The Department of Transport will not be renewing the £3m contract employing AEA Technology Ltd, the rail to aerospace to nuclear power consultancy, to run the English Regional Cycling Development Team. ERCDT for short, this organisation was charged with auditing the cycle-friendliness of local authorities around the UK. PLUS: The National Cycling Strategy Board wants an extra £27m government cash to abolish itself and create two new organisations, Cycling England and the English Cycling Resources Board.

Cycling no longer nuclear powered

The present three-year contract for the ERCDT expires in May 2005.

The DfT has advised AEA Technology Ltd – formerly part of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority – that this contract will not be renewed or extended.

The ERCDT reports to the government-appointed National Cycling Strategy Board.

NCSB chair Phillip Darnton, who is also the president of the Bicycle Association, said:

"As the current 3-year ERCDT contract draws to a close, there is bound to be uncertainty and speculation about the next phase of development of this important resource for cycling. The Board is clear that the ERCDT has performed a valuable role, both in assessing and supporting local authorities’ work in support of cycling. The value of an "on the

ground" team has, in our view, been amply demonstrated over the period of the contract."

However, Darnton believes there are grey areas:

"The relationship between the NCS Board (client) and the DfT (paymaster) with the ERCDT (consultant) works in practice because of the individuals involved. It is an uneasy arrangement, since the ‘client’ really does not have the resources to manage the ‘consultant’, who must negotiate his terms with the ‘paymaster’. This is a continuing source of potential conflict between the Board and the DfT."

In a hard-hitting, future-facing report to the DfT, the NCSB recommends the creation of two new, closely-connected bodies, Cycling England and the English Cycling Resources Board.

"The present level of funding for cycling via the [Local Transport Plan] at £44m pa should continue. In addition, there should be a new budget reaching £70m of central programme monies, focused on the specifics of the Strategic Action Plan," said Darnton.

This £70m would fund the two new organisations and the ‘on the ground’ replacement for ERCDT. Darnton also wants some of the £70m to be spent on the marketing and promotion of cycling.

The English Cycling Resources Board would be responsible for deciding strategic and policy direction. The ‘executive group’ would be Cycling England, which would have a public-facing chief executive, the most likely role for Phillip Darnton.

Darnton said a more ‘joined up government’ approach to cycling from the departments of health, transport, sport and others would have "a far ranging positive effect on society. More people cycling, more safely, more often will bring benefits to transport (less congestion, greater safety); to health (more exercise); to the environment (less pollution); to education (cycling to school); to sport (more cycling participation improves national competitive potential); to communities (more people cycling or walking on the streets helps reduce crime); and to tourism (in terms of wider accessibility)."

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