Millions wasted on Cycle Route Plans

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent by Richard Taylor about cycle routes on the Transport Direct website – run by the Department for Transport (DfT) – has brought some interesting facts to light.

Transport Direct is a government run service that claims to be the “only website that offers information for door-to-door travel for both public transport and car journeys around Britain.” Information about cycle routes was added to the website in mid 2009 and currently covers 18 local authority areas. The FOI request revealed that the “Find a cycle route” feature on the Transport Direct website will have cost the taxpayer £2.4 million pounds by the end of the current financial year, and there are plans to spend a further £400,000 to provide a route planner for a Cycling for Schools programme.

£2.4 million is a lot of money for cycle routes in 18 local authorities. It is even more when put in context of other websites that already offer information about cycle routes and cost significantly less. Richard Taylor points out that CycleStreets - a free online cycle route planner - covers the whole of the UK limited only by the quality of Open Street Map data for the area. The website also offers an extensive set of features including integration with a national photomap which allows people to see photos taken along the route and the site also integrates with Google Earth.

Crucially CycleStreets – set up with grants from Cambridge City Council and Cycling Scotland – only cost taxpayers £3,200. The DfT run service therefore costs nearly 100 times more than CycleStreets, which has more features and covers the whole of the UK.

It would have been much cheaper for Transport Direct to have linked CycleStreets to their website. Instead millions of taxpayers’ pounds were dished out to expensive IT consultants and researchers who were collecting information, which was already made available by a small company whose two core workers work on the project part- time. This is another example of the government wasting money that is sorely needed in more pressing areas and not utilising innovative private projects.

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