24 September 2010

DfT Funding Agreed

Transport writer Christian Wolmar believes that the Department for Transport has already agreed its new budget, as a result of the forthcoming Spending Review and that it has been signed-off by Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond.

Being more a railway man, Wolmar's comments regarding what elements are likely to hit other transport modes are somewhat vague, though each can be elaborated:

Watch out for cuts in bus support – poss increasing the age of the pensioners’ pass – cutting back on roads investment, fuel tax rises and VED increases, disguised to fit along environmental lines.

While the Tories chose to guarantee the free bus pass during the election campaign, they did not state that elements concerning its validity would remain unaltered. Fuel tax rises will include the thorny issue of BSOG and the likely cost any alteration to its calculation being passed on to passengers, especially those in rural communities where Tory support is strongest. Vehicle excise duty increases will hit anything with wheels and a tax disc - buses and coaches obviously not being exempt here.

Why has the DfT's bag of cash - assumed to be in the region of £17 billion - been agreed so early? Wolmar muses: "Hammond never wanted to be Transport Secretary. He is a Treasury man through and through.." So, Hammond's done the quickest deal he can, to then enable him to "jump over the table" to "sit alongside Osbourne and Alexander pronouncing on the budgets of other departments."

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