Investment packages for England’s transport network

18 May 2020

18 May 2020

Multi-billion-pound investment projects have been launched across England’s transport networks. The driving motivation looks to be lowering emissions, supporting economic recovery and ensuring safer travel.  

The funds will be channelled into electric-vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, roads, railways, cycle lanes and footpaths. With the COVID-19 lockdown preventing most of the UK from travelling, this has been an open opportunity to carry out repairs, ready transport for social distancing, and implement greater safety measures.

EV charging

Electrically-chargeable vehicles saw their market share increase across Europe to an average of 6.8% in Q1 2020. Meanwhile, their share in the UK lagged behind slightly at 6.6%. This puts the UK behind many other markets, highlighting the need for increased investment in charging infrastructure.

The Rapid Charging Fund (RCF) was announced by the UK Government in the March 2020 Budget as part of a £500 million (€560 million) commitment to EV charging infrastructure. The purpose of the RCF is to ensure there is a rapid-charging network ready to meet the long-term consumer demand for electric-vehicle charge points.

The investment will fund a proportion of costs at strategic sites, where upgrading to meet future demand for high-powered chargepoints is prohibitively expensive and uncommercial.

According to the UK Government, a driver is currently never more than 25 miles away from a rapid (50 kW) charge point anywhere along England’s motorways and major A roads. In January there were 809 open-access rapid chargepoints across the country. With the Government consulting to bring forward the end of the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035, the need to increase this number of charging points becomes apparent.

The aim is to have at least six high-powered, open-access chargepoints (150-359Kw capable) at motorway services in England by 2023. Some larger sites are expected to have as many as 10-12. The Government believes this will be ′more than enough to meet demand from electric vehicles by this date.’ By 2030, the expectation is for the network to be at around 2,500 high-powered points across motorways and major A roads. Then, by 2035, the Government hopes to up this number to 6,000.

In Europe, ACEA acknowledged that by the European Commission’s conservative estimates, at least 2.8 million electric charging points will be needed across the EU by 2030. This means a 20-fold increase is required by the beginning of the next decade.

In Germany, applications to fund new EV infrastructure can now be submitted online until 17 June. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is supporting the creation of 7,000 ordinary and 3,000 fast-charging points as part of its ′Charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in Germany,’ funding guideline. The Federal Government will cover up to 50% of eligible costs related to hardware, as well as network connection costs for standard and fast-charging points.

The limited charging infrastructure remains a key barrier to ownership of EVs in Europe. Autovista Group has previously considered the state of the network in key European countries and the connection between the market share of battery electric vehicles and charging-point density.

Cycling and walking

With the UK Government now advising against the use of public transport where possible, money is being pumped into alternative modes of transport. An emergency £250 million Emergency Active Travel Fund will be used to establish pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions and cycle and bus-only corridors. This will form the first stage of a £2 billion investment, which is part of a larger £5 billion investment in cycling and buses announced in February

Fast-tracked statutory guidance, published at the start of May, also directs councils to reallocate road space for significantly higher numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only, with more side streets potentially closing to through traffic.

Greater Manchester is looking to create 150 miles of protected cycle track, and plans for a ′bike tube’ network above underground lines are being drawn up by Transport for London.

A micromobility trial is also being fast-tracked, with electric scooters due to appear on UK streets by June. The trial will assess the benefits of the technology alongside its impact on public spaces.

In Paris, cars have been banned from streets near the Louvre Museum, in favour of bikes. On 21 April, the ÃŽle-de-France region pledged financial support to an existing cycleway project that protects cycling routes connecting the centre of Paris with key suburbs. Some €300 million will be provided to partially pay for a mix of new infrastructure and temporary ′corona cycleways,’ which will mirror metro routes around Paris.

Road and rail

While fewer passengers used roads and trains during lockdown, fast-tracked construction work has taken place to provide much-needed repairs to both networks. Some £1.7 billion is being pledged as part of a Transport Infrastructure Investment Fund to help improve roads, repair bridges and fill in around 11 million potholes.

The Government is also accelerating more than £175 million worth of work across the road and rail network while people avoid unnecessary travel. England’s motorways and major A roads saw £200 million worth of work carried out in April, while £550 million went into the rail network.

In Europe, the executive director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), Libor Lochman, and the director general of UNIFE, Philippe Citroën, wrote a letter to Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal. They highlighted the need to include the rail sector into the European post-COVID-19 crisis recovery.

′Investments in Europe’s rail infrastructure benefit European society as a whole, ensuring safeand reliable transportation of people and goods, even amidst health crises such as the one stemming from COVID-19,’ the letter said. ′Further expansion and renewal of the existing infrastructure will offer significant opportunities to improve Europe’s economy.’