Written evidence submitted by Transport Action Network (NPS0022)


  1. Transport Action Network (TAN) is a non-governmental organisation supporting local communities across England and Wales to improve sustainable travel and stop damaging road building and car-based developments. This response is based upon our unique combination of local reach and national expertise, ranging from supporting local communities facing road schemes to ground-breaking legal challenges and thought leadership.
  2. TAN first asked the Department for Transport (DfT) to review in March 2020 and then again via a series of legal challenges until ministers finally agreed to a review in July 2021. We are disappointed not just that the draft NNNPS took nearly two years to produce but that its contents have failed so poorly to integrate the major changes to legislation and policy since the current NPS was published in 2014.
  3. While we are strongly critical of the draft, we believe its rejection provides an exciting opportunity to seek a replacement NNNPS, one that actually tackles the UK’s long-standing productivity and inequality challenges while ensuring that the UK’s world leading environmental targets are delivered, not just talked about. A key part of this must include accelerating consenting of transport infrastructure essential for net zero while discouraging consent for new infrastructure that undermines it: it is curious that while there great efforts being made to accelerate such energy infrastructure, there is no such equivalent for transport, despite it producing the greatest emissions[1].
  4. Our response below sets out our key conclusions and recommendations, before proceeding to answer the inquiry questions in order.


       The draft NNNPS seeks to minimise consenting risk for out of date road schemes, by adopting a head in the sand attitude to the changed policy and legislative landscape.

       The failures to monitor the effectiveness of the current NNNPS, assess the cumulative impact of the roads programme and the refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to the policy or genuine range of transport future scenarios, all appear to be a deliberate attempt to avoid substantive scrutiny of the draft NNNPS.

       By assuming a future of “higher car use, more congestion and reductions in the use of other modes including public transport”, the draft ignores the strategic priorities of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, effectively putting green ambitions into reverse gear, as well as grinding roads to a halt and undermining the economy.

       With even the Government’s own figures showing the UK not meeting its 2030 climate target, the core policy of ignoring the negative climate impacts of road-building has become completely untenable.

       If designated without major change, the draft NNNPS, and the forecasts that it entrenches, would have a major impact on constituencies across the country, by hindering the business cases for station reopenings, better bus services and safe cycle routes.

       The challenge and urgency of transport decarbonisation is such that there needs to be a rethink of the types of scheme and thresholds that can be consented via the Planning Act 2008, as well as wider supportive policy in the NNNPS for Transport & Works Act order schemes.

       Besides net zero, the draft NNNPS is not integrated with wider government policy, including levelling up, air quality exposure and species recovery targets.

       To be fit for purpose the draft requires more than some material updates but a wholesale revision.


       The draft NNNPS is so flawed the Transport Committee ought to seek its withdrawal, following the precedent set in 2022 by the BEIS Committee with the energy NPSs.

       The revised NNNPS must unambiguously express that the prime consideration for planning consent for NSIPs for transport is the overall contribution to mitigating climate change and reducing emissions.

       In particular this must mean aligning the statement of need with the TDP’s first priority of accelerating modal shift, to give people and freight more and better travel choices.

       The presumption in favour of road expansion should be reversed, following the lead of Wales, recognising instead the urgent and critical need for demand management, increasing occupancy and faster delivery of sustainable transport infrastructure.

       Explicit ambitions on levelling up of public transport and a world class active travel network are required, to demonstrate clearly how the move away from cars & lorries will be achieved: rather than general exhortations heavily caveated by where reasonable, appropriate, or viable.

       Additional policy and spatial detail is needed on climate adaptation of the national networks, particularly the rail network. Otherwise regional economies risk being increasingly undermined by growing weather extremes.

       The thresholds for if not the name of the NNNPS should be revisited, with a greater focus on user needs. This should include driver facilities, rail and road electrification and cycle superhighways

       Future NPS inquiries should include explicit questions on climate adaptation, design and environmental targets, in order to align with statutory duties.

1)               Whether and in what ways the draft revised NNNPS is likely to be more effective than the current version, and whether opportunities to further improve have been missed


  1. The word effective here has multiple potential meanings, including:

(i)               Simply ensuring the current pipeline of schemes is consented quickly;

(ii)               Supportively challenging the schemes to deliver all relevant wider government objectives, such as net zero and levelling up, effectively, or

(iii)               Maximising value for the exchequer in the long term by ensuring schemes not only secure multiple benefits but are the least regrets options in an ever more uncertain future.

  1. Regarding the first interpretation, we deal with this more fully in the next question but in short it is likely to be even less effective. The NSIP action plan recognised the need to take difficult decisions in NPSs, rather than leaving difficult decisions to the examination or decision-making phases[2]. Instead the DfT has swept difficult issues under carpet through weak assertions that lack any underpinning. It is as if its first aim was to minimise delays to road schemes, after consenting decisions were identified as the biggest risk[3].
  2. The DfT claims that “the draft revised NNNPS is reflective of existing government policy and legislation” and its press release boldly asserting that the draft has been amended to deliver climate and environment targets are all demonstrably untrue, as explained in later answers. The reality is that environmental and social protections (such as against severance) are still weak as they can be usurped by the generalised needs case.
  3. With infrastructure taking years to build and having a design life of sixty or more years, it is important that decision-making considers how circumstances may change and prioritises “least regrets” options. The current NNNPS was designated in an era of stability, whereas we are now in an era of instability, but there is minimal reflection of this fundamental change in the draft. Schemes like Northern Powerhouse Rail have a good strategic fit across credible future scenarios but have faced uncertainty and delay: better policy on managing uncertainty could help address this.
  4. Finally the draft NNNPS is poorly structured and written, with long paragraphs jumbling multiple issues, making it challenging to assess what the key tests are. As we respond to question eight below, chapter four would particularly benefit from a rethink, though the changes to earlier chapters are not an improvement to the current version. This is not user-friendly, creating difficulties and uncertainty, whether you are a promoter, objector or decision-maker.
  5. Modern infrastructure is increasingly required to be multi-functional, with policy requirements evolving in ever faster and more complex ways, rather than just a length of engineering going from A to B. No one can understand all areas in depth, which is why major NSIPs increasingly require a panel of inspectors. Much clearer structure, with the assistance of diagrams, showing how different policies integrate and decision charts, would increase clarity and certainty for all.

