Alongside news that the U.K. government would be delaying parts of the HS2 high-speed rail scheme and mothballing two road schemes, transport secretary Mark Harper revealed swingeing cuts to the active travel budget.
$845 million was approved for active travel in the government’s 2021 Spending Review. $273 million has been spent to date.
In today’s announcement Mr. Harper said $119 million would be spent over the remaining two years, which would be a cut of $452 million.
However, the full amount of the cut is not yet clear because in a Department for Transport press release, Mr. Harper said: “The government is committed to supporting all forms of transport and is investing more than £3 billion into active travel up to 2025, despite the efficiency savings needed due to global financial pressures. This includes existing funding for active travel schemes such as through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) and National Highways to level up access to active travel across the country. The department will invest at least £100 million across the remainder of the Spending Review period – for 2023/24 and 2024/25. This will be on top of an expected £850 million investment up to 2022/23.”
In his written statement to parliament, Mr. Harper said: “These are the difficult but responsible decisions we are taking.”
Delaying HS2, mothballing two schemes and cutting the active travel budget was putting the “priorities of the British people first,” he said, adding that the cuts were to in control inflation and reduce government debt.
Parts of the HS2 line between Birmingham, Crewe and Manchester will be delayed by at least two years, meaning the line to Crewe may not be open until 2036, with Manchester not until 2043.
One of the road schemes kicked into the next funding round is the Lower Thames Crossing, a tunnel and road scheme between Essex and Kent.
Focus will now switch to whether Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unfreezes fuel duty in next week’s budget, raising much-needed $7.15 billion? The duty should rise by 23% in April or 12p a litre, as the 5p cut expires and the tax rises automatically in line with inflation.