Walking and cycling cuts will slash swathe of government promises

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) decision to slash funding for walking and cycling by two-thirds is facing a legal challenge. Campaign group Transport Action Network (TAN) claims ministers bypassed legal processes to chop investment. TAN is arguing this unlawful cut will have a domino effect, toppling wider government promises to protect the climate, clean the air and level up the country.

Last summer, ministers announced major investment, saying active travel was “one of the best return on investment decisions governments can make…saving our NHS billions of pounds each year” and that “[f]aced with the rising cost of living and a warming planet, there is a renewed sense of urgency to act” [1]. But this March, the new Government cut dedicated funding in England outside London to just £1 per head for the rest of this Parliament. By contrast Wales is investing £23 per head and Scotland £58 per head, in line with European norms [2].

The Government’s own estimates suggest many more billions are required to meet its target of half of shorter urban journeys being walked or cycled by 2030 [3]. Currently only 41% are and, even before the cuts, this was only forecast to reach 44% by the end of the decade [4]. Despite knowing this, the Government’s clean air and climate plans set earlier this year assumed the target would be met and so were made under contradictory assumptions [5].

Chris Todd, Director of Transport Action Network said:

“Legally binding targets to cut carbon and air pollution rely on big increases in walking and cycling by 2030. But official forecasts predict we’ll miss this ambition by a mile. Rather than increasing effort, ministers seem to be deliberately sabotaging these efforts. It’s as if they are pleading poverty, then pick out the best value range items from their trolley to put them back on the shelf.

“Taking £200 million of active travel funding out would be the Jenga block that makes climate, air quality, levelling up and health plans all come tumbling down.”

TAN is now seeking to crowdfund £40,000 [6] to pay for its legal costs, arguing with the active travel budget cut by over £200 million, that each pound raised could unlock over £5,000 of funding if their claim succeeds. The group is represented by David Forsdick KC and Charles Bishop of Landmark Chambers, instructed by Leigh Day, who expect to issue a claim in the High Court this Tuesday 6 June.

Leigh Day solicitor, Rowan Smith said:

“Transport Action Network believes that these funding cuts to national cycling and walking provision massively undermine the Government’s plans to tackle climate change. It appears the Government hasn’t followed its own statutory rules in this area so TAN wants the Court to question whether what has been done is lawful.”

Big cities have had to scale back their walking and cycle network plans but still have considerable ring-fenced budgets. The cuts will be felt the most in smaller cities, towns and rural areas, already reeling from losing bus and train services. In these areas, people will see their choice and independence eroded. Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, recently tried to justify this unfairness, telling MPs that “[i]n large parts of the country, the private car is the right method of transport” [7].

Todd concluded:

“Restoring and increasing investment in active travel needs to be the foundation of levelling up. By supporting town centres, improving access to training, jobs and public transport it will increase pride of place, health, productivity and people’s life choices. New ministers have acted mindlessly with this false economy.”

– ENDS –

TAN helps local communities fighting damaging road schemes and savage bus cuts, and seeking sustainable alternatives. Although only established in 2019, it brings together people with over 100 years’ experience of environmental campaigning. More information at

Note to Editors:

[1] The Second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy was published in July 2022:

[2] On 9 March, ministers announced a cut of dedicated funds for the remainder of the Parliament from about £308 to £100 million. The larger figure still referred to includes spending from the start of Parliament, including temporary schemes removed after the pandemic and other government departments, for which there is a lack of transparency.  Scotland announced higher spending in March 2022.

[3] Letter from Chair of Transport Committee to Secretary of State, 28 April 2023.

[4] A progress report to Parliament (July 2022) forecasts an increase to between 41-47% by 2030, far short of the 50% target.

[5] Deployment assumptions in Table 7 in Appendix C of the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan published on 30 March 2023.

Page 92 in the Environmental Improvement Plan published on 31 January 2023.

Although the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is not yet law, many of its missions and metrics (see the draft Technical Annex) require active travel growth too:

[6] TAN is crowdfunding to pay for the legal challenge, on the CrowdJustice platform.

[7] Q570 in Transport Committee: Oral evidence: Work of the Secretary of State for Transport, HC 163 – 19 April 2023.


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