Open letter to the Rt Hon Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport on urgent measures to deal with climate change

Posted on Jan 1, 2021 in What our fellows are thinking

Dear Mr Shapps,

The government of the United Kingdom is fully committed to do as much as possible to maximise our contribution to carbon reduction and make a significant contribution to eliminating the threats posed by climate change.

The declaration of a climate emergency and the urgent necessity to make sure that COP26 in Glasgow this year advances national and international efforts to eliminate climate change threats provides the context for serious interventions in transport to deliver on policies that take us in this direction.

Transport is key to our success or lack of success in dealing with climate change. 

We now have a substantial body of evidence, research, literature and best practice that shows how we can intervene in transport to achieve zero land transport carbon by 2030. 2050 is too late.

I am writing to you on the first day of 2021 to ask that you adopt the 10 policy measures listed in this letter and report on exactly what you have done at COP26.

These are the 10:

  1. Cancel all new road building plans, including both the £27 billion RIS2 and the LLM list of approximately 100 local roads (roads promoted by local authorities). Local roads have a c£6 billion price tag. The combined total of funding of £33 billion would now be available for non-road building transport spending linked directly to the “Avoid, Shift, Improve” framework for delivering zero carbon sustainable transport (Note 1).
  2. Design, fund and build fully segregated cycle paths connecting every secondary school and college in England with the main catchment areas that they serve.
  3. Adopt the Stockholm Declaration agreed by over 100 ministerial delegates at the 3rd Global Road Safety Conference in Stockholm in February 2020. The English minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton was present when this was agreed.
    Focus on speed management, including the strengthening of law enforcement to prevent speeding and mandate a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h in areas where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix in a frequent and planned manner, except where strong evidence exists that higher speeds are safe, noting that efforts to reduce speed in general will have a beneficial impact on air quality and climate change as well as being vital to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries.
  4. Ensure that sufficient funds and responsibilities are in place to deal with current very poor levels of enforcement of speed limits. Enforcing speed limits is not optional. 
  5. Introduce a national default speed limit of 20mph on all streets and roads where pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles mix. We did not leave seat-belt wearing to individual councils to decide on whether or not seat belt wearing would be required and the same principle applies to the 20mph default speed limit.
  6. Ban all pavement parking and if parking on the road surface would impede emergency vehicles, utility vehicles or bin lorries, no parking of any vehicles at all will be permitted on that street.
  7. Adopt a minimum width for the pedestrian pavements based on the space requirements of wheel chairs and pushchairs. All sub-standard pavements will be widened to this standard taking space away from the roadway.
  8. Adopt the regional transport authority model of organising, providing and monitoring integrated high quality public transport services and base this on the long-established German “Verkehrsbund” model (Note 2).
  9. Adopt the Swiss approach to the provision of bus services in rural areas (Note 3).
  10. Provide funding to support evidence-based measures that reduce car dependency and transfer a proportion of car trips to walk, cycle and public transport. There is a large body of evidence around the success of personalised journey planning and travel plans in achieving these objectives (Note 4).

Yours sincerely

Professor John Whitelegg

Foundation for Integrated Transport Fellow in Transport and Climate Change

Note 1 

Sustainable Urban Transport: Avoid-Shift-Improve (A-S-I), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

Note 2 

Buehler, R., Pucher, J. and Duemmler, O (2019) Verkehrsverbund: the evolution and spread of fully integrated regional public transport in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 13:1, 36-50 Download in German here

Note 3

Petersen, P (2016) Watching the Swiss: a network approach to rural and exurban public transport, Transport Policy, 52, November 2016, 175-185

Note 4 

Welsh Government Transport Commission, Final Recommendations, November 2020