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Contractors criticise government transport paper

Civil engineering contractors have warned that the transport white paper focuses too little on developing infrastructure.

The local transport white paper, Creating growth, cutting carbon, published today, outlines a £560 million fund for green transport schemes.

Transport minister Norman Baker said: “Investment in local sustainable transport can deliver quick gains with both objectives, which is why, even in these difficult financial times, we are providing an unprecedented £560m to take this agenda forward.”

The paper also outlines the government’s intention to:

  • Cut red tape for councils while cutting carbon.
  • Get quick wins locally by investing in smaller scale schemes to help create jobs.
  • Give local people more power over initiating innovative transport schemes in their own areas to better meet local needs, for example supporting schemes like ‘Wheels to Work’ in North Yorkshire and Devon, which gives people in rural communities access to personal transport to get to work or training

But the Institution for Civil Engineers warned that the £560 million, which is to be divided between local authorities, was too little investment.

ICE director general Tom Foulkes said: “The availability of a pot where local authorities can bid for funding for their own sustainable transport projects is a positive step - however £560m won’t go far across 300 local authorities, especially in the context of the hefty cuts already made to local authority capital budgets.

“Empowering local authorities to make their own decisions on transport schemes must go hand in hand with a sufficient stream of funding.”

He added that “given the limited size of the fund,” government must ensure that the right bids are being approved such as those which will “further social, economic and environmental goals, both locally and nationally”.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association also questioned the government’s plans, saying they were too focused on non-infrastructure related projects.

CECA national director Rosemary Beales said: “The coalition government has said that its first priority must be to return the UK’s economy to growth. Today’s local transport white paper looks at the contribution that local transport provision can make to achieve economic growth.

“There are major opportunities at the local level to tackle blackspots and increase capacity but the white paper seems to be focused on non-infrastructure related investment.

“The local sustainable transport fund offers huge potential to deliver significant improvements to our transport system. With £560 million to spend, it is vital that the funding targets those projects that will have the greatest contribution to growth. We believe that such lasting returns on investment will most likely be found through targeted investment to upgrade and improve the physical infrastructure of our local transport system.”

Launching the white paper, Mr Baker said: “We are clear you can have your green cake and eat it. Money invested wisely in local transport initiatives can both help the economy and cut carbon. It’s a win-win for local people and for the country as a whole.

“I look forward to working with local authorities and others as we take on this challenge and believe together we can make genuinely sustainable transport a reality for everyone.”

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