BUDGET 2017

 

In 2010, Philip Hammond said the ‘war on the motorist’ had ended. Now he wants a war on congestion

 

By Robert Jack

The launch of a £690m competition for local authorities across England to tackle urban congestion and “get local transport networks moving again” was a welcome surprise in chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget this week. We don’t yet know the details – they will be announced shortly by transport secretary Chris Grayling – but we must assume that enhanced public transport will be at the heart of this initiative. How else can the objective of tackling urban congestion be achieved? It can’t be new roads.

Back in 2010, when the coalition took power in Westminster, Hammond was appointed secretary of state for transport. He immediately declared that the “war on the motorist” was over. But now, as chancellor, Hammond is concerned that congestion in urban areas is one of the barriers to productivity growth. “The stats are well known. We are 35% behind Germany and 18% behind the G7 average,” he told parliament. “And the gap is not closing.”

By declaring war on congestion, Hammond doesn’t have to declare war on the motorist – but he won’t get very far unless he is willing to embrace car constraint. Road user pricing or congestion charging schemes seem unlikely to be on the agenda, but some reallocation of road space towards public transport must be. Transport authorities and operators must now come together to show that they have solid plans to tackle urban congestion – and boost productivity.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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