£200m active travel cash allocated but LTNs blocked

22/05/2023
Chris Ames

The Department for Transport has announced allocations for the £200m fourth (2022-23) round of the Active Travel Fund and revealed that it had blocked all low traffic neighbourhood (LTNs) schemes from the funding.

The DfT suggested that, unlike the winners, LTNs did not 'benefit the community as a whole'.

Over 265 schemes in 60 areas will receive a share of the £200m, which will provide 121 miles of new cycle track, 77 miles of new paths and greenways and initiatives to make streets safer around 130 schools.

West Midlands Cycling and Walking Commissioner Adam Tranter, Mr Boardman, transport minister Jesse Norman and local resident Eve on the Binley Cycleway in Coventry. Source: Transport for West Midlands

The DfT said government funding has meant cycling across England has continued to thrive and is up 11% on pre-pandemic levels, increasing by more than 20% in the past 10 years.

However, charity Sustrans pointed to active travel funding cuts announced by Mr Harper in March, which it said represent a two-thirds reduction of dedicated capital spending on active travel from £308m to £100m over two years.

The charity argued this meant that the Government’s own target of 50% of urban journeys being walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030 will be impossible.

In a newly-released letter to MPs, transport secretary Mark Harper declined to state what level of funding would be required to meet the 2030 target.

Transport committee chair Iain Stewart MP had pointed out in a letter to Mr Harper that transport minister Lucy Frazer had stated in October that the DfT estimated ‘a minimum of £4.4 billion will be required to meet its cycling and walking objectives to 2025; and further, that a minimum of £5.5 billion is likely to be required to meet the objectives to 2030’.

He added that National Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman had said that, ‘depending on how it is done’, between £9bn and £18bn would be required.

Mr Harper told MPs that funding ‘will depend on a very wide variety of factors, including, in particular, the types of active travel and other complementary measures that local authorities introduce’.

He added: ‘Any estimate is also subject to a high degree of uncertainty given that the long-term impacts of the pandemic on people’s travel choices are still not clear.’

Matt Winfield, Sustrans' executive director for England, Northern Ireland and Wales said the allocation of previously committed funding was welcome, but added: ‘However, the devil is in the detail as active travel funding cuts announced in March mean investment will plummet over the next two years.

‘This will put the UK back years in our collective goal of improving public health, cutting carbon emissions and supporting local economic growth.’

The DfT issued a picture from the same location, with children persuaded to cycle in the opposite direction

Mr Boardman said: ‘By giving millions of people the freedom of choice to walk, wheel or cycle for everyday trips, this funding will help us improve public health, tackle climate change and give hundreds of thousands of children the independence to travel safely under their own steam.

‘Now our focus is working with councils to get these schemes built swiftly. We’ll be working together to ensure the projects are well-designed and effective, so that they bring maximum benefits to communities and help improve lives nationwide.’

Previous rounds of the Active Travel Fund have seen £225m in 2020-21 and £160m in 2021-22 and in January ministers announced £32.9m capability funding for local authorities.

Despite this, the DfT has said that dedicated active travel funding is ‘expected’ to be £850m up to 2022-23, with the additional funding taking dedicated funding to around a third of a projected £3bn over the current Parliament, once funding from other streams are included.

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