Saturday, 6 March 2010

transport funding

I thought this was interesting, from Transport Xtra

Transport Minister Sadiq Khan this week sent England’s urban transport policy in a new direction by scrapping the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF), confirming the cancellation of the Sustainable Travel Cities programme, and announcing a new Urban Challenge Fund to be introduced if Labour wins the forthcoming General Election.

The new fund will support packages of measures such as walking and cycling, better bus services, demand management measures, traffic management and improved street design.

Funding will be awarded via a competitive bidding process but Khan was unable to say how much funding would be in the pot. This won’t be known until after the post-election Comprehensive Spending Review. He said the fund would be top-sliced from the Department’s overall budget.

The demise of TIF had been widely expected ever since the public in Greater Manchester resoundingly rejected the conurbation’s package of congestion charging and public transport investment in a referendum in December 2008. TIF’s end was all but confirmed last November when the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit published a review of urban transport that reframed the urban transport “problem” from TIF’s narrow focus on congestion to a broader set of issues.

The decision to cancel the Sustainable Travel Cities programme is more of a surprise and highlights the financial difficulties facing the Department. Four conurbations (West Midlands, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and Nottingham) were shortlisted last summer for a share of the £29m pot to deliver measures to reduce car use. Two areas had been expected to share the funds.

The future of the Urban Congestion Performance Fund is also to be reviewed.

Khan explained the changes in a speech to an invited audience of local authorities and other stakeholders in London this week.

The Urban Challenge Fund brings Labour and the Conservatives closer together on urban transport policy. The Tories announced plans to replace TIF with a Transport Carbon Reduction Fund last year. In an interview with LTT this week, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said her party remained committed to the principle of the fund but – like Khan – she could not say how much funding would be allocated to it.

The most immediate impact of TIF’s demise will be felt in Reading and Cambridgeshire, the two authorities that were furthest advanced in developing TIF investment packages. They will now have to submit bids to the new funding stream, alongside other councils.

Khan this week praised Labour-controlled Reading Borough Council’s
(sic) proposed phased approach to demand management beginning with a Low Emission Zone and moving to road pricing only if a congestion threshold is met. “This has helped influence our thinking,” he said.

Reading’s deputy leader, councillor Tony Page, this week told LTT that the DfT’s announcement would delay the council’s plans by “a few months”. But he said Reading would be in a strong position to receive funding from the Urban Challenge Fund.

“We are still in pole position for an early approval,” he said, adding that the DfT had just awarded the council further funding to develop its proposals. “The Government will want Reading and Cambridgeshire, when they catch up with work we have done, to be early approvals,” he said. “This will enable the Government to say to other authorities, ‘Here’s an early approval, this is what we’re willing to back with hard cash’.”

Page said it was too early to say if the new fund would prompt Reading to drop the idea of a congestion charge altogether.

The Department is seeking views by 4 June on how the Urban Challenge Fund should operate.


howard thomas said...

The people of Manchester got a vote on the congestion charging scheme. What chance the people of Reading getting such a vote? What say you Tony Page?

Anonymous said...

Reading does not need Government funds to paint more bus lanes or to improve traffic flow (by getting rid of traffic lights).
The council is obsessed with grandiose schemes and government money (do the officers and councillors get a cut of any money?)

Anonymous said...

Sadiq Khan has got form in taking the credit for the hard work and un-sung efforts of others.

dreamingspire said...

Sadiq Khan indeed disappoints in public. Heard from someone who was at a conference where Sadiq spoke about transport that he was hesitant and his minders were making very sure that he kept to the script. But others tell me he is excellent to work with