Last week saw the latest Budget announcement. Normally, the cycling community wouldn’t batter an eyelid to what the Chancellor announces but there were a couple of titbits that were relevant to cycling this time.
There was the promise of additional £100m for local authorities to repair potholes, but while giveth with one hand, the Chancellor George Osbourne taketh away with the other. Mr Osbourne also announced plans to cancel the tax relief on the meals that employers can provide on Cycle to Work days.
Cycle to Work meals are a way for organisations to encourage their staff to leave their cars at home and try cycling. The initiative began in 2002 and is widely used by private sector companies, local authorities and Government departments.
The £100m extra to repair potholes is seen by cycling groups, such as the CTC, as a drop in the ocean to what is actually needed. To illustrate the point, Tim Shand, a Labour councillor on Surrey County Council, recently told the BBC that £400m is need to properly prepare Surrey’s roads for the 2012 Olympic road race.
Extra funding for cycling facilities
Unrelated to the budget, but announced just prior to it, was an announcement that the Department of Transport was making an additional £836,000 of funding available to certain Train Operating Companies and some Cycling Towns to improve cycling facilities.
Cycle Town projects in Blackpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Colchester, Darlington, Derby, Exeter, Leighton Linslade, South Glos, Southend, Shrewsbury and Woking have already been selected by the Department of Transport to receive funds.
Three Train Operating Companies, Merseyrail, South West Trains and Northern Rail, will use funds allocated to them to make infrastructure improvements, accompanied by promotional activities, to improve the integration of bike and rail journeys.
These Train Operating Companies, plus Virgin Trains, have already embarked on a cycle facility spending programme from funds given to them via an existing Cycling England budget of £4m. Those funds were part of a wider £14m funding package, announced in 2009, that aimed to improve facilities for cyclists at rail stations. That money was to be used to create Cycle Hubs’ at 10 major rail stations and make 10,000 extra cycle parking spaces available at stations.
The additional funding for Cycle Towns and the train companies has been made possible due to “prudent” management of Department of Transport expenditure.