Motorists safe for now from Comprehensive Spending Review
The axe may have fallen heavily across Westminster, but it seems for the moment that motorists have escaped lightly from the swingeing cuts.
Chancellor George Osborne announced that the government was keeping its commitment to £10bn of investment in road schemes, but the Department for Transport will have to find savings of 21 percent on its budget. These will be announced in detail next week.
The £10bn will be spent on improvements to various trunk roads, including the introduction of hard shoulder running on parts of the M1, M4, M5 and M62 as well as the widening of the M25 between ten key junctions.
Bad news for commuters came in the form of London rail fares that will rise 3 percent over inflation for the next three years and the announcement that the Dartford Crossing toll will rise by 66 percent of the next two years to £2.50.
The £5000 grant for buyers of electric vehicles remains until it is due for review in March 2012 and the congestion zone in London has been altered – although the charge will go up by £2 a day in the New Year, the western extension zone through Kensington and Knightsbridge has been scrapped.
Exemption from the congestion charge will now be available for cars emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 and meeting Euro 5 emissions regulations as well electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. This now means that for example older models of the Toyota Prius and larger hybrids like the Lexus RX400h will no longer enjoy exemption.
The government also confirmed its commitment to spending £14bn on the High Speed 2 rail link between London and the Midlands.
AA president Edmund King had strong words to say on the matter: "The Government appears to be suffering from 'tunnel vision' by continuing to extol the virtues of high speed rail which will do nothing or very little to reduce road congestion or help the environment or the economy."
"The economy depends on good road links so cutting road expenditure and maintenance too far would backfire and lead to crumbling roads, more congestion and more accidents."
Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motorists sounded a warning: "Budget cuts may be necessary but their cumulative effect on the emergency services and local highway authorities may make it more difficult to sustain past successes. It would be an awful legacy if budget cuts slowed or reversed the trend to less death and injury on the road."