2)               How effectively the draft revised NNNPS will allow the Government to deliver nationally significant infrastructure projects while also allowing for proper scrutiny of proposed projects


  1. As explained in our answers to questions one and three, it is clear the draft would not improve delivery and that it falls well short of the aspirations published weeks earlier in the NSIP acceleration plan.
  2. What should “proper scrutiny” mean here though? The statutory scheme created by the Planning Act 2008 was justified by setting out relevant policy up front in NPSs, thereby reducing the scope for argument in examinations of individual schemes. TAN supports the sentiment, after all examinations with their tight timetables are typically a major burden for NGOs and communities to engage in. There are major problems in practice, however.
  3. First, the presumption of need is so generalised that it is flawed but nonetheless is the overwhelming consideration. Because alternatives are drawn up by scheme promoters then not subject to scrutiny by decision makers, there is a lack of genuine assessment.
  4. Second, the current NPS has become very out-of-date, as policy and legislation have changed considerably. More regular updates, at least every five years but more often where there are substantive changes such as net zero, are required. Second, the need for baseline data and programme level assessment: DfT has refused to share data, such as that underpinning the Transport Decarbonisation Plan until ordered to by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and is still refusing to appraise the cumulative impacts of the roads programme for the AoS. Third, the general policy should be made relevant to the context: rather than cutting and pasting equalities laws or environmental targets, the NNNPS should guide as to what the key issues typically are when applying them to transport decisions.
  5. The National Infrastructure Commission has made some similar recommendations[4] , which TAN largely agrees with. That said while modular updates may reduce the need for reviewing NPSs, some changes such as net zero are so major that they require revisiting the statement of need, rather than simply inserting a new module in policy for decision-makers[5].
  6. What about other promoters besides the Government? This NPS is really the “Nationalised” Network NPS, with rail tacked on. Although the Planning Act 2008 currently sets thresholds for 18 types of infrastructure, this is the only NPS focused predominantly on government projects. Delivering net zero for transport requires a range of strategic schemes, including electrification of potentially roads as well as rail, public charging sites for heavy duty vehicles and strategic busways and cycleways. 

3)               How effectively the draft revised NNNPS will prevent delays to obtaining Development Consent Orders


  1. The draft NNNPS is so fundamentally flawed that it will enable and encourage more legal challenges. Until the net zero target was set, you could count the number of road schemes rejected in planning inquiries on one hand. The obvious and glaring inconsistencies between environmental targets and scheme impacts have reached breaking point, causing tensions between objective recommendations by the Planning Inspectorate anchored in policy and evidence, then political decision-making by the Secretary of State.
  2. Far from addressing this, the draft tries to institutionalise a head in the sand approach to protect road schemes that are well past their “build by dates” and make no sense economically, let alone socially or environmentally. With even the government’s own Carbon Budget Delivery Plan showing the UK missing climate targets (and on the reckless assumption all policies will be delivered 100% on time), the NNNPS’s assurances that planning decisions can ignore climate impacts are ever more untenable.
  3. Similarly the transitional provisions in paragraphs 1.16-1.17 are designed to reduce legal challenges before the new NNNPS is designated but so poorly thought out that they will do the opposite. Many amendments in the draft NNNPS are intended to reflect legislative changes, which, as a matter of law, take precedence since the Examining Authority is required to consider legislation in force at the time of their recommendation and the Secretary of State at the time of their decision. Trying to pretend otherwise will hinder, not help.
  4. A further challenge is that the draft simply fails to appreciate that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is about to make radical changes to local planning, including partly replacing the NPPF with National Development Management Policies. This is odd as it at least mentions Environmental Outcome Reports, another provision of that Bill, and will increase potential for delays. There is a wider lack of integration even with matters that DfT is leading on, such as the long awaited rail freight target, road safety framework and local transport plan guidance. At the very least the consultation document should have explained how these would be incorporated.
  5. Finally, the Transport Committee should consider whether the NNNPS should help deliver the consenting of infrastructure beneath the NSIP threshold, as the NNNPS is often the only applicable policy, whether or not NSIP thresholds are changed. The Leeds trolleybus scheme was rejected in 2016 due to a lack of supportive national policy[6], electrification and rail upgrades proceeding via Transport & Works Act orders while smaller scale rail freight interchanges and lorry driver facilities are rejected in the local planning system. Network Rail was criticised for delays to Great Western electrification caused by it applying for over 1,800 consents separately, rather than via a single Transport & Works Act application[7]. Yet there was minimal national policy in support, while the scheme passed through dozens of planning authorities with differing local policy. These types of  schemes are especially important for net zero, so we cover this in answers to question five and seven.

4)               The validity of the draft revised NNNPS’s Statement of Need for the development of National Networks, including a) road and b) rail, including Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges


  1. The statement of need (SoN) is fundamentally flawed. The foundation of need, especially for infrastructure with a 60+ year lifespan, should involve considering a wide range of scenarios how the future may turn out. That is the approach taken in the Government Office for Science, which set out four scenarios for 2050, two of which involved less driving one with a reduction of 20%[8], and other bodies like Network Rail. By contrast, the National Road Traffic Projections (NRTP) were constructed to assume traffic growth (even when clearly not compliant with net-zero), meaning that the draft NNNPS could conclude at paragraph 3.31 that “continued absolute traffic growth is likely under all scenarios”.
  2. A major cause of this, besides not including key government promises for levelled up public transport and world class active travel (presumably as it has still not been worked out what these mean in practice), is that all but one of the forecasts assume a 30% drop in the cost of driving, while public transport fares continue to rocket. The failure to replace fuel duty as the fleet electrifies, despite the Treasury’s Net Zero Review saying this would be fiscally unsustainable, “leads to higher car use, more congestion and reductions in the use of other modes including public transport)”[9].
  3. Our overarching comment is that the SoN is not justified, rather it simply makes assertions, and that it fails to recognise that major change is required to deliver government policy, rather than continue consenting schemes from the past.

