Let’s not be churlish about the CSR.
Against the apocalyptic scenarios being talked about before the CSR the reality has turned out to be relatively good – or at least not as bad – for the DfT, with the 11% reduction in capital spending in real terms (£7.686 billion this year and then £7.557 billion in 2014/15) being the smallest of any department other than Defence and DECC.
Things are not so good on the resource side (down 22% over the same period) or administration (down 33%) but the fact that the Chancellor recognises we need in part to build our way out of recession has meant some relief for Transport.
Of course not all schemes are being saved. Whilst the A11 upgrade, A23 upgrade, managed motorway programme on the M4/M5 and M1 in Derbyshire all survive, projects on the A47, A21 (three stretches), A19, A1 at Leeming and A14 are being shelved. The billion pound project on the A14 never looked likely to escape the axe. No matter that it is needed, the price tag was just too high for ministers. The silver lining is that the Department is looking at alternatives and hopes the private sector will step in to help.
But what will Philip Hammond say to people who get caught up in the chaos that is the A21? Should they expect to put up with the misery forever? What succour can the Secretary of State offer?
There will be anger too amongst the 150,000 drivers who use the Dartford crossings every day. From a situation where it was once decreed that the tolls would eventually be abolished they are now set to rise dramatically. From £1.50 to £2.00 next year and to £2.50 the year after. Could this be the Government making the crossings a more financially attractive proposition for the buyer it wants to attract?
One of the most interesting development is what might happen to the Highways Agency. A non-executive chairman is being installed to oversee things and a review of the way the HA is governed is being undertaken. As an organisation which has been calling for this for some time, the RAC Foundation is pleased to hear the news.