Key Autumn Budget Announcements for the UK Rail and Bus Sectors
Whilst the Autumn Budget and Spending Review made a few announcements on changes to Air Passenger Duty and financial support for English airports, this article focuses on the key announcements for domestic rail and bus sectors.
The main headlines include:
- £5.7bn over five years for City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements, funding projects such as the Sheffield Supertram renewal and the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro extension
- £360m to modernise ticketing and retail systems, including Pay as You Go ticketing to passengers outside London
- £250m to begin the mobilisation of Great British Railways (GBR) as part of the implementation of the Williams-Shapps review published earlier this year
- £3bn of bus investment, including £1.2bn of new funding to deliver London-style bus transformation deals for: Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, The Tees Valley, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, West Midlands and West of England. A white paper can be looked forward to and this will provide detail as to how this ambition is to be achieved
- £355m of new funding for zero emission buses, with £70m allocated to zero emission buses and infrastructure in Warrington, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Kent, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
A significant question at the present time is the basis upon which the balance of the £3bn committed to local transport investment is to be allocated across numerous local authorities competing for the funding. All will have submitted by 31 October Bus Service Improvement Plans which are to be reviewed by DfT and funding allocated in response to the bids received.
For the rail sector, the absence of the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan has been widely criticised as the industry expected this to be delivered alongside the Budget and Spending Review. The Integrated Rail Plan is eagerly awaited in order to provide clarity on how a number of projects are to be delivered, and it is widely expected to confirm whether the eastern leg of HS1 will be cancelled or delayed. The Integrated Rail Plan is now expected to be published in November 2021.
The lack of detail over how the Budget and Spending Review will support the transition to net zero has also been noted by the transport sector, particularly with COP26 upon us. Indeed, aviation sector commentators have said that the reduction on domestic Air Passenger Duty could be seen as counter intuitive. The Budget and Spending Review did however mention the National Infrastructure Commission’s “additional objective” to consider how it can support the transition to net zero, and includes:
- £620m of additional investment to support the transition to electric vehicles, to be spent on public chargepoints in residential areas and targeted plug-in vehicle grants
- £180m to support the development of sustainable aviation fuel plants and a testing and certification centre
- £300m for R&D programmes to help commercialise low and zero emission technologies, including trials of three zero emission HGV technologies on UK roads and a multi-year clean maritime demonstration competition.
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