Drivers of need

  1. The content on network performance is inherently flawed: even with record road spending, congestion is set to double on the SRN. This undermines the ‘need’ for road building when it is failing to solve the problem it is supposedly required for. This will entail huge economic and social costs and divert attention and resources from delivering on real solutions. The failure to even acknowledge this, let alone consider credible options to deal with it shows how flawed the NNNPS is.
  2. The assertion that evidence on induced demand is limited is untrue: fifteen years ago the DfT acknowledged that “new capacity can fill up quickly – at the top end of the scale, traffic levels can increase by up to 8–10 per cent every year”[10] and there has been ever more evidence published since. We deal with economic growth in our answer to question six.
  3. Regarding resilience, the draft NNNPS is likely to require substantial change following the publication of the Third National Adaptation plan, not least with 2023 weather exceeding the predictions of many models. With many of its earthworks and structures nearly two hundred years old, the rail network is at particular risk of climate change and impacts can be especially disruptive due to the lack of suitable alternative routes, mindful of electrification and gauge clearance. The recent closure of Nuneham Viaduct over the River Thames provides a timely reminder. Climate risk varies across the country and across infrastructure, so a spatial assessment of the need for resilience by corridor is urgently required to prioritise investment and ensure sufficient resources are provided to address this. Paragraphs 4.32-33 regarding the Paris Agreement adaptation goal should be moved to become part of the statement of need, to make adaptation a strategic consideration, in its own right, rather than only being considered once a scheme has come forward.
  4. The environmental section is incredibly weak here: besides being the shortest it is the least strategic, ignoring the need for change nationally, instead focusing on mitigation at the scheme level. For net zero, there is a need to enable modal shift, from air as well as from road, to increase occupancy and to manage demand and speeds. Modal shift and increasing occupancy are explicit TDP commitments, yet while the draft and AoS laud the TDP as being comprehensive, they fail to actually reflect its key policies. The failure runs through to the targets set under the Environment Act 2021 (and presumably the additional ones in the Environment Improvement Plan).
  5. Significant modal shift to active travel, meaning motor traffic reduction, is required in urban areas to meet air quality targets, and major reduction in severance of both major transport corridors and the roads that feed into them. The UK is decades behind its neighbours here. In 2010 the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation mapped out nationally important habitat arteries and corridors as well as “unfragmented functional areas” with a low density of road traffic. This enabled it to estimate that transport corridors severed habitat arteries in 9,257 cases, from which a programme of action could be drawn up. Similar exercises are required to assess water pollution from road run-off.
  6. In terms of safety, the draft fails to acknowledge that the Vision Zero target of 2040 is not set to be achieved by National Highways. With only three road periods left before the target year, it is essential to refocus investment from a few major schemes to a far greater number of smaller packages of measures for the worst rated and performing sections of single carriageway. Indeed this is exactly what the Welsh Government has just done in its roads review.
  7. Finally the conclusion is flawed, as the types of potential development are so different, some having alternatives, others less so, it does not make sense to assert a compelling generalised need for development, presumably meaning schemes above the NSIP threshold. Furthermore, while the conclusion refers to a fully integrated system, there is no policy about this.

Development of the road network

  1. This section is especially weak, with no figures on how much congestion is expected to increase overall on the SRN, despite the proposed increases in road capacity. The current NNNPS at least in table 1 set out options for addressing need but even name-checking alternative policies seems too controversial for current ministers.
  2. The core scenario does not take into account policies like the zero emissions mandate, because an additional consultation has been opened into it, which is forecast to significantly increase traffic and congestion further. The starting point for any congested corridors should be a combination of widening travel choices, such as improving public transport, enabling car sharing and improving active travel and managing demand, such as through reallocating space to bus and high occupancy lanes. Adding road capacity simply moves congestion along the SRN and to local roads that feed the SRN, so should be the option of last resort. Unlike the far older rail network, there are few if any locations where major schemes currently need to be prioritised for climate adaptation: this is more of a maintenance and renewals issue but is still likely to require additional funding.
  3. What is noticeable by its omission is a focus on user needs, such as driver facilities, including locations for charging heavy duty vehicles, public transport and ride sharing interchanges. Currently these need to come forward through the local planning system but where they serve the SRN, they are better considered as national infrastructure, informed by route strategies as local plans do not have the evidence base for longer-distance travel that by its nature goes beyond the local area.
  4. The key policy text  - as opposed to a summary of existing commitments - is really paragraphs 3.46 to 3.47. This requires fundamental change to make adding capacity for general traffic the last resort, as is now the case in Wales[11]. The opportunity should be taken to expand here on this.
  5. There also needs to be a recognition here of the impact that expanding road capacity can have on the business case for public transport improvements and continued viability of existing services. At present the issue is completely ignored as though there is no interaction between the two.


  1. The rail policy is not strategic and also requires substantial change. The initial problem is the lack of any aspirations for modal shift and what this means for long-term growth of the rail network. There is simply information about the impact of the pandemic, which will soon become irrelevant if it is not already. The long awaited rail growth target should at least set out detail for freight, but a similar target is needed for passenger mileage too. This is likely to require differentiation between local markets, such as the impact of the mission to level up public transport outside London, and longer distance passenger travel and freight. Without stretching targets, ambitious rail enhancements will face a Catch 22 of being unable to show value for money. The rail sector itself has not shown ambition, with Network Rail aiming for half the growth rate this decade as has been seen since before privatisation.
  2. As noted above, rail has much greater resilience challenges than road, and this is an area where much stronger and more detailed policy is required, backed by greater resource allocation. The environment section requires a fundamental rewrite: it is supposed to set out what the driver of need is but largely sets out what environmental standards a scheme would need to meet. For instance, not only can rail deliver carbon savings through modal shift but it can also reduce noise and severance (for wildlife as well as humans) by enabling a shift to sustainable travel in designated landscapes and habitats.
  3. Although the draft acknowledges the importance of rail for delivering agglomeration and higher density development, this is not carried through to the policy on need, while there is no link made whatsoever to levelling up and its public transport mission. This is a major oversight. Earlier this year, France announced billions of extra rail investment to deliver creating RER (rail metro) networks for its regional cities[12]. This comes on top of an extensive high speed rail network and tram networks in many more cities than the UK, accelerating its lead over the UK. The policy should be strengthened to aspire for rail to be the backbone of mobility, and set out strategic aspirations for city-region networks, longer-distance passenger and freight markets.

