Liz Truss could water down the government’s commitment to cycling and walking

Less than a week after a transport minister reaffirmed the new Conservative government’s commitment to active travel, Boris Johnson’s transport advisor Andrew Gilligan has warned that funding for cycling and walking schemes could be cut under Liz Truss – and even implied that Active Travel England, the government body launched in January and charged with driving up standards, may not “survive” the new “radical” administration.

Gilligan, dubbed the ‘penny-farthing Cummings’ by some in the media thanks to his role as cycling commissioner during Boris Johnson’s stint as the Mayor of London and later as Downing Street’s transport advisor under the former Prime Minister, was speaking at a fringe event at the Tory party conference in Birmingham earlier this week, Forbes’ transport writer Carlton Reid reports.

Describing the Johnson government’s “well thought through policy” regarding active travel, Gilligan – one of the key protagonists behind the creation of Active Travel England earlier this year – told the meeting: “We had a pretty substantial investment in buses and bikes. All the evidence shows that is the only thing that actually gets people out of their cars and onto buses and bikes.”

> Government appoints capital's fomer cycling czar Andrew Gilligan to Transport for London's board

However, active travel campaigners fear that the budget for the new government agency, headed by Chris Boardman, will be in the firing line as Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng makes a series of expected cuts to state spending later this month, in an attempt to balance the books following this week’s U-turn on scrapping the 45 percent tax rate for the highest earners.

“I really do hope it survives the arrival of a new government,” Gilligan said when asked about Active Travel England’s future. “But I'm hearing slightly worrying things that it might not.”

> Active travel to be “first choice for our daily journeys,” says minister

Last week Lucy Frazer, the MP for South East Cambridgeshire and a Department for Transport minister, reaffirmed the government’s commitment to cycling and walking in the first such announcement since Liz Truss became Prime Minister and appointed Anne-Marie Trevelyan as Secretary of State for Transport, with Baroness Vere of Norbiton taking on the responsibility for active travel.

“As set out in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, we want public transport and walking and cycling to be the natural first choice for our daily journeys,” Frazer said, in response to a written question from Labour MP Rachael Maskell.

“This shift has the potential to save significant amounts of carbon, improve air quality, and reduce noise and congestion – improving health and wellbeing for all. We are undertaking pilot projects which will explore new ways for how we can use our cars differently and less often.”

She continued: “For example, we have provided £92 million to fund local authorities in Solent Transport, Nottingham and Derby, West Midlands, and the West of England to become Future Transport Zones and pilot a range of innovative mode shift efforts, such as mobility as a service apps, or paying ‘mobility credits’ to people in return for giving up their cars.”

> Boris Johnson resignation: A blow for active travel?

Frazer reiterated the Truss government’s backing for active travel at Monday’s Policy Exchange meeting.

When asked by Chair Josh Buckland, a senior fellow at Policy Exchange, whether “cycling is still alive and kicking now that Boris Johnson’s administration has gone?”, the Tory MP replied: “Absolutely, yes. We set up Active Travel England [and we are] committed to its £2 billion in terms of active travel.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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43 comments

Avatar
jaymack | 1 year ago
0 likes

They'd scrap Active Travel England? I must admit to not having noticed this quango's impact on my life, how very strange.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to jaymack | 1 year ago
5 likes

Give them a second!  They were only announced a couple of years back.  Henry Ford's spiritual heirs have had over a century...

Avatar
brooksby | 1 year ago
4 likes

Oh.  Good.  Grief.

 

(I bet if Active Travel England was led or sponsored by some hedge fund then it would be safe...).

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
14 likes

Is it just me, or does anyone else find that every decision they make seems to be either the worst or most evil choice?

Avatar
ktache replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
6 likes

More of an and rather than the or.

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
13 likes

I'm just waiting for them to suggest literally burning the poor to keep the rich warm.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
7 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

I'm just waiting for them to suggest literally burning the poor to keep the rich warm.

Well that just makes logical sense - money trickles down, but heat rises

Avatar
Morgoth985 replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
3 likes

Don't give them ideas

Avatar
brooksby replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
1 like
Adam Sutton wrote:

I'm just waiting for them to suggest literally burning the poor to keep the rich warm.

If anyone's going to suggest that it'll be Rees-Mogg.

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
3 likes

I'm still trying to work out how they can just nuke their manifesto pledges, and even the stuff Johnson put in place (apparently he did put some stuff in place), without requiring a general election to grant them the mandate from the public to actually do it all... 

Avatar
Hirsute replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
6 likes

I don't accept the premise of your post.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
3 likes

I'm just saying maybe we all need to go out and buy a Guy Fawkes mask and talking in plain verse...

Avatar
jaymack replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
4 likes

Nope it would be only safe if it made money for a hedge fund

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