Transport Strategy to 2030 in U.K.: Input by NCRUG, Halton FoE to Eddington Transport Study

In responding the Invitation to Provide Input to the Eddington Transport Study, we comment on the five questions posed in the Invitation. These comments have been prepared by Prof. Andrew Basden, University of Salford, on behalf of the

The preamble to Rod Eddington's Invitation to Provide Input is as follows:

"As you may know, I have been asked by the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Transport to provide advice on the long term links between transport and the UK's economic productivity, growth and stability. This Study will, of course, be set in the context of the Government's long-term transport policy objectives, which seek to meet the UK's long-term economic, social and environmental goals.

Good transport is essential for a successful economy and society, providing access to jobs and services, facilitating the movement of goods, and attracting investment. To assist me in preparing my advice I would very much welcome your views on the following questions: ..."

Contents:


1. What contribution does transport make to the UK's economic growth, productivity and stability? And in which ways does it contribute? Does it currently impose constraints?

1.1 Two approaches. Discussion of this question presupposes a definition of what constitutes the economy.

The narrow approach is the one adopted unquestioned by UK governments since the 1980s. Even though some lip service has been given to issues of a blossoming economy, these have been unsuccessful and even counter-productive.

1.2 The Conventional Approach. But the conventional, narrow approach is both harmful to other aspects of life and also self-defeating, as follows.

1.3 Harm to other aspects. Making a growing economy the primary driver narrows debate and means that other aspects like the environment, the long term, social justice, global justice, etc. are downplayed and not given their due. This effect is well known and we need not rehearse the arguments here.

1.4 Paradoxes of the narrow approach. Seen from a longer perspective, the narrow approach is self-defeating, because of a number of paradoxes inherent in it identified by Goudzwaard:

1.5 Narrow approach self-defeating. Because of such paradoxes, making a growth in financial measures the primary driver of policy is not only harmful but also self-defeating, especially over the longer term, which is what this Transport Study covers.

1.6 Idolatry. A single paradox could be explained by circumstances, but such a set of paradoxes together suggest a fundamental structural problem with the presuppositions we make about the economy. Goudzwaard uses the notion of idolatry to explain this:

We do not say the economy is unimportant; we merely point out that idolatry is actually both harmful to other aspects and counter-productive to itself.

1.7 Questioning the Idol of Economic Growth. Therefore it is necessary to question this idol and move to an alternative view of economy, such that of the Blossoming Economy.

1.8 Transport Study. If, at this point, the reader is inclined to dismiss our call for a new approach, we would simply point out that that is itself evidence that the idol is being protected and not allowed to be questioned.

1.9 Characteristics of the Blossoming Economy. The blossoming economy recognises that the economy is just one institution of modern society among many, and should work in harmony with all others and serve all others, rather than demand that all others serve it and be subject to it.

1.9 Transport Strategy for Blossoming Economy. Therefore our first contribution to the Transport Study is to make the following suggestion: In considering transport strategy over the longer term, think in terms of 'blossoming economy' rather than 'economic growth', and consider how transport contributes to the former instead of (or at least, as well as) the latter.

For example: One problem of high road usage among many others is that it leads to 3,000 deaths, 30,000 serious injuries, 300,000 other injuries from accidents, and upwards of 10,000 deaths from respiratory diseases per annum. (Other problems of high road usage - environment, climate change, wildlife, lack of exercise, and even the spread of Foot and Mouth nationwide and so on - can be treated similarly.)

1.10 It is unfortunate that the terms in which the Transport Study has been couched seems to presuppose only the narrow approach. For example, in Question 2, the only groups mentioned are those connected with business, as though only these groups' interests are to be considered important. In particular, the environment is totally ignored in Questions 2 - 4.

1.11 In the blossoming economy, environmental damage prevention is seen as a priority not as secondary and the jobs and industries and services that develop in response to this priority are such as to contribute significantly to a healthy economy. In the blossoming economy, there is more taking of responsibility rather than self-interest, which stimulates sound economic activity that is not wasteful. The blossoming economy is healthier and more dynamic than the growing economy.

Note: This means a different profile of economic sectors in the blossoming economy rather than when we make economic growth a primary goal in its own right. Whereas the road transport sector, a damage-producing sector, might shrink, other sectors expand. Climate change emissions must be reduced by at least 60% by 2050. To achieve this will involve considerable economic activity, which will far outweigh that by which the damage-producing sectors shrink.

