Written evidence submitted by Living Streets

Introduction

1. We are Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. We want to create a walking nation, free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illnesses and social isolation and making walking the natural choice. We believe that a walking nation means progress for everyone. Our ambition is to get people of all generations to enjoy the benefits that this simple act brings and to ensure all our streets are fit for walking.

Summary

2. Living Streets welcomes this opportunity to the Transport Select Committee’s call for evidence on reforming public transport after the pandemic. Active travel and the use public (and shared) transport for longer journeys are integral to reducing carbon emissions from the transport sector. Covid19 has had a severe impact on confidence in and use of public transport. Reform of the sector should:

 

The use of public transport and the way that people choose to travel, both locally and for longer domestic journeys

 

3. The Government must incentivise local government to shape local transport networks around walking, cycling, shared and public transport. Some of those tools are already there, such as local cycling and walking implementation plans, but much more needs to be done. The cyclical reforms of the planning system are particularly unhelpful. The planning system should be given more (not less) weight in shaping the way places are developed. Master planning and transport planning is crucial to identifying and providing the appropriate infrastructure for sustainable journeys.

4. Almost 80% of journeys under a mile are walked irrespective of where you live or if the household owns a car[1]. Making more space for walking and cycling has been one of the unexpected opportunities to come from the pandemic. However, a temporary reduction in space given to vehicles will not, by itself, lead to a long-lasting behaviour change and reductions in car use. Most people do not live within walking distance of all the services they need (education, health, leisure, shopping) or places of employment – and as distances increase more people jump into their cars.

5. Transport Focus note that everyone makes transport choices based around the four ‘C’s’ – choice, cost, convenience and control[2]. People will choose bus, train or tram for local and longer journeys where this is the best consumer choice. In an annual survey of almost 50,000 bus passengers the biggest issue affecting journeys is congestion[3]. A convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network – for buses in particular – needs space. Prioritising finite carriageway space in built up areas for active and sustainable modes of transport is the first step towards making it the most convenient option for local and longer journeys. Space reallocation for walking must work appropriately with public transport (increases in walking journeys and bus patronage are complementary) and be accessible to all, especially people in wheelchairs or with sight loss.

 

Central and local governmental transport priorities and finances and funding for transport

6. Government has provided financial support for transport operators during the pandemic. It is likely this will result in fare increases for public transport users[4] and increase transport costs to those who can least afford it. People who do not have private transport depend on shared and public transport for local and longer journeys. Econometric analysis undertaken by the University of Leeds in 2016, as part of a study commissioned by Greener Journeys, found that 10% improvement in local bus service connectivity in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods across England would result in a:

7. Public transport needs to be more affordable, as well as more accessible and reliable. Local authorities should be encouraged to find other ways to raise revenue to support public transport services and manage demand and constrain traffic growth, such as: city centre entry restrictions, road pricing and workplace parking levies.

8. With the £2.5bn Transforming Cities Fund, the Government is taking a new approach to tackling urban transport investment priorities to combat congestion and drive productivity through low-carbon transport infrastructure investment. Of this, £1.08bn has been devolved to six Mayoral Combined Authorities. What is needed is a combination of capital and revenue funding. Revenue funding essential if new infrastructure is to be adopted by communities at large and if meaningful behavioural change is to take place.

 

The devolution of transport policy-making responsibilities and powers

9. A recent report by Campaign for Better Transport has underlined the importance of making administrative decisions about local journeys at a local level[6]. They suggest that:

Local authorities should be required to produce local integrated transport plans that outline how they will permanently reprioritise provision locally to ensure a sustainable transport system based on active travel, shared and public transport (including rail, if devolved) that responds to, and meets, the needs of the community.

The importance of planning cannot be understated. Transport planning directly (and often indirectly) shapes the built environment. When thoroughly integrated with land use planning it can enable space to be allocated to active and public transport as part of a coherent and sustainable transport network.

 

The decarbonisation of transport and the capability to meet net zero carbon emissions targets by 2050

10. The coronavirus has damaged people’s confidence in public transport. However, a rapid shift to active and sustainable public transport is essential if the UK is to meet its international obligations and help combat the climate change crisis. The Tyndall Centre found that even if all new cars were ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) by 2035, a 58% reduction in car mileage between 2016 and 2035 would still be required to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations[7]. Instead of committing £27bn in the strategic road network (SRN) over the next five years – over half of which is earmarked for building new roads, generating new traffic – the Government should focus on maintaining existing roads[8] and help local authorities to reshape local transport networks around active travel, shared and public transport.

 

Innovation and technological reform within transport.

11. Smartphones and the sharing of mobile data are key to the development of Mobility As A Service (MAAS) platforms and offer scope to integrate timetables and ticketing across all modes. The ability of MAAS platforms to offer wider choice and encourage active and sustainable modes of transport will depend on several key factors, such as the availability of public transport, its cost, the predictability of journey times (i.e. the ability to reliably plan your journey), congestion (which affects journey reliability or propensity to walk or cycle) and air quality. Government interventions, such as reducing road space for private car journeys and allocating more space for active and sustainable transport, subsidising the cost of public transport and behaviour change campaigns, are an essential component of reforming public transport after the pandemic.

12. Transport schemes should be assessed against their contribution to wider public policy goals, in particular the reduction of carbon emissions and benefit to public health (to physical health and combat loneliness), to reflect a broader definition of value for money. Road transport policies need to move beyond predicting and providing capacity for private motorised vehicles, to “decide to provide” the road space and investment for active travel.

September 2020

 


[1] National Travel Survey (2019) https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/national-travel-survey-2019.

[2] https://greenerjourneys.com/insight/decarbonisation-must-deliver-on-user-priorities-to-be-successful/

[3] Transport Focus (2020). Bus Passenger Survey Autumn 2019: Summary of key results in England see https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/bus-passenger-survey-autumn-2019-report/.

[4] For example, in May Transport for London received £1.6bn in emergency funding to keep Tube and bus services running until September; in return Mayor Sadiq Khan agreed to raise fares !% above inflation https://metro.co.uk/2020/05/15/what-was-transport-london-bailout-will-prices-go-tube-passengers-12706833/

[5] Greener Journeys (2016). The Value of the Bus to Society https://greenerjourneys.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Value-of-the-Bus-to-Society-FINAL.pdf

[6] Campaign for Better Transport (2020). Covid-19 Recovery Renewing the transport system https://bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-files/Covid_19_Recovery_Renewing_the_Transport_System.pdf

[7] https://www.transportforqualityoflife.com/u/files/1%20More%20than%20electric%20cars%20briefing.pdf

[8] The annual ALARM Survey 2020 highlights an average 16% reduction in council roads maintenance budgets and says that a one-time catch up would take 11 years and cost £11.14bn. https://www.asphaltuk.org/wp-content/uploads/ALARM-survey-2020-FINAL.pdf