Rail freight

  1. France is seeking to double the use of rail freight by 2030 while the EU as a whole is aiming for rail to take a 30% modal share of freight by then. If the UK is to catch up with its neighbours and, after all, given the closeness of trade ties there are strong economic as well as environmental arguments to do so, it needs a far more ambitious approach. Freight bodies have highlighted how smaller rail freight interchanges (RFIs) are failing to gain planning approval[13]. Such RFIs are essential to ensure rail freight can serve all UK regions and to reduce transhipment distances by road. The final NNNPS should include more detailed spatial policy, including smaller RFIs, to unlock this potential, since local plans will rarely have the evidence base or potential to consider strategic freight needs.

5)               How effectively the draft revised NNNPS supports the ambition to achieve Net Zero by 2050

  1. User emissions from the SRN are responsible for a tenth of UK CO2 emissions, and the draft NNNNPS undermines efforts to rapidly reduce them. Paragraph 3.10 states that “[t]he latest climate change projections show that by the 2050s, annual temperatures will rise”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that this year we seem set to breach 1.25C above historic trends already, with weather extremes smashing records and destroying ever more lives and livelihoods each year. Radical reductions in emissions are therefore needed this decade, not simply “by 2050”. Indeed reductions by 2030 and for five yearly carbon budgets are already required by international and domestic law. With surface transport still the biggest sector in terms of direct emissions, even more so if emissions beyond the tailpipe are considered, there is consensus from the RAC Foundation to the Mayor of London that traffic reduction is urgently required[14].
  2. The draft relies frequently on the TDP, yet fails to include policies that support its priorities, not only modal shift and increasing occupancy but also measures to enable the electrification of road freight. The forecasts the NNNPS relies on do not align to the TDP’s priority to use cars less and shift freight to rail.
  3. Research for the Scottish Government found that the TDP would only reduce transport emissions by 5-40% by 2030[15], most likely at the lower end of the range. Paragraph 2.21 asserts that “much of [TDP] has already been delivered or is in progress” but forthcoming analysis of the data underpinning the TDP, which was released this January, suggests that most of the potential ambition in the TDP has now been lost. This is in direct contradiction to what the Government is saying on the TDP, including in this draft NNNPS.
  4. The assertion that reducing congestion reduces carbon is simply not borne out by NH’s own Post Opening Project Evaluations, since the extra road space and increased speeds often have the opposite impact. Additionally, the modelling in the National Road Traffic Projections, flawed as it is, shows congestion worsening despite significant road capacity increases.
  5. In 2022 the BEIS Committee strongly criticised the draft energy NPSs for failing to be explicit on the importance of the net zero target in consenting decisions and for not delivering the step change to deliver the infrastructure needed for net zero urgently, such as by fast-tracking onshore wind[16]. This all pales in comparison to the draft NNNPS, which ignores the commitments in the TDP and, by instructing decision-makers to ignore climate impacts, is actively hostile to net zero. As with the energy NPS, the NNNPS needs to make net zero core in decision-making and expand in scope to fast-track other infrastructure needed to decarbonise.

Net zero test

  1. The CCC’s flagship recommendations in its 2021 review of the Net Zero Strategy were for a net zero test to ensure “all policy and planning decisions are consistent with the path to Net Zero” and for more emphasis on demand management[17], two recommendations it continues to highlight. As noted above the need for demand management is not only ignored, the text relating to it in the current NPS is removed in the draft NPS. Instead the draft states at paragraph 5.37 that “approval of schemes with residual carbon emissions is allowable and can be consistent with meeting carbon budgets, net zero and the UK's Nationally Determined Contribution.” This appears to have been written ignorant of the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan, which accepted that policies were in place to meet only 92% of reductions necessary for the Nationally Determined Contribution in 2030 and that miscalculations regarding hybrid cars and HGVs were largely to blame[18].
  2. While tailpipe emissions are significant, net zero will require very significant reductions in other emissions, including from construction, manufacture and operation of motor vehicles and infrastructure. The CCC’s 2022 progress report to Parliament set out a monitoring framework that started to engage with these issues. Although National Highways is seeking to reduce its wider emissions (but not user emissions, relying on the DfT to do this instead), these can still increase pressures in meeting ever tighter carbon budgets. Transport has major impacts too on land use, especially the sprawl unlocked by highways schemes. Net zero requires major changes in land use, such as for farming, afforestation, bioenergy and renewable energy, while loss of land is expected too[19]. These emerging factors must also be considered for compliance with net zero.

Infrastructure for net zero

  1. In order for transport to be on a pathway to net zero, we urgently need additional infrastructure for sustainable and electrified transport. The thresholds for transport NSIPs should be amended via statutory instrument urgently to include:

       Large charging hubs, including driver facilities, along the SRN and Major Road Network. This category should also be defined to include coach interchanges and park & share to encourage intermodality between driving, cycling, car sharing and bus / coach.

       Smaller RFIs, to help extend the reach of rail freight.

       Strategic cycle routes, such as superhighways off existing highways, to connect up settlements, to maximise the potential of e-bikes[20].


  1. The new focus on “alternative fuels” is concerning, as emerging evidence points to electrification being essential, while alternative fuels offer less potential to reduce carbon emissions or air pollution. Additional supportive policy is required for schemes that may proceed via Transport & Works Act orders, such as trams, other light rail, trolley bus networks and electric road systems (for lorries and potentially coaches) and other urban public transport systems. The opportunity should be taken to rethink the name of this NPS to come up with something more inclusive and integrated.