2. What are the most important characteristics and priorities of the transport system, currently and in the future (to 2030), for the following groups and economic concerns, e.g. journey frequency or choice? a. Business travellers b. Commuters and labour markets c. Freight traffic d. Traded goods and services e. Capital Markets and Foreign Direct Investment

2.1 As we remarked in 1.10, this list of groups is one-sided, suggesting that only groups connected with business are to be considered important. Why should not other travellers be of interest? Why should not other roles for a transport strategy be considered important?

2.2 One important role for transport strategy is to consider how to encourage a blossoming economy while reduce our climate change emissions by 60 or 80% by 2050. The Government recognises this need (see Climate Change Programme Review, 2005). The Chancellor of the Exchequer has admitted that climate change is the most serious threat to the economy. Though, formally, this Transport Study is to 2030 only, is it likely that the damage to the economy will be confined only to the years after 2030? Why was this not recognised in these questions?

2.3 However, to respond to the question as given:

3. How might transport's role need to change and evolve to support economic growth over the next 30 years? And what opportunities might there be to improve this, e.g. demand management or strategic prioritisation?

3.1 Transport's role should be to support the 'blossoming economy' rather than economic growth.

3.2 In particular, an important role at this time is not the positive one of shifting stuff and people around, but the negative one of reducing itself and re-forming itself so that it does less damage than it does at present.

3.3 Reduction means overall reduction of travel. This does not mean banning cars and planes, but rather identifying and focusing on that travel that is less necessary.

Example (commercial): When a truck with biscuits made in Glasgow and bound for London, passes another on the M6 laden with biscuits made in London and bound for Glasgow. This is seldom of great necessity.

Example (leisure): When a family has three options for how to enjoy a family day out - go for a local walk and have fun in the local woods, go 10 miles to a local facility, drive 100 miles to Alton Towers and waste half the day in queues - the first option gives just as much enjoyment as the others, and probably more genuine enjoyment than the third, and yet many families opt for the energy-wasting third option. This is unnecessary road use.

Example (agriculture): There is no need for so much transport of livestock around the country - it led to the nationwide scale of the Foot and Mouth epidemic. There are other ways of farming, which are just as effective and more healthy for both people and environment, and also better for hill farmers.

3.4 Re-forming means altering the profile of transport types. Shift to more ecological and healthier modes.

3.5 Take really effective action to shift transport from roads to rail and water. This requires at least four prongs of attack:

3.6 Cycling. One advantage of car over trains is that car seems door to door. Trains can effectively become door to door by use of cycles. I cycle to station, take bike on train and cycle the other end. Of course, it is not a total 100% solution, but it can work for perhaps 80% of journeys.

3.7 Awareness campaign. People jump in cars without thinking. We need to change life habits and life expectations.

3.8 The Government should not see railways as merely a different form of transport competing with roads. Rather, railways should be seen as a solution to the road problem, especially connected with sustained effort to reduce the need to travel. This requires a deliberate and thought-out rethink of DfT's approach to the various modes of transport.

3.9 Restoring the fuel duty escalator. Business leaders want to reduce their climate change emissions, and want the Government to act with incentives to do so. The fuel duty escalator was proving effective. Please note that the road fuel protestors have lost all their support and represent only a tiny minority of largely self-serving angry individuals:

3.10 Finally (despite the previous allegiance of the Chairman of the Transport Study) air transport should be curbed, not allowed to increase.

4. What are the biggest challenges that might inhibit transport's contribution to the economy over the next 30 years, and how might they be overcome?

4.1 One of the biggest hindrances is the Government's succumbing to the road lobby. This stifles debate, and prevents realistic solutions from being put forward. Increased road transport helps the financial position of the road industry, but harms the rest of the economy.

4.2 Another is the Government's desire to 'compete on the world stage' in all sectors. It became clear from statements made by the Secretary of State for Transport, when the fifth terminal was allowed at Heathrow airport, that the main underlying motivation was to compete with Amsterdam and Paris as 'hub' airports. Such hubris should NOT drive policy. It would not have harmed the economy had Heathrow not been given this fifth terminal. And it would have helped the environment.

4.3 However perhaps the main hindrance is that externalised costs of increased road usage (see below - health, environment, etc.) are ignored when considering the 'benefits' of new road schemes or road improvements.

4.4 We also wonder whether a major inhibitory factor is that the Government prefers to put money into grand schemes and does not seriously consider putting the equivalent money into a plethora of smaller schemes that might have considerably greater effect, especially in terms of reducing climate change and promoting healthy blossoming economy.

