Long-term investment is the holy grail of cycling in the UK right now – with predictable amounts of funding councils can plan decent, joined-up networks. However, while government commitment to plan for cycling in the way roads, rail and air travel are planned for is proving elusive, roads have just been given another boost.
On Monday, David Cameron unveiled the Roads Investment Strategy (RIS), which will see 100 improvements to major roads, but with no mention of cycling in the document.
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Funding for the plans will be announced during the Autumn Statement, which Cameron says has road building at its heart.
David Cameron, addressing leaders at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “We know to secure Britain’s future, we need world-class infrastructure. Families need it to get around; businesses need it to create jobs; we need it to compete with the world and deliver economic security.”
“And I can tell you this today: in three weeks’ time you will see an Autumn Statement where we choose the future again. At its heart is the biggest, boldest and most far reaching road improvement programme in four decades: over 100 improvements to our major roads.
“Hundreds of extra lane miles on our motorways and trunk roads. The green light given to major projects that have been stalled for years. Action to improve some of the most important arteries in our country – like the A303 and the A1 – which for too long have held parts of our country back. And all underpinned by over £15bn worth of investment.”
Sam Jones, CTC campaigns and communications coordinator, said where 4:1 is considered a good return on investment by the Department for Transport (DfT), and 2:1 worthwhile, the DfT recognise cycling represents better return at 35:1. But that this hasn’t apparently been translated to the Treasury, as no commitment to funding was attached to the DfT’s highly criticised Cycling and Walking Delivery Plan, which was announced back in October.
Jones said: “As we have just seen today with the latest Government announcement, it is clear that they can and will make long term investment and commitment to road and, in HS2, rail – but as of yet not for cycling. This is incredibly disappointing.
“The Department for Transport issued a report last week which saw a return of investment for cycling at 35:1. This is a massive return which neither rail nor road can match – so why won’t Government commit to cycling?”
The plans, which are being branded a move to attract marginal voters, will be developed to a “compressed timescale” to ensure they are agreed by 2014, proving with political will even alterations to roads can progress within the months before a general election.
England’s Strategic Road Network (SRN), which includes motorways and A-roads, carries one third of all traffic and two thirds of freight traffic.
Through the RIS the government will provide clear objectives for the SRN, “underpinned by funding certainty”. This certainty, the document says, makes it easier to plan ahead, including training staff and investing in new techniques and equipment, as well as driving down the costs of schemes, and their maintenance.
The RIS will be implemented through the Infrastructure Act, which, when debated in the Lords last week, spelled a frustrating blow for cycling, when the amendment to secure ongoing funding for cycle infrastructure was tabled with another amendment, which meant it was not directly discussed. There is a third period for discussion in the Commons on Thursday.
The announcement comes as the Green Party says three new roads proposed to cross the Thames in East London will cost twice the Mayor’s cycling budget for the next decade.
DfT report shows for every £1 spent invested in cycling, £5.50 is generated in economic, social and health benefits.