Wednesday 23 November 2016 15.39 GMT
The problem is the UK already has an air pollution crisis that causes tens of thousands of early deaths – more traffic will only make it worse. Furthermore, rising transport emissions are one of the biggest obstacles to the nation meeting its legal targets for cutting carbon emissions.
But then neither climate change or the environment merited a single mention in Hammond’s speech. Nor did green energy, support for which is set to fall off a cliff in 2021, or energy efficiency measures for the UK’s many leaky homes.
The chancellor extolled the benefits of certainty to business and Britain’s expertise in “disruptive technologies”, but these claims will feel hollow to those trying to build a clean, green economy fit for the 21st century.
Just a year ago, as foreign secretary, Hammond made a powerful speech saying climate action was essential and good for the economy. Now, it seems, the trolls of Treasury appear to have brainwashed him back into 20th-century thinking where clean economic growth was merely nice to have if possible, not vital for long-term success.
It is true that through the exhaust fumes you can glimpse some green shoots. By 2021, Hammond promised £150m to support low emission buses and taxis and £80m for electric car charging points. Another £450m is to be spent improving rail services, though unlike fuel taxes, rail ticket prices will be going up.
But the £1.3bn for roads and the fuel tax freeze, which will cost £845m, leaves the green transport measures looking feeble in comparison, particularly given the £15bn for roads pledged in 2014 and recent car tax changes that cut the incentives to buy clean vehicles, with the proceeds spent on yet more roads.
The Treasury idea that drivers won’t accept action to cut pollution, revealed in a recent high court case, is nonsense. Drivers are among the most exposed to the toxic fumes and an RAC poll last week showed a strong majority – 66% – of motorists want tougher action to cut pollution in the worst areas. Bus services have also crashed, according to recent data from the Local Government Association, falling 40% in rural areas and 25% in urban areas in the last decade.