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Government to invest £2.6bn on ‘fit for the future’ local transport

The government will be spending an extra £2.6bn on tackling congestion and ensuring that the UK’s transport networks are fit for the future, the chancellor Phillip Hammond announced in yesterday’s Autumn Statement.

The money will be taken from the government’s new National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), which seeks to add £23bn over the next five years to areas deemed critical for productivity, such as housing, infrastructure and innovation.

The measures will see 80% of Britain’s road infrastructure resurfaced and support the largest investment into the UK’s railways since the Victorian era.

“Reliable transport networks are essential to growth and productivity, so this Autumn Statement commits significant additional funding to help keep Britain moving now, and to invest in the transport networks and vehicles of the future,” Hammond declared in his speech yesterday.

“I will commit an additional £1.1bn of investment in English local transport networks, where small investments can offer big wins; £220m to address traffic pinch points on strategic roads; £450m to trial digital signalling on our railways to achieve a step-change in reliability, and squeeze more capacity out of our existing rail infrastructure.”

The government also confirmed that the NPIF will invest a further £390m by 2020-21 into the support of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) and renewable fuels. This will include £80m for ULEV charging infrastructure, £150m to support low emission public transport, and £20m to develop alternative fuels for planes and HGVs.

This support of ULEVs will also be supported by financial incentives, such as a lower Company Car Tax (CCT) band for the lowest-emitting vehicles and a 100% Year 1 capital allowance for companies investing in charge points for electric vehicles until March 2019.

Responding to the announcement, Cllr Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the LGA, welcomed the additional investment in solving congestion, although insisted that councils would need to “see the details behind the headline” before passing judgment.

“We are pleased that the government seems to have listened to us on the importance of investing in local roads, particularly those that are heavily congested,” he said. “Councils stand ready to work with central government to identify local schemes that can be delivered quickly.

“However, to put this in context, the backlog of repairs on existing roads currently stands at £12bn and it would currently take 14 years to fix the backlog of potholes.”

Tett added that from the available figures, the government will invest over £1.1m per mile in maintaining national roads – just 3% of all total roads – compared to £27,000 in maintaining local roads controlled by councils, which make up 97% of England’s road network.

“This gulf in funding puts the country’s businesses at a competitive disadvantage and provides poor value for money,” he argued. “Virtually every ‘national’ journey starts and ends locally, which means the road network is not working as well as it could for people in their corner of the country.”

Tett concluded that councils should be given a long-term commitment on funding to enable them to plan major transport projects rather than annual statements.

The Department for Transport has already confirmed that it will be discussing devolving future transport funding to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as part of its devolution package. The transport secretary Chris Grayling is set to make more specific announcements about the government’s transport projects over the coming weeks.

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