Very, very possibly.
Local authorities are feeling squeezed and will look to pitch to any fund for cash. The Local Sustainable Transport Fund was ostensibly set up for bus, walking and cycling schemes. (Cycling England was scrapped because of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund). Some local authorities may submit road schemes for cash from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund; schemes that will mostly benefit motorists.
Fantasy? No, it’s already happening. The Manchester Evening News reports that:
Transport leaders [in Manchester] are looking for new ways to fund £500m of projects ditched by the government. They are waiting to see if they can apply for money from two new Whitehall cash pots totalling nearly £2bn.
The M.E.N has revealed how the axed schemes include a £290m bypass connecting the A6 near Stockport to the M56 at Manchester Airport.
The £100m proposal to replace the shelved Mottram-Tintwistle bypass – the so-called Longdendale integrated transport strategy – has also been scrapped. So has a £32m plan for 18 new park-and-ride sites across the region, a £30m inner relief road for Wigan and a £50m package of railway station improvements.
But the region’s transport bosses are seeing if cash can be sourced from the new £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund and the £560m Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
Will the Government stamp down on such behaviour? We’ll have to wait and see. Hoverboard Hammond has yet to release guidelines for local authorities. Let’s hope the Local Sustainable Transport Fund isn’t ambushed for other purposes, and that the scoring for bids is high for genuine sustainable transport and low for ‘congestion reducing’ schemes that are, in fact, a smokescreen for pro-car projects.
Hoverboard Hammond doesn’t inspire confidence. Watch this video from yesterday in Parliament where the Commons Transport Committee quizzed the Transport Minister on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending review. Yawn, much of the quizzing was about airport security but skip forward to 16:26:50 as transport chair Louise Ellman asks Hoverboard Hammond about what criteria the Department for Motorised Transport (DMT) will be using when evaluating which projects to support from the Local Sustainable Transport Scheme.
Hammond said the scheme had two headline objectives: “To support economic growth and to reduce carbon output but there are also clear objectives road safety, promoting walking and cycling, improving the urban environment and improving congestion.”
It’s these last two that could be used by local authorities to help pay for pro-motoring schemes. We’ll have to keep a beady eye on what local authorities bid for. As Hammond says in the video, there are no guidelines for local authorities yet so we have no idea how applications will be scored. We’ll have to crawl over the guidelines when they do come out to make sure cycling and walking get the bulk of the cash.
Skip to 16:34:00 if you want to watch Hammond talk about how the Government had nothing to do with local authorities switching off speed cameras…