Campaigners welcome Autumn Statement road fund, but urge ‘fix it first’ approach

Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has urged the government to use this week’s Autumn Statement to invest in local and sustainable transport.

Ahead of the statement on Wednesday, CBT issued ‘Fix It First’, a briefing urging the government to prioritise small-scale investments such as local roads maintenance and public transport over major infrastructure projects.

It was then reported this week that chancellor Philip Hammond will announce £1.1bn to upgrade arterial roads and £220m to tackle ‘pinch points’ on Highways England roads.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are building and improving roads because they are at the very heart of what makes communities work – linking people with jobs and businesses with customers.

“Our investment will benefit motorists by making their journeys safer, quicker and less congested – whilst creating thousands of jobs across the country.”

In response, James MacColl, head of campaigns at CBT, said it was “about time” the government recognised the “dire state” of local roads.

However, he added: “The measures announced by the government so far will do nothing to solve congestion in the long run, nor will building new roads which just move the traffic jams somewhere else. If the government really wants to solve congestion people need genuine alternatives with better and cheaper public transport.

“We now expect the government to back up this announcement with a 'fix it first' approach across the board, improving the local transport that those people who are just about managing rely on every day.”

Earlier this year, the government announced a £250m Pothole Repair Fund, but the LGA said that this didn’t go far enough to tackle the road repair backlog, which would cost £12bn to repair.

A recent RAC report also showed that pothole damage to cars has also more than doubled in the past year, prompting the LGA to accuse the government of prioritising funding for national roads over local ones.

Today, CBT argued that roads maintenance should be made “more structured”, following the model in London, where Transport for London has worked with borough councils to develop long- term road maintenance plans.

The London Highways Alliance has also taken control of all highway maintenance contracts, saving up to £450m through efficient working methods and economies of scale.

Campaigners in the CBT added that the government should establish a Road Repair and Renewals Fund to tackle the road maintenance backlog, with ring-fenced funding and incentives for investment and apprenticeships.

The government is due to launch an Access Fund next year for projects including improved bus services, upgrades to rail stations, and improved cycling and pedestrian routes. At present, it is due to consist of £20m in revenue funding and £80m in capital funding a year, with the capital funding delivered as part of wider growth funding for LEPs.

But CBT recommended increasing the amount of funding available and inviting bids specifically from local councils.

The government is also currently producing a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, with targets for increasing cycling and reversing the decline in walking. Campaigners said this should be backed up by dedicated funding.

The CBT also called for a Public Realm Investment Fund to support regeneration of high streets and road layouts to better accommodate pedestrians.

Lastly, it recommended providing further rounds of the Green Bus Fund and the Community Minibus Fund, and considering other investment in buses.

(Image c. Campaign for Better Transport)

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