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So, Philip ‘Hoverboard’ Hammond has got his wish. More tarmac; more expensive train journeys; subsidies for electric cars.
Up to 500,000 public sector employees might lose their jobs but at least those who can afford £30,000 e-cars will get sweeteners.
The Comprehensive Spending Review is light on details (especially the devilish ones) and we’re to expect expanded comments from Department chiefs soon. Hoverboard Hammond will spell out his cut-backs and new-builds next week.
I shouldn’t imagine he’ll mention the abolition of Cycling England. No doubt he’d rather cycling was in another Department; Health maybe or Sport. Why should it be in Transport, he must reckon, cycling is a mode of another age.
Electric cars. For Hammond, there’s a form of transport that’s going places. Except that it isn’t. Coal-powered electric cars are roughly the same shape and size as standard cars. Electric vehicles are no answer to congestion.
The Government’s main answer to congestion is to spend precious resources on dualling a number of roads, widening the M25 from junctions 16 to 25 and 27 to 30; and to allow even more hard-shoulder running on a bunch of motorways.
Predict and Provide is back with a vengeance. I thought we were meant to be cost-cutting?
The Comprehensive Spending Review would have been an ideal opportunity to reign in King Car. But not with Hoverboard Hammond in charge. He wants more roads so he can prowl them in his e-Jag.
But, again, he won’t get far.
A tarmac-fixated Government could quadruple the width of every motorway but that won’t cure congestion. Quite apart from the fact that such road building only encourages new journeys, and more cars, there’s a basic flaw in the “road improvements” argument. Building wider motorways won’t decrease journey times because, for the most part, people aren’t driving to and from motorway service stations, they’re driving via cities.
There’s no room to expand city roads. Bigger motorways cause bigger bottlenecks once cars venture off the motorways.
In ten years time, the Government of the day will scratch its head and wonder why the roads are more gridlocked than ever. “But we spent billions on widening roads,” ministers will bleat. “How could congestion get worse?”
The current lot even got rid of Cycling England so there wouldn’t be a quango promoting city journey alternatives.
This is a Government that promises to get more people on bikes and on public transport but will only splash the cash on cars: while the £5000 e-bribe gets prime position in the 105-page Comprehensive Spending Review there’s no mention of the new Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
The Campaign for Better Transport believes the LSTF will get £560m over four years but this pot will be fought over by cycling, buses and other forms of local transport. £560m (divided by four) out of an annual budget of £30bn is shockingly low.