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22 May 2020
Chris Torney Chris Torney

£2 billion grant announced to improve green travel

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row of cars being charged

The green light for environmentally-friendly travel.

The government has announced new plans to promote environmentally-friendly transport alternatives such as electric cars, e-scooters and cycling.

At the start of May 2020, ministers unveiled a £2 billion investment package to boost the UK’s electric vehicle charging facilities and encourage more people to start using electric scooters, while also offering support for cyclists and pedestrians.

The measures are designed to help the country cope with the Covid-19 pandemic as well as reduce carbon emissions.

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Good news for drivers of electric cars

The government is launching a new consultation aimed at developing a more robust and comprehensive network of charging points for electric cars.

The changes should make it easier for drivers to pay for charging, while making pricing clearer and giving drivers more information about where they can find charging points on any journey.

The consultation follows the creation of a new Rapid Charging Fund, which was announced in chancellor Rishi Sunak’s March Budget.

This will help to upgrade existing charging points so drivers can recharge their vehicles more quickly and efficiently.

The government is also earmarking an extra £10 million for the development of the on-street residential chargepoint scheme.

The extra cash should help local councils install more than 7,000 charging devices.

That’s all good news for drivers of electric vehicles. Matt Allen, CEO at energy firm Pivot Power, says:

“We’re pleased to see the government setting out its vision for expanding the UK’s rapid chargepoint network.

The ability to charge quickly and reliably on the move is vital to tackle ‘range anxiety’ and give more drivers the confidence to go electric.”

Allen adds: “The number of electric vehicles on our roads is already growing exponentially. With the right charging infrastructure in place we can accelerate the revolution and create a clean, electric future.”

Read more: Petrol and diesel ban 2035: what does it mean for you?

e-scooters are go

The government is also bringing forward trials of e-scooters that were originally scheduled for 2021.

The trials will look into how the scooters can be used safely in public places. 

The trials were originally going to be held in four Future Transport zones – Portsmouth and Southampton, Derby and Nottingham, the West of England Combined Authority (covering Bristol and Bath), and the West Midlands.

However, transport minister Grant Shapps has now said they’ll be available to local authorities throughout England and could start as soon as June.

Read more: Paying to pollute: new Low Emissions Zones for 2020

bike in a lane

On your bike

The main thrust of the new £2 billion funding plan focuses on cycling and walking. The government wants to encourage more of us to take up cycling in particular.

They believe that could bring down  the UK’s carbon emissions and cut air pollution in urban areas. And, of course, it’ll mean fewer of us need to rely on public transport during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Shapps said the government would fund pop-up bike lanes as well as cycle- and bus-only corridors on major city and town centre routes in England.

Ministers will also work with local authorities to help fund their own schemes. In Greater Manchester, for example, there are plans to introduce 150 miles of protected cycle track.

And Transport for London is looking to roll out a “bike Tub” network that tracks underground lines in the capital.

Read more: How to afford an EV

More breathing space for all

The government’s also issued some new guidance for councils that says they should rethink road space.

By allocating less space to cars and other motorised vehicles, councils can give pushbikes and pedestrians more room.

Shapps said: “During this crisis, millions of people have discovered cycling – whether for exercise or as a means of safe, socially-distanced transport.

While there is no change to the ‘stay at home’ message today, when the country does get back to work, we need those people to stay on their bikes and be joined by many more.

“Otherwise, with public transport’s capacity severely restricted at this time, our trains and buses could become overcrowded and our roads gridlocked – holding up emergency services, critical workers and vital supplies.”

Ministers are worried that ongoing social distancing measures might mean that only a fraction of commuters will be able to use trains, buses and the London Underground.

Shapps added: “We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”

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