6)               How effectively the draft revised NNNPS supports levelling-up and growth

  1. By failing to stop congestion becoming far worse, the draft NNNPS is particularly ineffective at supporting growth. The DfT has not published data showing congestion on the SRN with or without RIS enhancements. One point to stress is that the so-called “core” traffic scenario does not reflect current commitments to decarbonise motor vehicles but not replace fuel duty. In reducing the cost of driving by a third, this will significantly make congestion worse, as much as doubling it in a few decades, with a severe impact on growth and productivity. The DfT should be asked to provide additional data on its forecasts.
  2. The other side of the coin is that compared to the 4,000 lane miles promised for RIS2 at the Budget in March 2020, the draft NNNPS now only assumes an extra 1,400 lane miles. This figure may have dropped further following the cancellation of the smart motorway programme last month. In other words, despite record spending on roads, the programme will be less effective than ever in tackling congestion, on its own terms, i.e. assuming that adding capacity in congested areas did not fill up quickly. The other matter that needs clarification is the expected congestion in urban areas, where the DfT has set a target for half of trips to be made by active travel by 2030. This is likely to have wider impacts, for instance people walking and cycling more may be less likely to own a car and more likely to take a train for longer journeys.

Levelling up

  1. The draft NNNPS appears to argue that spending on road schemes can help level up the United Kingdom. This is wrong for three reasons. First, as the statement of need, which starts with the assertion in 3.2 that “[p]opulation growth and economic growth are the most critical influences”, clearly continues to drive investment into higher performing areas. Second, since there is extensive evidence that road-building between weak and stronger areas tends to further increase rather than reduce these differences.
  2. Third, there is a fundamental disconnect with how levelling up is actually defined in part 1 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Neither the draft NNNPS nor the AoS engage substantively beyond general references to the government’s levelling up agenda in paragraph 2.1 and to the Levelling Up White Paper in paragraph 3.7. These ignore the detail of the missions, however. Although improving local public transport is the most obvious, one that has nothing to do with road building[21], there are others that are connected, such as pride of place, wellbeing, skills and employment, which better public transport and active travel can help deliver. By contrast road-building often sucks the vitality out of town centres by drawing out shops and jobs to out of town developments, or by degrading the local environment by overwhelming it with more traffic.
  3. Clearly major changes are required to integrate these missions within the NNNPS before it is designated, which should be through a new levelling up overview section in chapter 4, before integrating missions into chapter 5. Overall this fundamental disconnect between the draft NNNPS, setting the framework for one of the biggest areas of public spending, and this flagship government priority is both staggering and scandalous.

7)               The effectiveness of the assessment framework that underpins the general policies and considerations set out in Chapter Four of the draft revised NNNPS

  1. The division of issues between chapters four and five does not make sense. When asked for clarification, DfT officials have been unable to explain the distinction beyond trying to build on the 2014 version. For instance, climate adaptation is a “general policy” in chapter four but  climate mitigation covered as “generic impacts” in chapter five, likewise biodiversity net gain is in the former while biodiversity and nature conservation in the latter. This not only creates unnecessary complexity and confusion for readers, it also means that the way the NNNPS covers key policy areas, including safety, national security, resilience, good design, health and accessibility is flawed, leading to poor outcomes. In contrast to chapter five where each topic has a coherent structure setting out an introduction, what an applicant needs to assess, mitigation and then what the decision-maker needs to consider, broken down into sub-issues where appropriate, there is no such coherence in topics left in chapter four. We would strongly recommend that chapter four is focused on processes and frameworks, with substantive topics covered in chapter five.
  2. Paragraph 4.48 assumes “environmental regulatory regimes, including those on land drainage, water abstraction and biodiversity, will be properly applied and enforced by the relevant regulator.” This is wholly at odds with the limited resources of regulators and lack of enforcement in practice, which is creating a growing public sense of outrage.


  1. Paragraph 4.18 asserts that “proportionate consideration of alternatives will have been undertaken as part of the investment decision making process” for RIS schemes and paragraph 4.19 that alternatives do not need to be considered unless there are “wholly exceptional circumstances”. There are multiple flaws with this policy. First, because of the siloed nature of funding, wider options are unlikely to be considered. Second, many schemes have been in the pipeline for years and pre-date major policy shifts in government policy, such as net zero, nature recovery and levelling up. This is all the more likely with schemes being shifted to the right as a result of cost pressures. Finally, Treasury Green Book guidance on business cases now emphasises the strategic case over the economic case, arguing that schemes that do not fit with wider government priorities should not be long listed. These paragraphs on alternatives therefore require deletion.


  1. The 2021 draft energy NPSs asserted that good design could solve many problems but without any evidence to back this up. While we welcome that design is explicitly a “material consideration” (4.26), this policy falls far short compared to the NPPF, as its paragraph 134 makes bad design grounds for refusal. The principles set out here, while a starting point, are simply too vague, abstract and couched in conditional terms, to make a difference. Moreover, major transport infrastructure has great impacts on the layout, density and setting of development that it unlocks, including the feel of a place. This ought to be recognised explicitly.
  2. It is frequently difficult to obtain clarity as to what the design policy is trying to achieve, with it referring to other issues like health and accessibility, then those paragraphs referring back to good design. We would recommend focusing the content on design in this chapter on process at the various stages of scheme development, including far greater interaction with local design guidance, settlement hierarchies and sense of place, with policy on substance in the next chapter. Supplementary guidance is required to explain how best to integrate national infrastructure with local design aspirations. The former could include different levels of expectation for design processes for small, medium and large schemes, such as in relation to appointment of design champions and use of design panels.

