Infrastructure, and within that transport, remains a priority for the Government in developing their Industrial Strategy, with Chancellor Philip Hammond seeing the twin challenges of productivity and better infrastructure as key to setting Britain apart as we transition out of the EU. Despite that, the relatively short Budget document – at 65 pages long – contains little for the transport sector to claim as a victory.
Despite calls from some quarters, there was no announcement on a diesel scrappage scheme, however the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will see an initial investment of £270m to kick-start the development of disruptive technologies that have the potential to transform the economy. This includes an aspiration from the Government to lead in the development, design and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of EVs.
The Budget also announces regional allocations of the £220 million of investment for pinch points on the strategic road network, with details of individual schemes to be announced by Department for Transport shortly. This is due to come out of the National Productivity Investment Fund.
Vehicle Excise Duty will increase by inflation (RPI) and HGV VED will be frozen from April while a call for evidence goes out relating to a proposed HGV Road User Levy. The Government will also publish a call for evidence on the use of Red Diesel, notably in urban areas.
And despite repeated calls from the aviation sector, airlines, airports and others once again go home empty handed with a commitment to raise Air Passenger Duty in line with inflation (RPI).
The Chancellor – in line with the rest of the Budget – clearly sees no political expedient in further policy amendments for transport at this time. Even fuel duty, the thing of political warfare in previous years, has received scant attention, warranting only 3 mentions throughout the Red Book. The freeze continues as expected, but the Chancellor meant what he said when he outlined his view that there would be few changes in the Spring Budget and to instead expect to look to the Autumn Budget for real change.