The announcement at the start of the week of the ‘Transforming Cities’ fund to improve transport links between prosperous cities and struggling suburbs meant that there were few surprises within the Budget in relation to transport. The Government’s aim was clearly to maintain focus on investment in the regions, with London projects such as Crossrail 2, kept low profile. Whether the scale of investment announced is of sufficient magnitude will always remain a vociferous point to debate but what is clear is that, by directly allocating half the funds to those City Regions with Elected Mayors, the other areas who have yet to agree deals appear to be dropping down the funding queue.
The extension of the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund, as well as the Housing Infrastructure Fund reiterates the Government’s approach to unlocking specific growth opportunities through infrastructure delivery and means that this will continue to be an important mechanism for delivering local transport infrastructure.
The Budget included some measures to continue to tackle air quality with further restrictions on diesel cars (although notably not vans) and a further pot to stimulate electric car usage – mostly through increasing the network of charging points. Set against the now default removal of the annual fuel duty rise, it is questionable what overall impact these measures can have, with the Government no doubt conscious of the downgraded growth forecasts and falling living standards rather than pursuing substantial measures to tackle the issue of pollution and associated health impacts.