West of England councils have received a welcome boost to help improve sustainable travel thanks to a £7m government grant.

The funding is from the government’s Sustainable Travel Access Fund for 2017-20 and will help Bristol City, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset councils improve how people travel within the region, connecting them to jobs, education and training.

Community schemes supported by the money will focus on increasing and improving walking, cycling and public transport journeys. The £6.9m grant will help fund:

• Free bus vouchers and loan bikes for people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) to help them get to interviews, training and work placement opportunities
• Working with local primary and secondary schools to encourage more pupils to walk to school
• Six-month electric bike loans for businesses to ‘try before they buy’, supporting a shift to low emission technology
• Match-funded grants for businesses to help them invest in onsite sustainable travel facilities such as secure cycle parking
• Support for the Family Cycling Centre in Hengrove, Bristol, which provides all abilities cycle training
• Improving multi-modal travel information through Travelwest.info to help people plan their journeys and timetabling information at bus stops
• Working with a range of community groups to encourage more people to take up sustainable travel.

Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Matthew Riddle, Leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Cllr Tim Warren, Deputy Leader of North Somerset Council, Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, and Cllr Mark Bradshaw, Cabinet Member for Transport at Bristol City Council, which led the bid for the funding on behalf of the West of England councils, said:

“The West of England area continues to grow faster than the national average and we need to meet the scale of the challenge this brings, supporting growth while encouraging more sustainable travel. With more people to accommodate on our transport networks we need to embed healthier travel habits to ensure we improve access to work, education and training opportunities.

“We don’t have an unlimited road network so the best way we can improve journeys for everyone is to give people more options. That’s where better walking and cycling routes, and public transport comes in to help free up some of our travel network and make journeys easier, which will help to tackle traffic congestion, particularly trips to work. We hope to use this money to continue working with our partners to provide support services and incentives to take up active travel habits, particularly for shorter journeys.”

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:

“We are committed to improving how people travel and this investment will ensure that people’s journeys are cheaper, safer and better for the environment. It will help people to become more active and better transport planning will reduce congestion on our roads – particularly at peak times.

“This investment will also help people access jobs, education and training – specifically targeting those looking to get back into work, as part of our relentless drive to make this a country that works for everyone.”

The funding will be split between the four councils. Bristol will receive £2.64m, Bath and North East Somerset £1.05m, North Somerset £1.25m and South Gloucestershire £1.65m. The councils will now decide how the specific measures will be shared within the West of England region.

Press release by Bristol City Council.

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