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Time for a new generation of integrated transport

Former campaigner's picture

Our transport networks are often disjointed and inefficient, but better integration and more interchanges can help transform them; that’s the conclusion of the new research we published last week.

We think transport should be easy, affordable to use, accessible to everyone, and comprehensive in the places it allows you to get to, but this needs well-planned infrastructure and services where decisions about investment and planning across road and rail, and public and private are taken together.

Unfortunately, despite some positive initiatives, our transport networks rarely connect well, leaving many people reliant on their cars for the large majority of journeys with the congested roads and increased pollution that comes with it. This also unfairly disadvantages those who do not have a car, and leads to perverse spending decisions to address the resulting congestion.

We need a better way forward. Integrated Transport: a new generation of interchanges looks at both strategic and local opportunities for different types of public transport and services. Taking account of technological, administrative and social developments, it makes the case for a new generation of transport interchanges.

Consider Luton. Nearly a quarter of a million people live in the Luton/Dunstable/Houghton Regis area and there is pressure for more growth. Local roads are struggling to cope, with some rated amongst the most congested in the country. Outward connections are also challenging; Luton is only 18 miles from Milton Keynes - another growth hotspot - just half an hour in a car, or up to an hour and a half by public transport. In an attempt to tackle this, the local transport plan gives high priority to improving the interchange between rail, coach and bus services.

Immediately north of Luton, the M1 motorway and the Midland Mainline railway run adjacent to one another, providing a strategic opportunity to link national networks and local transport. So far, a new rail-road freight interchange has been proposed, but rethinking the importance of interchanges would mean going much further than this. Under consideration should also be a new passenger rail station with car parking and coach interchange, and a connection to local bus networks and the guided busway.

To make good interchanges a reality across the country, our report recommends reforms to national planning and transport policy. It states that the National Planning Policy Framework should be explicit in setting out the benefits of good modal interchanges; that the National Policy Statement on National Networks should be amended to include passenger transport interchanges; and that the National Infrastructure Commission should undertake a comprehensive assessment of appropriate locations for major interchanges.

The report also recommends that to help make new interchanges a reality, a joint Department for Transport and Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government fund should be established to support the delivery of national priority interchanges and fund assessments of regional opportunities. A national Investment Strategy for buses and coaches is also long overdue.

Interchanges are at the heart of integrated transport. As our report makes clear, goodwill toward joined-up transport provision is not enough. More and better interchanges combined with better integrated services are needed if we are to create transport networks which are affordable, accessible, comprehensive, efficient and valued by passengers.