Rishi Sunak unveils plan for car owners

Rishi Sunak unveils plan for car owners

The aim of Rishi Sunak is to prioritise the interests of millions of car owners with a series of measures that will provoke environmentalists and curb the power of local councils.

The prime minister has announced a package that will limit the number of 20mph speed restrictions and favour drivers over bus passengers at a Tory conference on Monday.

This would be a highly controversial decision, putting ministers on a collision course with local authorities, who depend on their powers to keep bus lanes free.

Sunak's policy is the latest in a recent series of contentious policy ideas, such as his watering down of net zero targets, designed to revive his government and create clear dividing lines with Labour.

Mr Cameron has also raised the possibility of paring back the hugely over-budget HS2 rail line, though he refused to provide clarification on his plans on Thursday.

In the marathon media round during which Sunak carried out 34 separate interviews with local BBC and ITV outlets, the prime minister was repeatedly pinned down over the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the HS2 rail link, refused to commit to it on more than a dozen occasions.

The'plan for motorists' is expected to include moves to limit English councils' powers to place 20mph speed limits on main roads and to restrict the number of hours for car traffic to be banned from bus lanes.

It is also known to include curbs on local authorities' ability to impose fines-andthereby raise revenue-from traffic infractions caught by automatic number plate recognition cameras, and on the use of such cameras in box junctions.

Sunak is also expected to speak about so-called 15-minute cities, an urban planning concept based on having shops and workplaces near homes, which some protesters claim is a UN-led conspiracy to limit people's ability to travel.

A Department for transport source described the policies as'speculation'.

The proposals follow Sunak's promise to crack down on what he called 'anti-motorist policies'in July after the surprise Conservative win in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip byelection, which was aided by concerns about the expansion of London's extreme-low emissions zone.

Downing Street said Sunak had no plans to restrict the use of 20mph speed limits, which evidence has shown can significantly reduce the number of road deaths and injuries.

The proposals, which have not been discussed with councils, are likely to prompt pushback against what appears to be a further centralization of powers, as well as concerns that a policy to promote car use at the expense of other forms goes against recent decades of policy in many other countries.

In July, the prime minister ordered a review of low-traffic neighborhoods, which aims to increase active travel by restricting through traffic on smaller residential streets.

Councils in England have been told by the DfT to return lengthy questionnaires by the end of September on any LTNs they have installed since 2020, including the consultation process used before they were built.

Sunak, speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, pushed back against questions over the HS2 by appearing to argue that pro-driver policies were more important given the vast majority of the journeys that people make are in their cars.

Sunak appeared to hint in a later interview with ITV's Granada region - also based in Manchester - that he might try to assuage anger about a cancellation of the Birmingham-to-Manchester HS2 leg by announcing other rail projects in the north of England.

In an apparent nod to the announcement on Monday, Sunak said that as well as rail, he was'making sure we focus on the transport that people use every day - people are out and about in their cars, they want their potholes filled'.

The possibility of limiting councils' powers to improve road conditions for bus users, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, could cause another controversy, especially in Manchester, where buses have just been brought back under public control.

The Transport charity Sustrans said the 'plan for motorists' would mean Sunak was yet again failing those who did not drive or own a car.

Is it a good idea to own a car?

It feels like history repeating itself, said cyclist Sarah Mitchell, the chief executive of cycling UK charity.

We need a comprehensive plan to travel, not a plan that zooms in on a specific mode of transportation.