Message to the Parliamentary Transport Committee – get rid of Highways England!

The Parliamentary Transport Committee has just closed their call for evidence into ‘Major transport infrastructure projects: appraisal and delivery inquiry.     [For details of the Committee’s focus CLICK HERE. ]

Here is a link to my detailed recommendations to the Transport Committee: 

There were 4 themes in my submission:

  • Take more decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. – Some aspects of the Government’s infrastructure project like major road building projects will only encourage more petrol and diesel car journeys. With 43 million cars on the road this is a serious problem!
  • Post COVID we need a new ‘normal.’ – We need to stop rushing around in our cars and commute long distances by train and aeroplane in order to get to our employer’s place of work. We need ‘Digital highways’ and better places to work remotely without commuting for hours to work by car, train and aeroplane.
  • We need integrated multimodal transport solutions were it is easier to move between walking, cycling, driving and going by train.
  • There here should be a ‘Transport Authority’ and Highways England should be abolished! – Funding via separate ‘silos’ for road and rail with buses is not helping provide better transport solutions that a fit for a net-zero carbon future.

The Transport Committee consultation said that billions of pounds of investment has been committed during 2020 to the UK’s transport infrastructure. Will the committed funds actually produce the expected benefits and help meet the UK’s 2050 Net Zero commitment?

Here is a summary of my recommendations to the Transport Committee:

  1. A joined-up plan is needed that maps out actual steps that the infrastructure sector must take as a whole in order to help deliver the UK’s net-zero emissions commitments. The NIS should be updated to include the actual steps needed to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  2. The NIS should be modified to include a toolkit showing how proposed projects should be measured to achieve the maximum employment and sustainable economic growth whilst meeting the government’s commitment to zero carbon emissions.
  3. All projects should be reassessed against a ‘carbon sustainability’ measurement. Those projects which don’t meet it should be deleted from the programme and the money transferred to genuinely sustainable projects.
  4. Wouldn’t it be better to devise a strategy which reduces the need for car travel by improving bus and rail transport in a post Covid world? Also, we need to integrate transport so that it becomes much easier to move between car and rail or car and bus etc. This will help the travelling public gain confidence in public transport thus helping the UK to move to a position of reducing car journeys thus reducing the need to spend millions of pounds on road infrastructure.
  5. To cut greenhouse gases significantly and help businesses survive this crisis and future crises that may be just around the corner we need to change the way we work.
  6. ‘Digital transport’ should be considered as part of the solution. Rolling out 5G and bringing remote working hubs into operation can cut commuting and greenhouse gases, the 28% emission can be reduced by strategies and interventions which reduce the need for billions to be spent on road infrastructure.
  7. Divert funds from roads to bus and rail infrastructure. Invest in bus services directly so they become reliable and frequent. Both of these forms of transport will meet 2050 climate change targets.
  8. Strategic transport within the UK should be considered on a multimodal basis. The Road Infrastructure Strategy (RIS) system should be abandoned. Highways England should be abolished. In place of this there should be a “Strategic Infrastructure Transport Authority” who will be responsible for agreeing funding with the government and then allocating funds on integrated transport solutions suitable for transport corridors and urban conurbations.
  9. Network Rail’s ‘Control Period’ settlements should be unpicked so as to identify how much is maintenance and how much is actual new infrastructure.
  10. Evaluation of transport systems should be multimodal and include the concept of encouraging transfer from one mode to the other. Schemes should be encouraged which  produce significant net zero carbon benefits and which move freight and people from car to road.
  11. Future studies should also include coastal ferry transportation from port to port around the UK for both passengers and freight. Don’t laugh! This could significantly reduce the need for expensive road infrastructure. If one can cross the channel from Portsmouth to Cherbourg in three hours on a fast ferry, why can’t we apply the same concept to travelling between ports on the English coast?

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