While the increase in National Insurance for the self-employed took the headlines after the budget – reflecting that this was the most ‘newsworthy’ item for the general media – one of the Chancellor’s other announcements slipped through without fanfare.
But, for our industry, his pledge of £690m to be put up for bids in a “competition” for local authorities to tackle urban congestion, is intriguing as it is welcoming.
The transport secretary will announce further details; as we closed for press we are still waiting. We will bring you the news when it arrives.
And, for a government that (like most) has form for re-announcing previous money, it appears that this £690m is indeed all new. It is additional to the previously-announced £220m fund to tackle ‘pinch-points’ in the road network.
The money only applies to England, as all the other regions’ transport spending is already devolved.
The question is what will the government look for? Congestion-busting, in the form of new traffic lights, slip lanes and so on, soon soaks up cash. In this context £690m will not go very far.
In 2010 the Chancellor said the ‘war on the motorist’ had ended. Yet creating more general road capacity does not work; apart from increasing demand.
Politicians reject the stick of car restraint measures, so what about the carrot of improved and reliable bus journey times? There isn’t the cash – or indeed the need – for gold-plated schemes, but let’s hope we see some intelligent and fresh thinking.