Funding shortfall leaves UK active travel goals unattainable, says new report

Posted: 9 June 2023 | | No comments yet

According to the NAO’s report, the shortcomings in funding and failure to meet walking and cycling targets not only present immediate challenges but also pose a significant obstacle to achieving the UK’s long-term sustainability goals.

Funding shortfall leaves UK active travel goals unattainable, says new report

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found that targets to promote active travel in the UK are failing due to inconsistent funding. The report states that the Department for Transport (DfT) is unlikely to achieve its objectives by 2025. According to NAO, this failure will have negative consequences for future generations, as it will hinder their ability to walk, use wheelchairs and cycle safely, resulting in poor air quality and reduced public health.

The NAO report reveals that the UK government’s target of having 46% of urban journeys walked, wheeled, or cycled within the next two years is now unattainable. The report also highlights that all activity levels related to walking and cycling, including the percentage of children aged five to 10 walking to school, have decreased since the objectives that had been set in 2017.

Campaign groups have criticised the government for consistently underfunding active travel and claim that this neglect is a missed opportunity. The report authors point out that the complex distribution of short-term funding across central government makes it challenging for local authorities to plan and execute ambitious projects.

Scottish government invests £20 million in active travel infrastructure

Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said: “It’s clear the government has back-pedalled on its promises, and is missing an easy win on the path to achieving net zero commitments, with proven benefits for public health. This report reveals that active travel objectives are in tatters, and only serves to highlight that long-term and ring-fenced investment can transform lives, if done well.”

The Walking and Cycling Alliance, consisting of campaign groups such as The Bikeability Trust, British Cycling, Cycling UK, Living Streets, Sustrans and the Ramblers, welcomed the NAO report. They are urging the government to provide evidence of the funding required to meet its targets for 2025 and 2030.

Sustrans’ Walking and Cycling Index revealed that active travel has contributed £36.5 billion to the UK economy in 2021, despite relatively modest government investment compared to other transportation modes. Furthermore, walking, wheeling and cycling reduced car usage by 14.6 million vehicles and prevented 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the index. The charity’s research also demonstrated that these active modes of transportation prevented 138,000 serious long-term health conditions and avoided over 29,000 premature deaths in 2021.