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Regular news: Issue 593 30 Mar 2012

2012 Budget transport news highlights

TfL seeks slice of business rate revenues

Transport for London could be given a share of locally retained business rates in the capital under plans being considered by the Government. The Treasury says it supports the idea “in principle” and is “considering options for how this might be achieved”.

Growing Places fund BOOST

The Government is to inject an extra £270m into the Growing Places Fund, which funds new transport and other infrastructure needed to kickstart development. Of the extra cash, £70m will go to the Greater London Authority.

Streamlined planning FOR Thames crossing?

Ministers are looking at ways to accelerate the planning process for the new road crossing of the Thames at Silvertown in east London. The Treasury said the Government was exploring the case for using the Planning Act 2008 to streamline the planning process for additional river crossings (the road crossing and a new ferry route at Gallion’s Reach). Last month Michèle Dix, TfL’s managing director, planning, said: “A specific issue to be resolved is the consents and powers route for the package and whether to progress under the Transport and Works Act 1992 (if possible) or with a package of consents including conventional planning consent.” She said using the Planning Act 2008 to designate the package (or part of it) as “of national significance” would allow the more streamlined process of a Development Consent Order, which combines the granting of planning permission with a range of other consents. 

A14 options tested

A preferred strategy for increasing capacity in the A14 corridor between Huntingdon and Cambridge will be completed by July. The Treasury said last week that a shortlist of options to increase capacity and improve performance on the trunk road had been drawn up, “some of which could be part-funded by tolling”. Options include widening some sections, rationalising access, building a southern bypass of Huntingdon, enhancing public transport, and doing more to shift freight from road to rail.

More cash for Northern Hub

The Government has announced £130m to deliver a further tranche of the Northern Hub plans to increase rail capacity across the North of England. The funding, which will be released subject to value for money assessments, will deliver capacity and line speed improvements on three lines:

  • the Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester

  • Manchester to Bradford via Rochdale and Halifax

  • Manchester to Preston via Bolton

Ministers announced £85m last March for another part of the Northern Hub, the Ordsall Curve, which will link Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria stations.

Vehicle tax to be reformed

The Government is to review the structure of vehicle excise duty. “The Government will consider whether to reform vehicle excise duty over the medium term, to ensure that all motorists continue to make a fair contribution to the sustainability of the public finances, and to reflect continuing improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency,” said the Treasury.

Fuel stabiliser ‘damp squib’

The Government will introduce a fuel stabiliser – but only to determine when above-inflation rises to fuel prices will be allowed. “Above inflation rises will only return if the oil price falls below £45 on a sustained basis – currently equivalent to around $75 dollars,” said the Chancellor. The Freight Transport Association called the stabiliser plan a “damp squib”. “All it does is formalise fuel duty increases above inflation if world oil prices fall below $75 a barrel. At the very least, what he should have done was to commit to freezing fuel duty when world oil prices were above $100 a barrel.”

Pension funds eye infrastructure investment

The Government is working with 12 of Britain’s largest pension schemes to encourage them to  invest in the country’s infrastructure. The Treasury said a Pension Infrastructure Platform owned and run by UK pension funds would make the first wave of its initial investment in UK infrastructure by early next year. A separate group of pension fund investors has presented proposals to the Treasury for increasing pension plan investment in infrastructure in the construction phase. Ministers are also seeking investment in the country’s infrastructure from overseas pension and sovereign wealth funds.

Heseltine reviews business links

Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine is to lead a review of how spending departments and other public sector bodies interact with the private sector to deliver pro-growth policies. The review should conclude this autumn.

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