WHEN FORMER secretary of state for transport Alastair Darling introduced the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) in 2004, he said that it would have two aims: to direct cash towards tacking congestion and help fund schemes that would have a demonstrable impact on the overall productivity of the UK.
Since then attention has focused on the potential £200M a year that will be available to local authorities to help reduce congestion - not least because of the insistence that any local authority bidding for a share of the cash should embrace congestion or road user charging.
As the recent mass response to the anti-road user charging petition demonstrates, such policies carry a lot of political weight.
But when it comes to levering serious cash into much needed regional transport schemes it is the less visible Productivity TIF that glows brighter on the radar. While funding at the start - 2008/09 - is expected to be limited at £90M, the Productivity TIF could increase to £8bn by 2014 (see table).
All TIF funding, initially at least, is restricted to English schemes. But whereas Congestion TIF projects are decided by local authorities, schemes considered for Productivity TIF funding will be identified and driven by the Department for Transport (DfT).
The DfT has considered a number of projects that might the bill. Consultation with Regional Development Agencies has seen its original list of 11 whittled down to nine.
The Crossrail scheme makes it 10, but this may or may not draw on TIF cash, depending on the outcome of Sir Michael Lyons's review of local government nance.
But there is still some way to go, not least because government has yet to confirm what its decision-making criteria will be or how funding will be allocated.
And with such large amounts of money available - by 2015 the fund will be worth £2.5bn - local and regional authorities will be working hard to inuence the DfT over future decisions.