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Transport Strategy – Where DfT has got to
Transport Strategy – Where DfT has got to A great wodge of paper has emerged from DfT today reporting on where they are up to on transport policy in the wake of “Towards a Sustainable Transport System”(TaSTS) document last October. The route into most of the documents is on the DfT website, at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/ . TaSTS promised a green paper in May this year and a White Paper in December. The papers today change this: there will be a full consultation exercise (note: not called a Green Paper) in the autumn and then a framework for “option-generation” in March (which may or may not be a White Paper). The reason for this is the Climate Change Bill and the setting of carbon budgets following from it: the Committee on Climate Change will give their advice on the first three carbon budgets in December, and the Government will then respond in the March Budget. The work published now “sets out the position” DfT has reached and invites further comment in advance of the formal consultation. The documents published today are as follows: A covering letter summarising where DfT have got to on TaSTS and what is going on, which is at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/progress/progress. This has some useful and important statements about the need to look at non- transport as well as transport solutions (e.g. land use planning) to future demand, about the need for packages of transport measures to address all the goals rather than be focused on one or two, on the importance of reducing the need to travel or move goods and on the importance of public health and personal safety rather than just safety in the narrow sense. The letter also talks about the need to learn from the previous multi-modal studies and the “lengthy and unaffordable wish lists” that emerged. A matrix of transport challenges, covering the five goals of transport policy. http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/challenges/challan gesmatrix.pdf Note that the quality of life goal has been changed to “enhancing the quality of life and the natural environment” following representations about the importance of biodiversity and landscape. The DfT have however rejected calls for modal shift to be added as a 6th goal, on the grounds that mode shift is a means to an end on climate change, health etc, not an end in itself). A discussion document about the goals (“Goals narrative”) at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/goals/goalnarrativ es.pdf which explains what the stakeholder dialogue has produced. One of the big things that comes out of this is an emphasis on “resilience” of transport networks to disruption, weather etc, and reliability rather than journey time savings. There is also an emphasis on accessibility rather than mobility (especially under “equality of opportunity”) and on reducing the need to travel. All this is underpinned by the comments from stakeholders consulted in the last few months. The analysis of stakeholder comments is at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/comments/comme nts.pdf and the list of people DfT talked to is at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/list/organisations Work on carbon pathways, which is very interesting and for DfT groundbreaking. This work – summary at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/carbon/pathway, full report at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/analysis.pdf - is based on the National Travel Survey on how people actually travel. Key conclusions from it are: o The big carbon emissions are in longer distance journeys: 7% of car trips are over 25 miles but they account for 38% of CO2 emissions from cars, 37% of journeys between 5 and 25 miles = 43% of CO2 from cars, while 57% of car journeys are under 5 miles but account for 20% of car emissions, o Commuting is big: 24% of CO2 emissions, a lot of longer distance journeys, most by (single occupant) car. By contrast school journeys are just 4% of CO2 from passenger surface transport modes o Freight is 30% of total UK CO2 emissions (we assume they mean from transport). There is a lot of material on behaviour change and barriers to it – the DfT says it’s doing more on this. Transport appraisal: the responses to consultation on “refreshing” DfT’s New Approach to Appraisal NATA are published at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/closed/consulnatarefresh/responses/natare sponses.pdf and the Government’s way forward is at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/tools/tools.pdf. Briefly, DfT are proposing some immediate changes on appraisal, including guidance on the health benefits of cycling and walking schemes, guidance on reliability and also new long term forecasting on future oil prices. All of these should be positive. Future changes suggested include revisiting the “shadow price of carbon”, giving more detail in the Appraisal Summary Table, a “lighter touch” appraisal for smaller schemes and doing more work on social/distribution impacts of transport. Many of these will be welcome, and some follow the work we and Green Alliance commissioned from consultants MTRU. However, the DfT does not appear to be shifting its ground on the treatment of transport taxation in appraisal, which our work found was very important. The response says merely that new value for money “metrics” will be considered. More widely, the response says that DfT are doing more work on forecasting and scenario planning, and developing tools for strategic appraisal, though the linkages with detailed appraisal seem unclear. Public attitudes to transport – research by Phil Goodwin and colleagues summarising previous surveys, and also the outcomes of a specially commissioned “citizens’ panel”. The summary of this is at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/public/public.pdf; the detailed review is at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/scienceresearch/social/evidence.pdf and the citizens’ panel research is at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/scienceresearch/social/citizens.pdf. This is very long and detailed but there is very interesting stuff in here, including the extent to which people want Government and business to change things: “a substantial proportion of drivers say they would like to drive less than they do”, with specifics on cost/availability of public transport, strong support for reduced speeds in residential areas and increased priority for pedestrians and cyclists. Also, people tolerate congestion but (as above) are concerned about reliability. The reports find no consensus on aviation, with strong views and different figures of support/opposition depending on how the question is asked. Where to now? The documents prefigure some practical outcomes. First, the framework (or White Paper) now due in March 2009 will fire the starting gun on a process of “option generation” which will look at the full range of options for meeting the various goals and challenges across cities and regions, national networks and international gateways. For DfT, this feeds into a White Paper in 2012 which will set out long term transport spending priorities, with detailed programmes for the period 2014-2019 (this will include the High Level Output Specification for the railways which DfT are legally obliged to produce every 5 years or so). The documentation includes a lot of discussion about how this process will work, but it is clear that more work needs doing. One obvious example: the documents recognise that on “national networks” a lot of the travel is short distance, so regional and local players will have to be involved in option generation, but the documents are silent as to how this will happen in practice, or how to avoid this “becoming so cumbersome that it fails to produce results” in the covering letter’s own words. Second, the way the Department appraises transport schemes is being revised as above, but some of the eternal verities (e.g. the inclusion of fuel tax loss to the Treasury from public transport schemes) appear to remain unchallenged, though the assumptions on oil prices appear to be changing. All of this will have an impact on the option generation process. Third, the DfT faces an immediate challenge which is the next round of Regional Funding Allocations, where the English Regional Assemblies, with the Regional Development Agencies, decide priorities for transport spending in their regions. This is due to kick off in July with conclusions in March: the documents today imply that regions (and local authorities through their Local Area Agreements) will have to contribute to reducing carbon from transport. For many, this will be challenging, but also a potential lever for NGOs and transport operators. On aviation, the DfT work justifies current policy – there is seen to be little possibility of reducing aviation demand, few alternatives are said to be available and even on carbon emissions the usual stuff about the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is trotted out but the public attitudes work and some of the carbon pathways work do provide material for arguing for change.
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