Briefing note on the Department for Transport announcement of the Urban Challenge Fund and the scrapping of Congestion TIF
On Tuesday 2 March 2010, Sadiq Khan, the Minister of State for Transport announced the setting up of an Urban Challenge Fund, which would replace the Congestion Transport Innovation Fund. This fund would require…
“…Local Authorities to be bolder and more innovative in developing transport strategies.”
Money from the fund will be available to support packages which deliver a wide range of transport improvements:
Improve journey time
Lower carbon emissions
Promote healthier lifestyles through better air quality and more walking and cycling
Urban transport planning must be embedded in broader economic and spatial planning.”
It is notable that Cambridgeshire’s Congestion TIF proposals would deliver against all of these criteria, and they are certainly bold and innovative. There appears to be no firm requirement for Congestion Charging or alternative fiscal demand management in the new fund as discussed; however, there is a strong emphasis on innovation, challenge, demand management and value for money.
Government has published a discussion document and is seeking views on how the Urban Challenge fund might work by 4 June 2010. The discussion document states:
“The Transport Innovation Fund was established to support local authorities that wanted to tackle the problems of congestion in their areas through a combination of public transport improvements and congestion charging. Work by a number of authorities showed that a combination of measures was necessary to tackle the problem of congestion and could deliver wider benefits to local communities, the urban economy and environment. TIF also encouraged new thinking in a number of areas, for example on a phased and incremental approach to demand management. Its weaknesses lay in its too narrow a focus on the issue of congestion, the failure to win public acceptance for the more challenging proposals and inability to transform governance at the same time as delivering radical change. The key lessons from TIF are that building acceptance for the more challenging proposals involves recognising the importance of wider economic, social and environmental objectives, having a clear vision and planned step-by-step approach to delivering change and strengthening partnership working between the Department and cities.”
The Minister stated that Cambridgeshire and Reading had received letters on their TIF proposals. Our letter was actually received by email at 7pm on the evening of 3 March, said very little, but pointed to the announcement and the value of the work undertaken for TIF.
This was reflected in the DfT line to the press that there…
“…is clearly an opportunity for Cambridgeshire to use the TIF experience to their advantage in putting forward proposals to the new fund.”
They have also stated that they expect authorities to draw on TIF models, DaSTS work and other recent transport studies when drawing up proposals under the new fund.
Cambridgeshire appears to be well placed through its work on TIF and the Greater Cambridge DaSTS study, and through its wider work on the growth agenda, should it choose to submit proposals under the new fund.
This is the emphasis of the press release we have issued. Clearly there is disappointment at the failure to secure the TIF investment. However, we must now concentrate our energies on securing funding for Chesterton Station, and for the moment, we will anticipate doing this through the new fund.
The proposal of the Minister is that funding for the new fund would be top sliced from the Department for Transport’s budget following the next Comprehensive Spending Review. It is unclear how much funding would be available, but the indications are that for any individual authority, funding would be less than for TIF.
There is of course uncertainty as to whether a change in government would lead to a review of the proposals for the Urban Challenge Fund in period beyond May / June 2010.
Department for Transport web links
Urban Challenge Fund