Government will miss carbon reduction objectives and levelling up goals without more local transport spending, warn city regions

Press release

The Government will fail to meet its objectives around carbon reduction and levelling up unless it increases spending on local transport as part of the Spending Review.

That is the warning from transport bodies in the seven largest UK city regions (Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, London, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands), which collectively form the Urban Transport Group.

In a submission to the Treasury ahead of the Spending Review next month, the Urban Transport Group said that “incremental policy change” will not be sufficient to deliver the scale of modal shift and investment in zero emission vehicles that is needed to meet decarbonisation goals. Cycling levels remain stubbornly low, at just 2% of trips (in 2019), while the car continues to dominate trip share at 61% of trips (in 2019).

The cities also highlighted how local public transport networks, which are vital in supporting the Government’s £4.8 billion programme of levelling up, are becoming less available and more expensive, leaving some people isolated from opportunities and wider society. For example, local authority supported bus miles (socially necessary services) have fallen from 243 million miles in 2010/11 to 103 million miles in 2019/20. 

Both bus patronage and the size of bus networks are also likely to remain at levels well below what they were before the COVID-19 pandemic (when patronage and network size were already at an all-time low) without additional funding. This was a key message in the Group’s Back the Bus to Level Up report, which was published earlier this month.

Laura Shoaf, Chair of the Urban Transport Group, said:

“The UK’s ambition to decarbonise at pace starts on our cities’ streets: increasing the use of public transport, encouraging more walking and cycling, and shifting to decarbonised vehicle fleets. Without greater spending on local transport, this ambition - and the specific objectives of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan and national bus and active travel strategies - will not be achieved.

“By prioritising spending on local urban transport in the upcoming Spending Review, Government can deliver on its high level aspirations by creating and supporting jobs in enhanced public transport networks, supporting levelling up by ensuring that all communities have access to opportunity, and accelerating the decarbonisation of urban transport. At the same time, it can improve the resilience of urban areas by making transport systems more resilient to the extreme weather that is already occurring as a result of climate change.”

The Urban Transport Group is calling on Government to make the most efficient use of additional funding by:

  • delivering consolidated, long term and enhanced funding for local transport  
  • reforming the way in which bus services are supported
  • fully empowering city region transport authorities so they can direct funding where it will be most effective given local circumstances and aspirations.