The Labour Party has called the UK Government’s decision to cut £200 million from the active travel budget in England “devastating” and “short sighted”.
The Active Travel fund is designed to support local transport authorities with producing cycling and walking facilities.
Labour MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw told Zag Daily: “This huge cut is devastating and so short sighted. It goes against everything the UK Government claims it wants to achieve in terms of zero carbon, modal shift, reducing congestion, improved health and air quality. England is already way behind comparable countries on active travel and this cut will leave a capital budget of just £50 million for the whole country – the same as Prime Minister Sunak is spending on a new helicopter.”
Organisations opposed to the cuts have been quick to point out that active travel contributed £36.5 billion to the UK economy in 2021, took up to 14.6 million cars off the road and prevented 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough and Shadow Minister for Roads, told Zag: “The Government’s cuts to active travel funding have left their own targets lying in tatters.
“This is yet another Tory broken promise. People up and down the country have already seen their bus services decimated, train timetables cut to the bone, and roads left in disarray. Time and time again the Tories have proved they are utterly unfit to govern. They must now come clean on the impact these latest cuts are going to have on active travel targets and our legally binding net-zero obligations.”
While the popularity of active travel has increased in the capital, other parts of England will now not be able to benefit from the same quality transport system. London now has three times as much funding per year for active travel than the rest of England combined.
President of The AA, Edmund King OBE, said: “The slashing of expenditure on active travel by two thirds is particularly harsh as even 68% of drivers think local roads require more investment to make cycling safer. Teaching safer cycling through Bikeability schemes is also an essential life skill for millions. Some real progress had been made in convincing more people to make short trips to local shops and services by foot and bike during and after the lockdowns, which now may be under threat.”
Sustrans believes the cuts will now make it “impossible” for the UK Government to achieve its target of 50% of all journeys in English towns and cities being walked or cycled by 2030, and to be Net Zero by 2050.