England’s 1/3 active travel budget cuts leave ‘net zero in tatters’

Discreetly announced by Transport Secretary Mark Harper, active travel budget cuts are set to hit hard. Campaigners are now attempting to force a u-turn, insisting the move makes a mockery of environmental posturing. 

According to the UK’s national walking, wheeling and cycling charity Sustrans, reducing the budget for active travel across the England from £308m to £100m over two years has laid waste to net zero hopes. The drop in support means the sector will receive just 0.08% of the overall transport budget for England. 

active travel budget cuts

The move comes despite the recent review of net zero strategy conducted by Chris Skidmore MP, which urged Government to commit ‘long-term funding for active travel, to ensure that more people will benefit’. According to the 2021 Walking & Cycling Index, people-powered transport helped take 14.6m cars off the road, preventing  2.5m tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere that year. 

While removing the necessary funds to continue with the large-scale expansion and maintenance of active travel infrastructure, the Department for Transport still has a target of making 50% of all journeys through towns and cities ‘active’ by 2030. The same year, a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine cars begins.

As Sustrans points out, though, even if all vehicles hitting UK roads for the first time were ultra-low emissions models by then, we would still need to reduce mileage by somewhere between 10 and 20% to stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, as per the Paris Agreement. Climate change aside, estimates suggest that if the Government meets its own goal of doubling active travel infrastructure each year, within a decade the economy would save £5.67bn through health and social care. 

‘We must look at the bigger picture. These sums may be tiny compared to the billions spent on building roads, but with the Government’s goal to reach net zero by 2050 now in tatters this will have a devastating impact on future generations,’ said Xavier Brice, Sustrans CEO. ‘How can the Government honestly think this is for the benefit of today’s children and tomorrow’s adults?

‘We’ve seen in shows such as David Attenborough’s Wild Isles the impact that humanity is having on the UK environment and how the nature around us is suffering. This decision is only going to make that worse as the choice to travel healthily, cheaply, and emissions-free becomes limited,’ Brice continued. ‘We can’t afford to kick the can down the road if we are to reach the essential goal of Net Zero and protect our planet for future generations.’

A campaign has now begun, asking members of the public to content the Secretary of State for Transport in a bid to pressure him into reversing the decision. You can find more information here

Image: Lance Grandahl

More on transport and the environment: 

Can public right of way play into the country’s net zero ambitions?

Exploring Oxford, the UK’s EV infrastructure capital

Gloucestershire councils trailblazing commitment to decarbonise transport

Manchester’s new strategy aims to make walking the ‘natural choice’

Lack of cycling infrastructure leaves Brits dependent on cars


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