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Dear Chancellor... Transport is a key driver of economic growth

The Transport Planning Society’s policy director Tom van Vuren reacts to the Spring Budget

Tom van Vuren
07 March 2024
Tom van Vuren
Tom van Vuren
 

The Transport Planning Society (TPS) were disappointed to see the chancellor overlook the role of sustainable transport in stimulating economic growth and improving people's lives. In times of economic instability, sustainable modes can be crucial to connect people to jobs and education and often act as the only means of travel for the most disadvantaged.

We would have liked the chancellor to focus on some of the points below.

Active travel

Active travel was featured in our manifesto published last year. We called for investment into safe and secure active travel routes. It was disappointing to see active travel investment completely absent from the Spring budget.

Investment increases usage which in turn has a range of benefits:

  • Encouraging active travel reduces emissions and supports our decarbonisation ambitions set out in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan (2021).
  • Active travel is the healthiest mode of transport and will have considerable benefits for public health, easing the current pressures on the NHS.
  • There are quantifiable economic benefits to active travel via increased spending in local business, reduced congestion and increased productivity. The Sustrans Walking and Cycling Index (2021) indicated active travel created £6.5 billion in economic benefits across society in the areas they surveyed.

When investing in active travel we must ensure the benefits are distributed equally across users. Recent research from the London Cycling Campaign highlights the abuse women receive while cycling. Furthermore, the infrastructure in London is far more advanced than in the rest of the country. Measures need to be in place to guarantee all users from all regions of the UK start to enjoy benefits equally.

Parking

We explored the importance of a strategic parking policy to complement the industry's wider goals in our paper Just the Ticket! Parking Policy for Lower Carbon Travel, published last year.

We would have liked the chancellor to adopt some of the initiatives we assessed, most notably workplace parking levies that have been utilised so effectively in Nottingham, to generate the necessary funding for transport investment and maintenance of existing assets.

Fuel Duty escalator

The UK’s current economic situation requires certain economic levers to raise revenue. We would have liked the chancellor to consider the reinstatement of the Fuel Duty escalator. Freezing the fuel duty will forego at least £5 billion per year, benefiting mainly the rich, who drive the most, and doing very little for the poorest in society, who don’t tend to own a car. IPPR analysis indicates the most disadvantaged drivers spend more than 20% of their income on running a car.

Continuing the Fuel Duty freeze for another 12 months is discouraging but not surprising. But, if the chancellor wants to increase tax revenue and simultaneously reduce emissions and congestion reintroducing some form of the fuel price escalator would be very powerful. Any revenue raised could be reinvested into major infrastructure schemes which have been neglected since the cost of living crisis.

Air Passenger Duty

We were encouraged to see the chancellor increase Air Passenger Duty for all non-economy flights. We hope this is a first step to incentivising sustainable forms of transport for all long-distance journeys where possible. Further measures could include, for example, the Campaign for Better Transport’s ‘Super Rate’ of air passenger duty on private jet passengers. This is estimated to be able to raise roughly £1.4bn every year.

Conclusion

The chancellor’s budget overlooked how transport can tackle many of the economic burdens the country is facing. As we approach the general election the chancellor should offer the support and clarity the transport industry needs to grow, improve and decarbonise.

Tom van Vuren is TPS policy director

You can find out more about the Transport Planning Society's policy work, including its manifesto and parking principles, in the policy section of the TPS website.
https://tps.org.uk/tps-policy
 

 

 

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