New report outlines recommendations for sustainable transport planning

20 October 2020

A new report launched today by the Transport Planning Society and conducted by the University of Hertfordshire makes key recommendations for achieving a low carbon transport system and better places for people to live and work.

State of the Nations: Transport Planning for a Sustainable Future highlights how the pandemic has created an opportunity for the transport planning profession and transport policymakers to pause and consider what changes could be made to create an efficient, integrated and sustainable transport system.

While lockdown brought a temporary collapse in car use and an increase in walking and cycling, transport trends have been changing over the past twenty years1. There has been an overall decrease in car use, an increase in van traffic and train use and the arrival of new mobility options, such as electric scooters and e-bikes, that have the potential to significantly change the environmental impact of travel.

Experts at the University of Hertfordshire’s Smart Mobility Unit reviewed travel trends and behaviours, current government policy, regional transport planning, spending and investment and transport taxes to charges to enable the TPS to make clear recommendations to government and the sector.

As transport is the UK’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (28% in 20182) it is key to any strategy to combat climate change and improve health and wellbeing:

  • Unlike other sectors, emissions from road transport increased by 6% from 1990 to 2017.
  • In June 2019, the Government passed a law that requires ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Transport policy also needs to be more inclusive by unhooking people from car dependence and giving individuals more travel choices, including travelling less.

The report concludes that the way transport is planned and integrated into society will be key to the UK’s ability to address the major challenges of today, particularly the decarbonisation of transport. Transport spending and taxation needs to support decarbonisation, with objectives set out in transport strategies and spending priorities to address these important national aims.

Governments should give transport planners, especially in local and sub-national authorities, the policies, tools, funding, data and freedoms to improve the transport system for all users to provide a better quality of life for people and communities across the nations. Transport for London should serve as a model for well-resourced local and regional authorities, combining spatial and transport planning and with their own revenue raising powers, but with requirements for setting pathways to cut CO2 emissions.

Stephen Bennett, chair, Transport Planning Society, commented: “Transport planning is about improving people’s lives and creating better places by developing an efficient, integrated and healthy transport system. Our State of the Nations report takes stock of where we are with transport planning in Great Britain, identifying our strengths and areas for improvement.

“Today’s new research by experts at the University of Hertfordshire makes clear that to create a sustainable system and healthier places for people, we need to release ourselves from car-dependency.

“That means government seriously shifting resources to sustainable transport, ensuring this is integrated with the planning system and reducing the cost of using public transport.

“We need to make sustainable modes of transport the easiest and safest choices, resulting in cleaner air, healthier lifestyles and potential savings.

“I hope my fellow planners and policy-makers will read the report with interest and reflect on what we can all do better.”

Dr Scott Copsey, director of the Smart Mobility Unit, University of Hertfordshire, commented: “This report was written at a time of profound and rapid change in travel patterns, policy and spending, with the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown being felt across the country. However, the major challenges the sector faces, particularly on decarbonizing transport, remain the same.

“To reduce transport emissions in Britain, the way we travel must significantly change. There needs to be a reduction in car and other vehicle travel, as well as a move towards electric vehicles.  We look forward to continuing working with Governments and local authorities to help meet these important emissions challenges.”

1 Since 2002, there has been a decline in travel overall, mostly due to the reduction in the number of car trips – 13% from 2002 to 2019. Distance travelled has fallen in the same period by 10%, from 7193 miles per person per year during 2002 to 6500 in 2019. Bus use has also fallen (outside London by over 30% in trips and 18% in distance travelled), though rail travel continued to grow throughout this period.

2 Transport is now the largest source of UK emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), accounting for 28% of all GHG emissions in 2019 and 34% of carbon dioxide emissions: 20% of total emissions came from road transport.


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