Thursday, March 25, 2010

He giveth...he taketh away...

Budget time again, and a last throw of the dice for Darling. Anything for cyclists?

On transport we have:

"I am setting up a new Green Investment Bank.
It will control £2bn worth of equity.
The fund will focus first on investing in green transport and sustainable energy, in particular offshore wind power, where Britain is already the world-leader."

So far so good-to-average. What "green transport" amounts to isn't clear at this point, but I bet it's nothing to do with cycling. It'll be something very expensive that will take decades to come to fruition.

Second up:
"I have decided to stage next month's increase in fuel duties."
So effectively, the revenue that would have been raised by the fuel duty increase will be lost. So the green tax has been replaced by, well, something else that's not green. And the disproportionate winners will be the least green - those with the biggest, thirstiest cars.So much for "investing in sustainable transport".

And lastly:
"I am providing £100m to pay for vital repairs to local roads throughout the country, and £285m to pay for improvements in the motorway network, including by expanding capacity by allowing hard shoulder running."

"Vital repairs to local roads" would have happened anyway, over time, so really that's just cash that the government would have spent anyway, out of council budgets.

"Expanding [motorway] capacity" doesn't sit well with "investing in green transport" though. Everyone knows that if you increase road capacity at one location, you increase traffic levels in general, and with it congestion, as sure as night follows day. It would make more sense to act to reduce non-essential motor journeys. You could, for example, invest in cycle infrastructure! £285M would go some way to building a half-decent cycle network (it's 10 times the Sustrans budget for FY2009), whereas invested in roads, it's just about enough to build a couple of miles of bypass, and of course the Highways Agency get it wrong when it comes to assessing the benefits of new roads. £285M translates into roadworks as far as the eye can see, and a budget deficit as far as the eye can see.

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