Government budget cuts make net zero target ‘impossible’ say cycling groups

Cuts of hundreds of millions of pounds were buried alongside delays to HS2 rail project

Green lights cycling
(Image credit: John Keeble / Getty Images)

British Cycling, Cycling UK and Sustrans have joined a chorus of campaign groups slamming the government’s decision to cut its planned spending on cycling and walking projects in England.

Yesterday, buried alongside an announcement of delays to the troubled HS2 rail project, the government announced plans to cut its investment in cycling and walking infrastructure.

The exact size of the cut was unclear from the government’s announcement but umbrella organisation The Walking and Cycling Alliance, which includes British Cycling, Sustrans and Cycling UK among others, estimated it amounted to a cut of around two thirds.

Following the government's announcement, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking estimated the government would now spend  £330m on projects for walking and cycling between 2021 and 2025, down from £710m announced in the last government spending review for the period.

The Walking and Cycling Alliance said the cut was “heart-breaking”. It added: “Active travel budgets are being wiped away in England at the exact time when they are most essential to UK economic, social and environmental prospects.

“It simply doesn’t make sense to withdraw investment in active travel at this time, particularly as it contributed £36.5 billion to the UK economy in 2021.”

It said the “two thirds” cut in capital investment in cycling and walking infrastructure was a “backwards move” and would “counteract the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent years”.

It continued: “These cuts will leave England lagging far behind other UK nations and London, at a time when we need to be raising the bar everywhere.

“Promised government targets of 50% of all journeys in English towns and cities being walked or cycled by 2030, and for the UK to be Net Zero by 2050, are made impossible by these cuts.”

Announcing the cuts yesterday in a written statement to Parliament transport minister Mark Harper said: “We have seen headwinds from inflation, triggered by the impact of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, as well as supply chain disruption as the global economy recovers from the effects of Covid.

“These headwinds have made it difficult to deliver on our capital programmes, and we recognise that some schemes are going to take longer than expected.”

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.