In today’s Cabinet reshuffle, PM David Cameron has moved Justine Greening away from the Department for Transport (her views on Heathrow expansion were at odds with possible forthcoming announcements on airport expasion) and in her place has appointed Patrick McLoughlin, the Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales. McLoughlin – seen next to a bike in this pic (he’s on the right, both socks tucked in) – has been the Tory Chief Whip since 2010. He had a minor role in the Department for Transport in John Major’s tenure as PM.
Later this week the Coaltion Government is expected to announce new spending plans to boost the economy, including new infrastucture projects. The car lobby will be pushing for more roads to be built and existing ones to be "improved" and all the indications are that motorway and dual carriageway projects previously put on hold will now restarted.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association is just one of the many bodies which is calling on the Government to spend more on car journeys. In Infrastructure: the Routemap for Growth, CECA argues that
"Over 90 per cent of journeys in the UK are made by road, so it is essential that they are invested in and maintained. Our road network must be safe and sustainable with new roads built when necessary to meet the needs of an increasing, car-dependent population and able to support business growth."
CECA also calls on the Government to commit to a "firm programme for the nationwide roll-out of ultra-low emission vehicle infrastructure." No, this doesn’t mean separated bicycle infrastructrure it means charging points for electric cars despite the fact consumers, even when bribed with £5000 sweeteners, are not buying electric cars in the numbers predicted by Government.
CECA wants the Government to develop cross-party consensus on nationally-significant infrastructure policy and a long-term delivery programme.
CECA director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: "Governments in Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff have all published plans which recognise the importance of infrastructure to the economy, and have begun to prepare the ground for long-term investor confidence.
"Too often the overriding need for infrastructure is blocked by short-term politics. We want to see all sides recognise the vital need to improve the UK’s transport and utility networks should rise above party politics."
However, the Government is also being pressed to recognise that building more and more roads is actually not that good an investment in mobility, health or clean air.
Last month think-tank Institute for Public Policy Research released a report arguing that less should be spent on highly-subsidised motorists and more should be spent on walking, cycling and public transport.
The IPPR’s report said that the "so-called ‘war on motoring’ is a myth, and that private motoring costs have risen less than the general cost of living over the past 20 years."
IPPR argued that "new ways should be found to reduce the non-motoring costs – the externalities – caused by road traffic," and that Government should encourage "modal shifts away from driving and towards more sustainable forms of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport."