BUDGET: Cash for cities, but aviation prioritised over high-speed rail

Seven English city regions outside London are to receive a share of some £6.9 billion worth of transport investment announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Autumn Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review on October 27.

Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire are among the metropolitan areas to benefit from what Sunak described as “London-style transport settlements” to expand tram systems and bus services, upgrade stations and order new rolling stock (see below).

As some £4.2bn already stems from an announcement made in 2019 to provide City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements, Sunak admitted on Sky TV’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday show on October 24 that government had “topped that up by £1.5bn”.

The funding allocations have nonetheless been welcomed by local leaders including Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram. 

The Chancellor’s green credentials were also heavily criticised by his Labour counterpart Rachel Reeves. 

This was in reference to the Government’s failure to publish the long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan alongside the budget while at the same time announcing environmentally harmful policies to freeze road fuel duty and cut Air Passenger Duty (APD) for domestic flights.

The Campaign for Better Transport called it “utterly wrong-headed” to cut APD in the midst of a ‘climate emergency’ while TSSA Union General Secretary Manuel Cortes said that Britain would no longer “have the moral authority to lecture the rest of the world on reducing their carbon footprint” at the forthcoming COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow.
The Railway Industry Association described the budget as “a missed opportunity to unleash the potential of the railway” while Rail Delivery Group Director General Andy Bagnall added: "Investment to improve connectivity between the nations of the UK is welcome and flying has its place. But if the government is serious about the environment, it makes little sense to cut air passenger duty on routes where a journey in Britain can already be made by train in under five hours.
“Our analysis shows this will lead to an extra 1,000 flights a year as 222,000 passengers shift from rail to air. This is disappointing and comes at a time when the industry is working hard to encourage people back to rail travel and build a financially sustainable future.”

How will the money be spent?

  • £1.07bn to Greater Manchester for schemes including the next generation of tram-train vehicles
  • £1.05bn to the West Midlands for completion of the Wednesbury-Brierley Hill Metro extension
  • £830m to West Yorkshire for schemes including A61 improvements for buses and cyclists
  • £710m to Liverpool for new and renovated stations in Liverpool and Runcorn, a new interchange in St Helens and battery powered train to expand the Merseyrail network
  • £570m to South Yorkshire to commence a Supertram renewal project
  • £540m to the West of England for a prioritised bus route from Bristol-Bath
  • £310m to Tees Valley to improve rail links and upgrade Middlesbrough and Darlington stations


  • More in RAIL 943, on sale digitally October 30 and in print November 3.

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  • David Hunt. - 28/10/2021 10:16

    Absolute madness to promote domestic air travel in our small country.We should be helping the planet and our environment,not increasing the damage to it,there is no need for any domestic air travel in this country.As for a bus route from Bristol to Bath,it should be light rail or trams,on the old Midland railway route.Bristol is way behind the other cities,not having a tram system.

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  • Melvyn - 28/10/2021 11:47

    Rather ironic given London style funding and services is thanks to former Greater London Council leader Ken Livingstone who opposed the privatisation of buses forced on the rest of the country under Thatcher government . Which destroyed bus services in many places as it encouraged “ Arthur Dailey” services where someone run a coach to provide services in rush hours thus creaming off the profits which cross subsidised evening and weekend services! I noticed this was the only mention of London as there was no funding announcement for London !

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  • James - 29/10/2021 09:40

    Trains are too slow to Edinburgh from London. Only railway lovers believe 4 hours 30 is acceptable. It isn’t! Flying is much faster even with connections and waiting required. Unless you push for faster speeds then don’t expect people to change to the train - especially with the appalling staff now and politically tense environment on board. I don’t want politics with my journey.

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