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Sustainable Local Transport

Volume 519: debated on Thursday 2 December 2010

Our commitment to sustainable local travel is evidenced by our decision to establish a £560 million local sustainable transport fund. We will shortly set out the criteria for bidding for the fund and will publish a White Paper next month setting out the policy initiatives that we will take forward in supporting local authorities in delivering sustainable local travel.

Like most cycle networks in the country, ours does not best meet the needs of our local centenarians. Our ageing population very much depends on buses. Given that the bus companies are asking for subsidies and that the local authority has no money, can the Government help?

I think the local sustainable transport fund helps directly. The hon. Gentleman made a connection between elderly people and cycling. When I was in Holland, I was interested to find out that 75% of journeys by pensionable persons were taken by bike, so we have some way to go in this country. The fund, which is designed to create growth and cut carbon, is well positioned to receive bids that will enhance cycling provision in Southend and elsewhere.

The Minister is aware that there is a proposal for a national trial for a tram-train in south Yorkshire, which would help to get people out of their cars and on to public transport. When I asked the Secretary of State last week about the status of that project, I believe that he said it was on his desk pending a decision. Can the Minister now enlighten the House on whether a decision has been taken to go ahead with that nationally important pilot project?

The details of that particular scheme are still being worked out, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that discussions on it have involved me, the Secretary of State and the Transport Minister, who has responsibility for rail. Enabling tram-train to go ahead could provide an important benefit to public transport. We want to get the details right, so no firm decision has yet been taken.