Headlines: March 3rd, 2010

City and local authority leaders are being challenged to be bolder and more innovative in developing transport strategies. They have been told they will benefit from a new funding package only if they come up with proposals that meet a number of criteria, including giving travellers more choice and cutting carbon emissions.

The Transport Minister Sadiq Khan issued the challenge as he launched the Urban Challenge Fund, which will support measures to deliver transport improvements. The proposed fund has already been criticised by campaigners who said cuts were still more likely than improvements.

Mr. Khan said cities would be eligible to receive money from the fund if they could show their plans would tackle congestion, improve safety, increase journey choice, lower carbon emissions and promote healthier lifestyles through better air quality and more walking and cycling.

The fund will replace the Congestion Transport Innovation Fund which was set up to help towns and cities to tackle congestion through local road pricing schemes. The Government hopes the new approach will stimulate greater innovation among local authorities and appeal to a broader range of cities.

Sadiq Khan said: “Given the environmental and financial challenges we face, it is more important than ever that urban transport planning is embedded in broader economic and spatial planning. That sounds obvious, but the extent to which urban authorities have been successful in doing this varies tremendously,” he added.

The Campaign for Better Transport said that without new money on offer cities would struggle to deliver any real improvements to transport. An emphasis on improving health and public spaces sounded good but the Fund had no numbers or timescale attached.