Mr Speaker, with your permission I should like to make a statement to accompany the publication today (19 March 2011) of the coalition government’s white paper on local transport, and the simultaneous publication of bidding guidance to accompany our new Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Both documents are available to colleagues in the vote office and have been placed in the library of the house.
This government’s vision is for a transport system that helps create growth in the economy, and tackles climate change by cutting our carbon emissions.
The launch of this white paper, and the associated Local Sustainable Transport Fund, represents a significant step towards meeting these 2 key government objectives.
In both the budget and the spending review, the Chancellor pledged to make the tough choices that will allow us to maintain investment in new and existing infrastructure to support a growing economy, while eliminating the structural deficit over the lifetime of the parliament.
The spending review reflected transport’s vital role in this: I am pleased that we were able to secure significant investment to allow us to go ahead with important transport initiatives. The investment we have committed to in rail, low carbon vehicles and public and sustainable transport reflects the determination to secure growth while cutting carbon.
In the medium term, our transport decarbonisation strategy centres around the progressive electrification of the passenger car fleet, supported by policies to increase generation capacity and decarbonise the grid. By also prioritising spending on key rail projects such as high speed rail and rail electrification, we will be providing travellers with attractive new options instead of the plane and car.
In the immediate term, addressing shorter, local trips offers huge potential in helping to grow the economy and tackle climate change. Shorter trips are important - two-thirds of all journeys are under 5 miles. Walking, cycling and public transport are all real, greener alternatives for such trips.
What’s more, we know that people who travel to the shops on foot, by bicycle or by public transport can spend more per head than those who travel by car - and research shows that improvements to the public realm can increase turnover in the high street by 5 to 15%. Increased sustainable travel also helps tackle congestion, which is a drag on business causing excess delays in urban areas at a cost of around £11 billion per annum.
And let us not forget the further benefits that follow a shift to more sustainable transport - benefits to the air we breathe, to our levels of fitness, and the money in our pockets as well. Investment in sustainable transport helps make our towns and cities healthier and more attractive places to live, work and shop.
This white paper sets out how we can encourage the uptake of more sustainable modes at local level, and the unprecedented £560 million we have allocated in our new Local Sustainable Transport Fund will support this. Our commitment to helping local authorities with this vital agenda is reaffirmed by the amount of money we are making available.
The Local Sustainable Transport Fund forms part of a wider picture of more streamlined and simplified funding to local authorities. This will give local authorities more power and flexibility to meet local transport needs.
Across government we have demonstrated our commitment to ending the top-down decision making, and the tendency in Whitehall to develop one-size-fits-all solutions which ignore the specific needs and behaviour patterns of local communities.
The government has already taken significant steps to hand back power to local communities. These include replacing regional development agencies with local enterprise partnerships, giving communities a much greater say over planning decisions and ending the top-down imposition of housing targets.
Today’s (19 March 2011) white paper is about extending the decentralisation of power to local transport, putting into context what this means for local authorities.
We are particularly keen to receive bids for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund from local authorities who are in partnership with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, and have the support of local businesses. We believe that by encouraging bids in this way, we will be able to capture innovative solutions to local transport needs in all areas, rural and urban.
An example I often quote is the Cuckmere community bus in my own constituency. Individual residents in the Cuckmere Valley have come together to run regular and frequent bus services, taking people in rural areas to their nearest towns. These services are provided entirely by volunteers.
‘Wheels to Work’ schemes provide transport to people who are unable to access training, employment or education, due to a lack of suitable public or private transport. Schemes can, therefore, particularly benefit people living in isolated rural communities and can play an important part in helping people to come off benefits and regain their independence.
These are real examples, happening right now, and we want to enable similar stories to unfold in other areas across the country.
In addition, we also recognise that there are some initiatives that benefit from a single national approach.
- providing £11 million funding for Bikeability cycle training next year, to allow 275,000 10 to 11 year olds to benefit from ‘on-road’ cycle training. And a commitment to support Bikeability for the duration of this parliament, which will allow as many children as possible to undertake high quality cycle training
- improving end-to-end journeys by encouraging transport operators, and those involved in promoting cycling and car clubs or sharing, to work together, to provide better information and integrate tickets and timetables
- delivering, with operators and public sector bodies, the infrastructure to enable most local public transport journeys to be undertaken using smart ticketing by December 2014. We will work with the transport industry to support the development of e-purses and other technology related to smart ticketing and support the infrastructure to make this happen
- reviewing the way in which transport investment decisions are made to ensure that the carbon implications are fully recognised
- transferring responsibility for local roads classification to local authorities, giving them the flexibility to determine the status of their roads
- setting out in a strategic framework for road safety, by spring 2011, how to ensure that Britain’s roads are among the world’s safest
- modernising traffic signs policy so as to provide more flexibility and reduced costs and bureaucracy for local authorities to enable them to develop innovative traffic management solutions
Mr Speaker, we want to build a transport system that is an engine for economic growth but one that is also greener.
One that creates growth and cuts carbon.
By improving the links that move goods and people around, encouraging people to travel sustainably, and targeting investment in new projects that promote green growth, we can help to build the balanced, dynamic low carbon economy that is essential for our future prosperity.
This white paper, with the associated Local Sustainable Transport Fund, demonstrates our commitment to taking this agenda forward.
I commend it to the House.