The Chancellor is yet to signal a transport offer to deliver transformational change for the UK’s regions

Partner and UK Head of Transport Ed Thomas comments on the Budget

Partner and UK Head of Transport Ed Thomas comments on the Budget

Commenting on today’s Budget, Ed Thomas, UK head of transport at KPMG, said:

“While the theme of levelling up runs throughout the Budget, the Chancellor is yet to signal a transport offer that will deliver transformational change for connecting the UK’s regions. This is evident in the £6.9 billion of transport investment for Mayoral city regions outside London  - it is largely funding that has been previously announced – for example the £4.2 billion “City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements” and £1.2 billion of the £3 billion that the Government had set already aside for spending on a "bus revolution". This leaves potentially £1.5 billion of genuinely new money, although there is also speculation that some of this represents a re-packaging of existing funding for smaller capital schemes.

“These five-year settlements provide places with very welcome - and indeed long overdue - medium-term funding certainty to bridge the gap which will enable them to plan and invest in their rail, metro, bus and cycle networks in a far more strategic and integrated way. However, while an important first step, city regions will see the scale of funding available falling short of what’s really needed to level up their local economies and decarbonise their transport systems. The funding is also limited to capital schemes, leaving open the question of how bus services – which represent the backbone of local public transport in these city regions – will be sustained and enhanced in the coming years.

 “As expected, the Budget stopped short of confirming the way forward on Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 Phase 2b – in particular the future of the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds – with the Chancellor promising that the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan will be “published soon”. Given its aim of setting out a strategy for rail investment in the North and Midlands for future decades, the Integrated Rail Plan represents a key test of the Government’s ambition for levelling up and city region leaders will be giving it sharp attention in the coming weeks.

“The Chancellor’s announcement that the first tax sites at the Humber, Teesside and Thames Freeports will start to become operational from next month is a welcome step in encouraging new investment and economic growth. However, it’s important that the Government also supports the five other Freeports in England to become operational quickly if we are to maximise the investment and growth opportunities that will be key to achieving levelling up objectives. Furthermore, with some Freeports in England about to go live, it is notable that competitions to identify locations in other parts of the UK haven’t even started yet. The UK Government and the Devolved Administrations need to work together to rectify this as quickly as possible.

“And finally, the Government’s investment of £360million for modernisation of the UK’s outdated and overly complex rail ticketing and retailing system, including introducing Pay as You Go outside of London, shows that it is now serious about tackling this issue. The case for doing this is overwhelming to meet customer needs. This modernisation is part of a wider set of reforms trailed in the Williams Review to bring about a more efficient and customer-focussed railway, and will deliver some of the first tangible benefits.”




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