A joint letter to the PM following cuts to the Active Travel fund
The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change joined several organisations to support a letter addressed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on 14th March 2023 regarding reversing cuts to the active travel funds. As outlined in the letter, the overall funds have been drastically reduced from £3.8 billion to £3 billion and more than £200 million cut to develop infrastructure to support active travel. This comes at a time when the nation is in the middle of a cost-of-living and NHS crisis, which would be further exacerbated by the ongoing climate crises.
Active travel, that is cycling and walking, is beneficial to health and planetary health. The transport sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (24%) in the UK and we need to shift from motorised transport to active travel as the primary mode of transport to achieve the net-zero 2050 targets. Further, active travel helps improve health through increased physical activity and improved air quality. From an equity perspective, it would help empower women, children, the elderly, people with disability and the economically deprived who are unable to drive or afford cars. The economic benefits from active travel in 2021 are estimated to be £36.5 billion, about 10 times the invested amount.
For active travel to become the primary mode of transport in the UK, we need capital investment to develop infrastructure, create awareness and support the transition away from motorised vehicles for the majority of the population. The recent cuts also push us further away from achieving the government’s targets of achieving 50% of all journeys to be made through cycling or walking by 2030. Thus, it is a disappointing and backward decision from the health, climate change, environmental and economic perspectives.