Ellie Ames 03 November 2023

MPs criticise ‘disappointingly slow’ progress on active travel

MPs criticise ‘disappointingly slow’ progress on active travel image
Image: Canetti / Shutterstock.com

The Government is not on track to meet its active travel targets, with funding uncertainty hampering councils’ efforts, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said.

MPs have followed up a National Audit Office report published in June, which found that the Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to cut active travel funding by £233m up to April 2025 meant it was unlikely to ‘get close’ to achieving objectives set for 2025.

The PAC has described ‘disappointingly slow progress’ on the objectives, which include doubling cycling rates and increasing the proportion of children walking to school by six percentage points.

There has been ‘no sustained increase’ in cycling and fewer children now walk to school than when targets were set.

The PAC warned that the impact and quality of £2.3bn spent on active travel infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 remained ‘unclear’ because the cost of most projects was below the threshold at which local authorities are required to evaluate them.

It called on the DfT to lay out its plans to evaluate active travel interventions by December.

The PAC’s inquiry heard that councils’ efforts to deliver successful interventions were hindered by ‘considerable uncertainty’ in available funding, which it found was available through multiple routes, often short-term, and provided at late notice.

Local Government Association transport spokesperson Darren Rodwell said: ‘Councils share the Government’s ambition to increase cycling and walking rates and echo the committee’s call for councils to have greater certainty around funding to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions from transport.’

A DfT spokesperson said: ‘We absolutely understand the importance of active travel, which is why we’ve invested a record £3bn to deliver better walking, wheeling and cycling schemes to people and places across the UK.’

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