Safety and health

  1. The aspiration of zero collisions by 2040 is a stretch target, yet the policy in 4.55-59 simply requires reasonable steps to minimise risks and contribute to (not deliver) an overall reduction in casualties. It is even worse for people walking and cycling as a token improvement could lead to the policy test being satisfied even if the overall outcomes are worse: by contrast those wheeling and riding on or across the SRN are simply forgotten. A fundamentally different approach is required to design out road danger, including on local roads that feed into the SRN, which schemes may otherwise increase danger on by inducing more traffic.

Missing content

  1. There are three particular areas that need strategic direction in this chapter, through the addition of their own sub-sections.  First, around impacts beyond scheme boundaries. While many forms of infrastructure have impacts beyond their scheme boundaries, transport schemes lead to changed flows on surrounding roads, typically in the case of road schemes inducing more traffic, which in turn has wider impacts, whether increased congestion, severance, or pollution, or reduced safety. Even other forms of linear infrastructure such as electric lines do not cause these impacts. Paragraph 5.275 focuses mitigation measures on the “immediate surrounding” of the scheme but impacts may be far further, such as traffic generated on the wider road network. The draft at paragraph 3.33 suggests that road schemes unlock “the creation of new communities underpinned by sustainable transport”. While in most cases the communities are underpinned by roads and barely served by alternatives, the key point here is the lack of assessment of the impacts of this wider development: car-dependent housing has higher capital and operational carbon, for example. Bigger roads can also undermine the economic viability of public transport.
  2. Second, regarding cumulative impacts, which are briefly noted in paragraph 4.11. IEMA guidance highlights the importance of contextualising greenhouse gas emissions, rather than simply comparing them to a national carbon budget[22]. With new species and air quality exposure targets being national as opposed to being tied to particular locations, similar contextualisation will be required for assessing compliance with them and to avoid a plethora of legal challenges. This will be of particular importance to get right for the new Environmental Outcomes Reports to be credible and effective.
  3. Finally, guidance is needed on interaction with the energy system since, with the move to electrify transport, it is no longer possible to deal with transport and energy in separate silos. With transmission constraints identified as a major blockage to decarbonising the grid, there may be opportunities for well integrated schemes to reduce cost, landscape impact and connections times.

8)               How effectively the draft revised NNNPS provides a framework for assessing the general impacts of nationally significant infrastructure projects, as set out in Chapter Five

  1. Like the preceding content, chapter five provides an inadequate framework as it is not integrated with key government priorities and legislation. In particular, the targets set in the 2023 Environmental Improvement Plan have not been substantively incorporated while there is no mention of the levelling up missions either. Note though that while they are covered in this chapter, impacts on greenhouse gas emissions are dealt with in our answers to question 5, and on transport networks in question 11.

Air quality

  1. The policy on air quality is inadequate. Paragraph 5.22 would allow increases in pollution affecting compliance with air quality limits, so long as they were not deemed significant. In contrast, paragraph 5.24 would require decision-makers to give weight to nature-based solutions, even if they were insignificant in their effects. It should be the other way around. There should also be a requirement to consider alternatives, especially if they might deliver compliance sooner.
  2. There are more serious difficulties in relation to the new air quality exposure targets. As explained in our previous answer, policy is required to contextualise these, otherwise every promoter will say although their scheme may increase exposure to air pollution, the impacts are not significant at the national level, therefore nothing need be done. There is a lack of evidence here as to how traffic levels may affect compliance with the newly set targets for 2028: the NRTP only shows tailpipe emissions of particulates, despite the majority of traffic emissions in cities coming from tyre, brake and road wear.

Biodiversity and nature restoration

  1. Although there is similar wording in the current NNNPS that avoidance should come first and that compensation should be the last resort, DfT has taken the line in recent decisions such as the A428 that uncompensated loss is not harm. The policy needs to be strengthened, taking into account the increasing difficulty of restoring and creating habitats as the climate becomes more extreme.
  2. While we welcome the mention of local nature recovery strategies (LNRSs), as part of the objective to restore nature rather than simply mitigate its decline, the policy for decision-makers is too weak. Despite the word local in their name, LNRSs propose new habitats and connectivity that will be vital at the national level as the nature recovery network is made up of LNRSs[23]. There is a lack of guidance to ensure appropriate weight is given to their aspirations.
  3. Finally the 2030 species target will be at least as challenging to meet as the 2030 climate target, if not more so given the rate nature is declining. This is even before the impacts of ever more extreme weather are felt. Simply adding in biodiversity units may be ineffective in creating the coherent ecological corridors and networks of habitat to give species a chance. Further policy is required.


  1. There is a lack of consideration in the AoS and draft NNNPS as to how the impact of the rising traffic levels it is trying to accommodate will increase noise overall. So while it might be possible that some locations with new infrastructure actually see a reduction in noise, the vast majority of the network will see a deterioration and hence the assessment of noise should be marked as a significant negative impact. Loss of traffic noise was, after all, one of the few positives of the lockdowns that resonated with the public. Proposed mitigations of insulation will be increasingly ineffective as warmer temperatures mean people leave their windows open more. This is another reason why the overall policy direction should be to limit traffic rather than enable it to grow.


  1. The policy here is very one-sided, considering only the potential benefits of schemes, despite extensive evidence that road schemes can lead to job losses in weaker regions. In addition, by being focused on job creation, it fails to consider the impacts on more vulnerable groups, such as older people.
  2. We suggest more detailed policy here or in a new section on levelling up missions, considering how schemes impact on the missions and metrics, including ways to mitigate adverse impacts and to maximise potential synergies.

9)              The robustness and transparency of the Appraisal of Sustainability used to assess the draft revised NNNPS

  1. The AoS is supposed to “[e]xamine the likely social, economic and environmental effects of designating an NNNPS (and the reasonable alternatives to the NNNPS)”. Unfortunately this AoS provides minimal insights as it appears largely written to justify the draft NNNPS, rather than to consider how to maximise its benefits for sustainability.

