I congratulate Robert Courts on securing this debate, and I thank him for his contribution to the Transport Committee, which I chair. It has been looking at precisely the matter we are discussing. The Government’s 2017 cycling and walking investment strategy—CWIS—is extremely welcome. As many Members have said, the economic, human and environmental cost of inactivity, climate change, air pollution and traffic congestion are huge. Active travel can help us to tackle all of those, if it gets the attention and funding it deserves but historically has not received. There are serious questions about the funding available for active travel and local cycling and walking infrastructure plans—LCWIPs, which we have been told are the main vehicle for delivering the Government’s strategy.
We have been told that the funding framework for active travel remains challenging, because the wider framework for local transport funding is complex, short term and under severe pressure. When the Government published the CWIS, they described it as a £1.2 billion plan, but only a quarter was ring-fenced funding for cycling and walking schemes. The rest was for local authorities to decide how to prioritise. We know all too well the pressures on local councils from adult social care and children’s services. Since the CWIS was published, the Government have stated that almost £2 billion is projected to be invested in active travel between 2016 and 2021. That is a good start, but it pales in comparison with spending on other modes, and equates to just £400 million a year, or 1.5% of the €26.4 billion that the Government spent on transport in England in 2017.
The Transport Committee has heard about the impressive ambitions of combined authorities and local authorities to increase cycling and walking in their area. I do not have time to go through them, but if they are to be achieved, as so many colleagues have said, dedicated funding is needed to deliver those improvements in LCWIPs to enable the Government to succeed in delivering their strategy. Phil Jones, an independent transport consultant who has been very involved in the development of the local plans, told us that if LCWIPs are just a plan and sit on the shelf,
“it has been a complete waste of time”.
He told us that LCWIPs have to lead quickly to actual schemes on the ground, and he is right. If the Government want to deliver their strategy, which is essential and not a “nice to have,” they need to consider how their funding will ensure that that happens.
Funding is not the only issue; the Government need coherent and consistent policy. People will not walk and cycle if their roads and pavements are poorly maintained; they will not feel safe if cars are parked on pavements; it will not be good if estates have no pavements, which I often see. People will incorporate walking and cycling into a longer journey only if the public transport element is up to scratch.