Chancellor Philip Hammond continued the Government policy of investing in transport networks to help lay a foundation for increased growth and productivity, with billions being released for road and rail as well as a continuation of the fuel duty freeze.
Mr Hammond committed £1.1bn to English local roads and transport networks ‘where small investment can often achieve big wins’ together with the allocation of £1.8bn from the Local Growth Fund to the English regions.
There will also be business case development funding for six successful bids to the latest round of the Local Majors Fund:
· Suffolk Energy Gateway new road
· A1079/A164 Jocks Lodge Junction
· Shrewsbury North West Relief Road
· Tees Valley East-West connections
· Sheffield Mass Transit Scheme
· Warrington Waterfront western link
Included in specific plans was a major boost in funding for the south east region operating between Cambridge and Oxford in the area of England’s Economic Heartland - the prospective sub-national transport body - with an announcement of around £100m to ‘accelerate construction of the East West Rail line western section’ and £10m of development funding for the central rail section.
There was also a widely trailed £27m commitment to the Cambridge to Oxford expressway road recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.
There will also be £450m to trial digital signalling to achieve better reliability and to help boost capacity, as well as £220m to tackle pinch-points on Highways England’s strategic roads.
Treasury officials revealed some of the schemes the sector can expect in Highways England’s second Roads Investment Strategy (2020 to 2025), include dualling the A66 and improvements to the M60 North West quadrant.
The Government will ‘continue to examine the case for improvements to the A1 in the East of England, and for improving connectivity between Sheffield and Manchester’, the Treasury said.
Mr Hammond also committed £5m of development funding for the Midlands Rail Hub, ‘a programme of rail interventions in and around central Birmingham that could provide up to 10 additional trains per hour’. And there was the announcement of £390m ‘to build on our competitive advantage in low emission vehicles and the development of connected autonomous vehicles’.
Treasury officials confirmed this includes ‘£80m for charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and Enhanced Capital Allowances for businesses investing in new charge points, £150m in support for low emission buses and taxis, £40m of further support for the Plug-In-Car Grant, £20m for the development of alternative fuels for HGVs and aviation, and £100m for new connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) testing infrastructure’.
Fuel duty was frozen for the seventh successive year, ‘which means the current fuel duty freeze is the longest for 40 years’, Mr Hammond said.
The tax freeze is worth £850m next year and would save the average car driver £130 a year and the average van driver £150 a year, according to the chancellor.
The Government committed £150m to improve transport flood resilience - including £100m ‘to make roads more resilient to flooding’ with areas that suffered from flooding last in line for a major share of the cash. The remaining £50m will be invested in rail resilience projects, including in Axe Valley (Devon), and Dawlish line.
Finally £80m will be allocated to accelerate the roll-out of smart ticketing, including season tickets for commuters in the UK’s major cities.