A transport minister has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to active travel, including cycling and walking, in the first such announcement since Liz Truss won the Conservative Party leadership election and took over from Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.
In a written question, Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York and Shadow Minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, asked the Secretary for State for Transport whether “(s)he will introduce a funding pilot aimed at increasing the number of people who shift from using cars to public transport.”
In response, Lucy Frazer, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, said: “As set out in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, we want public transport and walking and cycling to be the natural first choice for our daily journeys.
“This shift has the potential to save significant amounts of carbon, improve air quality, and reduce noise and congestion – improving health and wellbeing for all.
“We are undertaking pilot projects which will explore new ways for how we can use our cars differently and less often,” she continued.
“For example, we have provided £92 million to fund local authorities in Solent Transport, Nottingham and Derby, West Midlands, and the West of England to become Future Transport Zones and pilot a range of innovative mode shift efforts, such as mobility as a service apps, or paying ‘mobility credits’ to people in return for giving up their cars,” she added.
Frazer, the Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, was appointed to her current ministerial position earlier this month Truss replaced Grant Shapps with Anne-Marie Trevelyan as Secretary of State for Transport.
Prior to her defeat of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak in the leadership election, Truss’s supporters had said that she was “looking forward to working with the cycling community to improve access and promote their interests.”
Responding to a question from the Conservative Friends of Cycling group, a spokesperson said: “"We have seen the growth of cycling in our cities and towns — and cycling as a healthy method of transport should continue to be promoted.
“Liz is committed to levelling up in our transport sector, working to create an environment that promotes cycling and ensures it can continue to be a huge part of our society.
"I know Liz is looking forward to working with the cycling community to improve access to cycling and promote their interests."
Former Prime Minister Johnson and Shapps unveiled the Gear Change strategy in Summer 2020 which put cycling at the heart of the government’s strategy of encouraging active travel as part of the country’s emergence from the coronavirus pandemic.
Until now, however, it has been unclear which minister at the DfT would be responsible for active travel, with no mention of it in any of their biographies on the department’s website, although it now appears that Frazer – who has previously held posts at HM Treasury and the Ministry of Justice, as well as acting as Solicitor-General – has taken it on as part of her portfolio.
Johnson and Shapps backed their pledge with a promise of £2 billion in funding for cycling and walking during the scheduled five-year lifetime of the current Parliament, with the next general election due no later than November 2024.
Whether that planned funding will be affected by the financial crisis that has engulfed the UK following Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget last week remains to be seen.