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Sustrans on the budget - "not green"

April 30, 2009 10:24 AM

A 'green budget' was anticipated this week, but Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, says Budget 2009 was a series of missed opportunities.

The Chancellor has set the World's first carbon budget, committing Britain to a 34% reduction of its carbon emissions by 2020, a move welcomed by Sustrans.

However, for this target to be met, the transport sector - as the fastest growth source of emissions, with road transport currently accounting for one fifth of total UK greenhouse gas emissions - must play a key role. This means improving travel options and making walking and cycling the natural choice for local journeys.

Jason Torrance, Sustrans' Policy Manager, said: 'The budget was an ideal opportunity to support improvements for public transport, and for walking and cycling schemes, that would allow low-carbon economic recovery.'

'But, the measures announced in the budget will deepen the nation's reliance on car travel, and do nothing to improve local environments, health, road safety or travel choice.'

A disastrous initiative announced in the budget is the vehicle scrappage scheme, which Alastair Darling confirmed will operate from next month until March 2010, with £300 million of Government funding.

Jason continued: 'The scrappage scheme is a catastrophic knee-jerk reaction to the recession, which ignores congestion and climate change and could amount to nothing more than a large hand-out to car manufacturers overseas.'

Sustrans has already suggested alternative ways for the scrappage money to be spent that would bring about substantial, long-term benefits to the environment and health.

These include redesigning public space in ways that encourage people to use their cars less, developing safer routes for walking and cycling, and providing travel advice to make it easier for people to switch to greener, healthier ways of travelling when and where it suits them best.

A £250 million investment in electric cars announced in the budget is equally misguided, say Sustrans, and will further embed car-based travel in our society.

The Chancellor revealed that fuel duty will increase by two-pence per litre from September this year. However, current realities see the cost of private motoring falling in real terms, while the cost of public transport is increasing. The revenue raised from fuel duty must be invested in improving public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure to enable people to have real travel choice.

Jason concluded: 'As families struggle with finances here in the UK, it's disappointing that the government has not committed to improving local travel choices for people and alternatives to car travel which will save us money now and for years to come.'