Reasonable alternatives

  1. The selection of reasonable alternatives is the crucial foundation for a credible appraisal but was fundamentally flawed here for three reasons. First, the alternatives “need to be sufficiently distinct to highlight the different environmental implications of each so that meaningful comparisons can be made”[24]. Here the scenarios were “vastly different in their approach. Rather, they present subtle variations”[25]. In particular, record investment in road-building and constrained investment in rail[26] were assumed in all scenarios, while demand management was excluded as even being a possibility. It is not surprising that the scenarios were scored very similarly, given how similar they in fact are.
  2. Second, the scenarios are made even more objectionable since measures that are commitments in the TDP and legislation have been ignored. The changes needed to deliver London-class public transport or world class active travel necessitate radical changes in funding and policy but only “greater emphasis / promotion” were considered. Finally, none of the scenarios are effective in tackling key challenges, showing that a genuine set of alternatives is required.

Significance scoring

  1. The significance scoring is simply not credible, whether its overall finding of ““no significant adverse effects of the policy”, its scoring of the beneficial impacts or underplaying of negative impacts. If there had been credible, reasonable alternatives, this would be even clearer. There are three major causes here. First, the lack of any assessment of the effectiveness of the existing NPS and in particular the assertions made in its 2014 AoS[27]. For example, it asserted then that the original NPS would have some benefits in tackling the transport sector’s carbon emissions, yet they have plateaued since. Second, the assessment was high level and generic, rather than of the effects of the NPS on the RIS programme that DfT emphasises the stability and certainty of. While that may have been understandable in 2014, before RIS1 was published, it is unacceptable in 2023.
  2. The third issue is the lack of any impartial assessment by genuinely independent assessors. Yet the DfT’s “independent” consultants are Ramboll who have been contracted by National Highways and its predecessors since 2006 on its sustainability and environmental performance[28] and WSP, recently awarded a contract of up to £3.6bn[29]. In 2020, following numerous corporate scandals, the Financial Reporting Council told accountancy practices to separate out their audit work from consulting[30]. By contrast, there is no such separation in place for sustainability auditing and, regarding climate, there is no statutory body scrutinising net zero claims in the planning system.
  3. Significant positive effects were scored for economic impacts, user experience and safety. Much of the RIS2 spend is now for schemes with a low or poor economic case, while there is minimal evidence of the economic benefits of road schemes in mature economies, compared to the growing evidence of the benefits of improving local public transport. Nonetheless this was rated double plus. User experience is likewise rated double plus on the basis of the NNNPS reducing congestion and improving journey times, despite congestion increasing in all National Road Traffic Prediction scenarios, with the central case likely to be as much as doubling of congestion on the SRN. The only scenario to offer any halt to rising congestion was the behavioural change scenario up to 2040, showing traffic restraint is possible with different policies. Finally safety was also given the highest rating on the basis “new highways developments provide an opportunity to make significant safety improvements” (emphasis added). This is despite safety largely plateauing and growing arguments on the need to spread safety investment more widely than on a few large isolated developments with minimal impact across the whole of the network.
  4. By contrast the assessment alleges uncertain effects related to greenhouse gas, both for construction and operation. This is not credible given the extensive evidence of road schemes increasing carbon emissions and the context of the UK being set to miss its 2030 target. The explanation quotes the CCC to say the TDP is “reasonably comprehensive”, while leaving out its concerns about the need to reduce traffic and the lack of demand management. In any event, this is wrong even on the explicit approach set out in the AoS regarding the precautionary principle, requiring uncertain effects to be scored as negative.

10)              The effectiveness of the Department for Transport’s consultation on the draft revised NNNPS

  1. While we appreciate the purpose of this question, it will not be possible to answer until the DfT reports back from the consultation to see how it has taken responses on board. So far, based on TAN’s participation in three DfT workshops and from the draft AoS’s failure to take on board feedback from the scoping consultation on it, the signs are not promising.
  2. For consultation to be lawful, consultees must be in a position to provide “informed comment”. An initial failing is the lack of baseline information or credible, impartial assessment, as highlighted in the answer to the previous question. The starting point should be the effectiveness of the existing NNNPS, as such an evaluation should surely provide the foundation of assessing what has and has not worked. Then there should be information about the likely impacts of the current transport programme, not least its carbon emissions.   Independent research by Transport for Quality of Life has highlighted the failure to assess the impacts of RIS2 and the failure of road schemes to maintain environmental mitigation, let alone assess effectiveness post opening[31]. It would have been helpful too to have a summary of changes between the 2014 and 2023 versions of the NPS: perhaps this does not exist since it would have revealed minimal substantive changes in actual policy.
  3. The events held by DfT have taken a tick-box approach to engagement , best illustrated by official’s failure or inability to properly answer questions.
  4. Despite the benefits of an iterative approach officials simply refused to disclose how any feedback so far has influenced the drafts, stating this "would be premature and risks distracting potential respondents to the ongoing consultation to comment on how the AoS has influenced the NNNPS when this process has not yet concluded". Yet this approach is common in the planning system. With the DfT’s own public research highlighting that “the idea of building more roads or widening existing roads was generally not seen to be a viable long term solution”[32], it is hardly surprising that officials are struggling to justify the policy.

11)The effectiveness of the NNNPS in ensuring alignment with local transport plans and local networks, and taking into account the impact on communities where national networks are located

  1. By only imagining futures where road traffic and congestion grow, and public transport stalls or withers, the draft NNNPS sets itself against the aspirations of communities and constituencies across England for better transport. Moreover, by failing to acknowledge let alone integrate government commitments to level up public transport by 2030 and deliver a world class cycle network by 2040, while heavily caveating all sustainable travel policies, the draft undermines both local ambition and national commitments to accelerate modal shift.

