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New transport fund ‘too small’

A new government fund for sustainable local transport is too small to have any real impact, engineers and transport experts said this week.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport’s (Adept) transport committee chair Tony Ciaburro said the £560M fund launched this week was “nowhere near enough” money to support economic growth and reduce carbon.  

He expressed concern that local authorities would have to compete with each other for the cash.

“We are disappointed that we have to resort to bidding systems for such small amounts of money,” he said. “We would prefer that there are no bidding systems and we could find a scheme where the money could be shared out.

“What it shows is that the whole localism agenda is still not significant – there’s no trust.”

He added that £24M of the £80M provided for the first year has been already distributed to projects, including £11M for Bikeability cycle training. The Department for Transport (DfT) will make the fund available over the four years to 2014/15 in portions of £80M, £140M, £160M and £180M respectively.

“What it shows is that the whole localism agenda is still not significant – there’s no trust”

Tony Ciaburro

This compares to £119.8M worth of sustainable transport grants that were provided in 2010/11, of which just over half – £63.5M – were spent on cycling and school travel projects.

The DfT said the new fund was a move away from specific grants to allowing local authorities freedom to develop transport packages that address the particular transport problems in their areas.

University of Oxford Low Carbon Mobility Centre head Oliver Inderwildi praised the fund’s structure. “The idea to award money to local councils [as a pot of money] is essentially a good idea and a good way to get value for money,” he said.

But he said the fund was too smal to bring about significant changes in most of the UK. “You would need to pump a lot more money into a local community.”

The ICE agreed that the fund’s “limited size” will restrict how much it can achieve. “That £560M won’t go far across 300 local authorities, especially in the context of the hefty cuts already made to local authority capital budgets,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.

The government published its local transport White Paper at the same time as the details of the fund.

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