Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced a major local funding boost to tackle congestion in his first Budget, with a £690m competitive fund for English councils to “get local networks moving”.
The Treasury announced that £490m of this cash would be made available by early autumn 2017, giving the Department for Transport a much needed quick win after the Southern rail debacle.
A further £90m will be allocated to the North and more than £23m for the Midlands from a £220m fund to improve congestion ‘pinch points’ on national roads, announced in the last Autumn Statement.
Details of individual schemes from this fund will be announced by DfT shortly.
Mr Hammond also allocated £270m, “to keep UK at the front of disruptive technology”, including driverless cars.
The cash would also go towards helping the UK lead the world “in the development, design and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles, helping to tackle air pollution”.
The Midlands Engine strategy will be released tomorrow (9 March) Mr Hammond said, while the Budget document states: “The government is also in discussions with Greater Manchester on future transport funding.”
‘I am freezing for another year both the VED rates for hauliers and the HGV Road User Levy,’ the chancellor told the House.
However Treasury officials confirmed that from 1 April 2017, vehicle excise duty rates for cars, vans and motorcycles registered before April 2017 will increase by Retail Prices Index (RPI).
VED for HGVs and the Road User Levy rates will be frozen from 1 April 2017.
“A call for evidence on updating the existing HGV Road User Levy will be launched this spring. The Government will work with industry to update the Levy so that it rewards hauliers that plan their routes efficiently, to incentivise the efficient use of roads and improve air quality,” the Budget document states.
It adds: ‘The Government will continue to explore the appropriate tax treatment for diesel vehicles, and will engage with stakeholders ahead of making any tax changes at Autumn Budget 2017.”
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: ‘The chancellor has fired a warning shot to diesel drivers, with the suggestion in the Budget document that a new tax regime covering diesel drivers could be introduced before the end of the year. This uncertainty is bound to be of concern to private and business motorists alike, who will be wanting urgent clarity on just what the Government plan to do.”
On the £690m fund for local authorities to tackle congestion, Bizley added, “What we certainly don’t want to see is a situation where local authorities have to take part in an expensive, protracted process simply to have the funds they need to sort out well known bottlenecks on our town and city centre roads.”
John Hicks, Director and Head of Government & Public, AECOM called the spending, “A step in the right direction,” but said that, “funds will only be available over time and its impact may be lost if the idea is not expedited once local institutions make the call.”