Local planning

  1. The draft not only includes the National Road Traffic Projections but effectively prohibits questioning of them[33]. Paragraph 4.7 on local transport models states that “[t]he Examining Authority and the Secretary of State do not need to be concerned with the national methodology and national assumptions around the key drivers of transport demand.” DfT officials have justified this saying that as NSIPs are national schemes, national policy should take priority over local.
  2. Many local authorities, cities and sub-national bodies have targets to achieve net zero well before 2050 and to reduce traffic by 2030. The problem here is not simply about the imposition of major road schemes to cater for more traffic in areas seeking to do the opposite. More broadly, the wider set of forecasts and assumptions designed to support road-building nationally undermine spatial planning and business cases for sustainable travel schemes locally. For instance, the transport proposals of recently approved local plans focus on providing for predicted increases in motor traffic, prioritising developer contributions to deliver this, with sustainable modes an afterthought, whether in terms of detail or funding.
  3. Draft guidance on local transport plans, including requirements for  “quantifiable carbon reductions” was due to be consulted upon then finalised last year[34]. There are increasing suspicions the delays are due to the fundamental incompatibility of such reductions on local roads with RIS schemes generating more traffic[35], especially where they seek to unlock car-dependent development. There are historic tensions between the requirements placed on local authorities to cut air pollution, while National Highways was exempted until recently.

Active travel

  1. The policy is barely changed from the current NNNPS, which has led to poor outcomes in many recent schemes. For the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, an uncontrolled crossing for walking and cycling across a 70mph dual carriageway were deemed acceptable, while a recent decision on the A47, the Secretary of State overruled the recommendation in deciding that lengthy diversions were acceptable. Paragraph 5.265 states that severance concerns should be addressed, unless unviable to do so and paragraph 5.272 that mitigation should “proportionate and reasonable”. The problem is that viable is not defined while existing hostile conditions suppress active travel, creating a chicken before egg situation. Even where schemes do include facilities, they can be indirect, requiring using as many as six separate crossings to get around a junction, or as with the flagship A14 scheme, not well integrated into the surrounding networks
  2. The wording in paragraph 5.264 is vague and caveated. The policy should be changed to future proof schemes with active travel facilities that meet DfT LTN 01/20 guidance, unless there are exceptional circumstances, and to help deliver Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) and the Rights of Way Improvement Plans (RoWIPs). Rather than “considering opportunities” for sustainable modes, their use should be maximised and more detailed guidance as to what an “integrated transport outcome” is required, including freight.
  3. Regarding public transport, there is strong potential but even less planning than for active travel: Bus Service Improvement Plans have largely focused on improving or maintaining existing services serving town centres, rather than integrating with potential longer distance services and coaches, such as through new interchanges by the SRN. Integration of car sharing is even further behind, with National Highways and DfT unable to say what they have done since this was announced as a TDP goal in 2021.


May 2023



[1] One exception might be the rail sector’s project speed, but there appears to be no join up between it and the NNNPS.

[2] Nationally Significant Infrastructure: action plan for reforms to the planning process (DLUHC, 2023)

[3] Paragraph 2.3 in Road enhancements: progress with the second road investment strategy (2020 to 2025) | National Audit Office (NAO, 2022)

[4] Delivering net zero, climate resilience and growth (NIC, 2023)

[5] Indeed TAN’s legal challenge to the Secretary of State’s failure to suspend the NNNPS’s climate policy pending this review turned on the very point: DfT’s defence included the assertion that the policy could not be suspended without bringing the whole NNNPS into question.

[6] Leeds trolley vehicle system: Transport and Works Act order (DfT, 2017)

[7] Modernising the Great Western Railway (Public Accounts Committee, 2017)

[8] Net Zero Society: scenarios and pathways (GO-Science, 2023)

[9] NRTP paragraphs 3.15 and 3.41

[10] Paragraph 5.27 in Roads: choice and reliability (DfT, 2008)

[11] Welsh Government response to the Roads Review (WG, 2023)

[12] France to Invest €100 Billion in Railway Infrastructure (Railway News, 2023)

[13] https://www.mdst.co.uk/draft-nps-nationalnetworks

[14] Car miles and cutting carbon (RAC Foundation, 2023) and Mayor's Transport Strategy Addendum Proposal 24.1 (GLA, 2022)

[15] Page 10 in Decarbonising the Scottish transport sector (Element Energy, 2021)

[16] Business Committee says Government should ‘be explicit on net zero target’ in its approval process for major energy infrastructure (UK Parliament, 2022)

[17] Independent Assessment: The UK's Net Zero Strategy (CCC, 2021)

[18] Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (DESNZ, 2023)

[19] See tables 9 & 10 in Net Zero Society: scenarios and pathways (GOS, 2023)

[20] e-bike carbon savings – how much and where? (CREDS, 2020)

[21] There is a tiny mention of road schemes on p182 of the White Paper but there is no functional link made between them and the headline missions in over 300 pages.

[22] Updated EIA Guidance on Assessing GHG Emissions (IEMA, 2022)

[23] Nature Recovery Network (Defra, 2022)

[24] Reference ID: 11-038-20190722 in Strategic environmental assessment and sustainability appraisal (DLUHC, 2020)

[25] Paragraph 1.1.1 in AoS Appendix 1: Development of alternatives

[26] Enhancements were taken out of rail CP5 and instead supposed to be announced via a separate Rail Network Enhancement Pipeline, which, many years later, has still not been published.

[27] National networks national policy statement: appraisal of sustainability (DfT, 2014)

[28] This information has now been deleted from Ramboll’s website but is still archived here: https://web.archive.org/web/20220817081544/https://ramboll.com/projects/ruk/national-highways-sustainability-advice.

[29] The other consultancy, WSP, was key in delivering its so-called Net Zero Highways plan, which TAN has dismissed as greenwash for failing to minimise user emissions. https://www.wsp.com/en-gb/news/2021/wsp-awarded-three-design-contracts-on-national-highways-scheme-delivery-framework

[30] https://www.frc.org.uk/news/february-2021/operational-separation-of-audit-practices

[31] https://www.transportforqualityoflife.com/policyresearch/roadsandtraffic/

[32] Department for Transport Future Roads: Public Dialogue (Kantor, 2018)

[33] Via section 104(3) of the Planning Act 2008.

[34] Local Transport Plans: Decarbonisation (Hansard, 19 May 2022)

[35] Paragraph 2.8 asserts that SRN frees up local roads: while this may be the case on the day of opening of new schemes for particular roads, over time traffic increases overall.