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March 15 2017
By Mel Holley

Mel is the Editor at routeONE magazine. He has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.

Whose line is it anyway?

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.

The Chancellor said the ‘war on the motorist’ has ended. Yet creating more capacity does not work; apart from increasing demand

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.

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