For example: The small scheme of reistating the Halton Curve rail services would cost 20m and yet provide 500 new jobs (according to a study carried out under methods accepted by the Treasury).

4.5 A huge investment has been made in the West Coast Main Line. We wonder whether there would have been a much greater positive impact on economy and reducing climate change emissions had a proportion of that money had been spent instead in reopening more local and regional rail services. We ask: was any serious study undertaken beforehand to answer that question? Therefore we urge that, in future, the option of putting equivalent funding to less prestigious but possibly more effective schemes should always be considered very seriously.

5. What are the other major social and environmental impacts of transport decisions and the priorities identified in question two that we have to take into account? What is the relationship between these and the drivers listed above? Where are the potential synergies?

5.1 We notice that "social and environmental impacts of transport decisions" are relegated to fifth place, as secondary to the primary drivers. We rue this relegation, and urge that environmental issues be made primary rather than secondary.

5.2 Since question 2 did not mention "major social and environmental impacts of transport decisions", how can it be expected that such priorities would be identified there?

5.3 In direct answer to this question, however, we set out the following environmental impacts of transport decisions, especially those that expand road and air travel:

But, as the Government recognised in its Climate Change Programme Review, 2005, the single most important impact of transport decisions is on:

5.4 It has been reported several times recently that business wants to take action to reduce climate change emissions, but cannot do this without effective action by the Government.

CONCLUSION

6.1 While we recognise that this exercise has been called by the Treasury, we find it disappointing that the five questions all presupposed economic growth as seen as an end in itself rather than as merely one part of the life of the nation.

6.2 This is especially so since even the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognises that environmental realities like climate change is recognised will impact the economy in very serious ways.

6.3 The way these questions have been framed has made it very difficult for us to provide the input that we feel should have been provided when considering the contribution of transport over the next 30 years.

6.4 There needs to a shift in thinking, away from merely tinkering with small issues like journey frequency for business travellers, and away from the narrow emphasis on business, towards an approach that recognises that the economy and business are only one small aspect of an interwoven whole. Something akin to Goudzwaard's notion of a blossoming economy rather than economic growth should inform these discussions.

6.5 The transport issue should be approached not just as serving the interests of economic growth but as an opportunity to take effective action to fulfil our environmental responsibility.

6.6 The Government accepts that we need to cut climate change emissions by at least 60% by 2050. (The Government Chief Scientist now believes we need to make an 80% reduction.) By 2030, the target date of this study, therefore, we should have achieved at least 30/50ths of the 60% reduction in climate change emissions. It is reprehensible that this study in no way recognises this and does not even mention climate change as an issue that should direct our considerations of transport strategy.

CONTACT

Professor Andrew Basden, 24 Penrith Close, Frodsham, Cheshire, WA6 7ND, U.K. Tel: 01928 734 308


APPENDIX - WARRINGTON CYCLE TOWN

(This is the text of a submission to the Transport Thematic Group, Warrington Partnership, 7 December 2005.)

1. Cycling is an important substitute for cars for journeys of up to five miles, as we seek to tackle climate change by changing transport habits. Cycling is also important for health reasons (exercise taken as part of daily living is more beneficial than that taken in gyms).

2. Warrington is 'just made for cycling' because it is about the right size and is - an important factor - flat.

3. Therefore Warrington could make a large difference to the future, and become a leader in this area in the future, if it planned aright.

4. Sadly, there is as yet no 'cycling culture' in Warrington, such as is found in Cambridge and on the Continent. Most have the habit of jump-in-the-car-without-thinking for any journey.

5. Note: I am not referring to cycling as leisure for the keen, but as habitual first choice for everyday transport within Warrington.

6. Therefore there is a need to generate a cycling culture within Warrington. People need to be weaned onto cycling, so that they feel the pleasures of cycling directly and learn and experience the indirectly felt benefits like saved money and health.

7. The problem is that non-cyclists do not realise (a) cycling can be a valid life-habit option for them (b) cycling can be enjoyable and beneficial (c) how to service cycles (e.g. what to do about the dreaded puncture) (d) how to avoid traffic (e) sundry little habits that one learns in living with cycles. We need to make cycling aspirational, not just for kids.

8. How may this be achieved? I believe there are five essential requirements:

9. To achieve these I suggest that Warrington Borough Council approaches three Dutch cycle firms and offers them the opportunity to develop cycling in Warrington over a ten year period (partnership for 10 years, then competition). The Dutch are down-to-earth and effective in marketing, and have the experience of cycling as day-to-day transport.