The former Coalition Government’s flagship £540m Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) was successful in achieving its objectives, according to a new report.
The evaluation report, published by the Department for Transport (DfT), says the fund was particularly successful in relation to the local economy, carbon emissions, wider social and economic benefits, and physical activity, while there was less direct evidence of its impacts on air quality or road safety, ‘although both may have benefited to some degree’.
It concludes that LSTF projects reduced car use and successfully promoted bus use, cycling and walking, including reversing or reducing declines that occurred in non LSTF areas.
Patricia Hayes, the DfT's director general, roads devolution and motoring, said: ‘We have helped to rejuvenate town centres, making roads safer, more pleasant to use and more user friendly, supported access to work, increased cycling, and reduced carbon emissions.
‘At a programme level, the independent evaluation shows that on average the schemes we supported have achieved their intended results, with the best schemes surpassing them.’
The LSTF was the biggest-ever competitive funding programme for sustainable transport initiatives in England. Between 2011 and 2015 the DfT distributed £540m in revenue and capital grants. Overall spending was approximately £1bn, including contributions from local authorities and DfT grants for non-local schemes such as Bikeability.
Twelve ‘Large Projects’ received 46% of the total cash and 84 ‘Small Projects’ received up to £5m each.
Car use fell in LSTF Large Project areas. Relative to a ‘comparator group’ of local authorities, per capita car traffic fell by 2.3 percentage points (pp).
The number of bus trips per person fell by 3.3% in the Large Project areas, but declined by 8.5% in the comparator group, meaning that per person bus trips increased by 5.2pp relative to the comparator group.
The proportion of adults who cycled increased by 6.6pp in the LSTF Large Project areas relative to the comparator group.
Across 93 workplaces in the Large Project areas, car driving fell by 2.7pp. This was equivalent to a 4.1% reduction in car driver commuting.
The report says the impact was smaller than that of previous interventions, ‘probably because most LSTF workplace interventions focused on encouragement and information, rather than reducing or restricting parking’.
The evaluation also found the programme delivered by the LSTF Large Projects was very high value for money, with a benefit-cost ratio of above five, while local economies were supported and carbon emissions fell.
The report also contains ‘lessons learned’ for national policy makers, including that ‘there is a trade-off between allowing schemes to reflect local priorities, and the limits such diversity imposes’.
Other lessons learned for local policy makers and practitioners include that projects should be targeted to geographical areas where there is the most potential for change.