UK 2020 budget: £27bn for new roads, £0 for cycling

2020 budget to see modest investment in "green travel" but fails to make any commitments to spending for cycling or walking infrastructure.

London Cyclists - Fifth Death In Nine Days

If you were hoping for increased expenditure to support the development of UK cycling infrastructure – or walking infrastructure for that matter – from new Chancellor Rishi Sunak in today’s budget, dream on.

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If you like cycling on busy trunk roads though you’re in luck, as the previously announced £25.3bn budget for major roads and motorways has been increased to £27bn.

The £1.02bn earmarked for “green transport solutions” is split pretty evenly between expenditure on rapid charging points for electric vehicles and grants for the purchase of electric cars, vans, taxis and motorcycles. 

Cycling UK – the UK’s national cycling charity – points out that there’s still no funding to subsidise the purchase of electric -bikes, a more sustainable solution than the ‘green’ measures announced today, that would also reduce urban road congestion. 

Commenting on the transport expenditure in the budget, Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Cycling UK, said:

“It’s beyond belief that the Chancellor has announced £1bn will be spent on ‘green transport solutions’ without a single penny committed to cycling or walking in today’s budget, leaving English councils outside London with no earmarked money whatsoever to spend on their local cycling and walking network plans from the start of next month”.

Given the current struggles caused by cuts to local government funding, this has got to be a prime target for mothballing and inactivity.

Major issues ignored

Tuohy points out that the road expenditure will do nothing to address climate change, air pollution, congestion and sedentary lifestyles, all of which are major issues facing the UK. That’s a view echoed in a series of tweets from the Green Party’s sole MP Caroline Lucas, who expressed her disappointment that the budget had failed to put climate and environment first.

Tuohy further said that “by its own research, the Government needs to spend at least £6bn to meet its target of doubling cycling and increasing walking by 2025, but sadly it’s become clear its commitment to active travel has been parked in this budget and that’s a huge disappointment”.

Former Olympic champion and world record holder Chris Boardman – now the Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester – was also critical of the Chancellor’s spending plans, tweeting that: “electric vehicles are a fraction of the solution at best, barely impact climate/pollution and don’t touch health or congestion”. 

Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £5bn funding for cycling and green buses on February 11th, what that actually means in detail wasn’t spelt out in the budget and won’t be clarified until the government’s spending review in the autumn.

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There is good news on potholes though, with a new £500m Potholes Fund increasing local road maintenance budgets by 50% next year.