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Decarbonising transport is possible: here's how

Silviya Barrett's picture
Photo: man and child with buses

How - as a country - can we reduce carbon emissions from transport? With transport responsible for more emissions than any other sector, it's one of the most pressing environmental challenges we face.

Recognising this, the Government has begun formulating a Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which Campaign for Better Transport was glad to be able to feed into. 

We welcome the Government's ambition and recognition that reaching net zero by 2050 will necessitate some fundamental changes in how people and goods move around, as well as a shift towards cleaner vehicles.
- Campaign for Better Transport's submission

Enabling transport to meet 'net zero' carbon emission targets will require action on all fronts. We'll need cleaner, greener vehicles of every sort: we're calling for a faster roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, electric and hydrogen buses and a rolling programme of rail electrification. 

But we'll also need to do much more to enable people to choose public and shared transport, walking and cycling for many more journeys. 

The Government should build on the high levels of active travel seen during the pandemic by supporting the roll-out of quality walking and cycling infrastructure schemes. 

There is significant potential for mode shift to active travel, as 25 per cent of all car or van trips in 2019 were less than two miles (which take less than 30 minutes to walk) and an additional 33 per cent were between two and five miles (a 60-minute walk or a 20-minute cycle).
- Campaign for Better Transport's submission

The pandemic posed serious challenges for public transport, and extra effort is now needed to make it an attractive, convenient and affordable choice. That means investing in bus lanes, new rail network and station capacity, and public transport interchanges to improve connectivity. It also means moving to simpler and more flexible fare structures and targeted measures to reduce the cost of catching the train or bus. 

With the help of our supporters, we've campaigned for such improvements to sustainable transport for many years, and seen some encouraging progress in areas such as Government support for buses and cycling, flexible season tickets for part-time commuters and reopening disused rail lines and stations. Our submission presses for stronger, faster action in these areas, and also contains some suggestions that might be less familiar to our supporters:

  • Online and app-based journey planning tools should be required to offer walking, cycling and public transport options first, and to provide comparative information about the different journey options (such as how much carbon they emit).
  • Local authorities, together with operators, should introduce ‘mobility credits’, which can be used to pay for public transport, hire bikes, e-scooters or car clubs. People should be offered credits  to try sustainable transport options when they scrap an old, polluting car, or at key life moments, such as when they move home or start a new job, to encourage new habits.
  • During lockdown, many of us discovered benefits to living more locally. So why not plan new housing developments so that everything residents need on a daily basis is within a reasonable walking distance from their homes, similar to the popular '15-minute city' concept?
  • There should be plenty of green travel options available in towns and cities to suit everyone’s needs. As part of this mix, we’re calling for e-scooters to be legalised – subject to trials – and made simple to use: for instance there should be no need to hold a driving license to ride one.

You can find more details - and plenty more recommendations - in our submission to the Government's Transport Decarbonisation Plan. We also encouraged thousands of our supporters to feed into the plan - find out what some of them had to say.

If you care like we do about reducing transport’s carbon footprint, why not sign up to our email list, or donate to help make better, greener, fairer transport a reality?

To be well used, public transport must be affordable, accessible, reliable and convenient. Frequently, especially outside of London, this is not the case, making the shift to public transport a challenge. To address this, there need to be policy and fiscal measures to improve public transport, alongside actively promoting and incentivising more sustainable forms of transport – particularly in the post-Covid era. 
- Campaign for Better Transport's submission