‘Everyday transport’ at risk, say groups
Several transport groups have warned that ‘everyday transport’, including bus travel, is at risk. In a letter to the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, the organisations note that his department’s unprotected budget faces a cut of 25% to 40% in the Chancellor’s spending review. Since major investment programmes for roads and railways are ring-fenced, they believe this means cuts are expected to fall disproportionately on local transport. The letter warns that as a result local bus services will see further reductions in services and increases in fares.
The groups involved in the letter include the Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT), Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG), Sustrans, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Living Streets. The organisations claim such cuts to roads and public transport would have hugely damaging economic and social consequences. They wish to see the government protect and enhance everyday transport, through smarter spending, such as creating efficient cross-government funding programmes; rebalancing capital and revenue funding; and reviewing major transport programmes, especially the Road Investment Strategy.
Chief Executive of the CfBT, Stephen Joseph, said, ‘Our analysis shows that the Spending Review risks hitting very hard the everyday transport that people and communities rely on, while programmes like big road building schemes will escape unscathed. We hope the Transport Secretary will ensure that the Review has a better balance between the major capital programmes and the funding for this everyday transport.’
West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee Chair, Cllr Keith Wakefield, has added his concerns to those expressed in the letter to government. He said, ‘People and businesses across West Yorkshire and the City Region rely upon bus and train services, cycling and walking provision and local roads. Cuts to these critical local links through a reduction of up to 40% in the DfT’s budget will undermine the growth to which we and the government are committed as part of the Northern Powerhouse. They could also lead to people and communities being cut off from vital local services and facilities and missing out on education, training and employment opportunities. The Combined Authority recently took the decision to extend half-fare bus and train travel to all 16 to 18 year olds living in West Yorkshire from November to increase young people’s access to apprenticeships and training. But the local services need to be there for those young people to use.’
‘Of course we need the major road and rail investment programmes that are protected in the Spending Review, although we’d like to see some firm commitments on the electrification of rail routes in the north. However, there is a danger that the investment in these high-profile schemes will be wasted if the local, everyday transport is neglected by the Government’s Spending Review.’