Towards 2030? A long term approach to transport

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One thing is clear. The industry cannot complain about the lack of transport documents and legislation flowing from the Government over recent years. The 1998 transport White Paper – A New Deal for Transport – was the first in more than 20 years, and focused on an integrated transport system and joined-up thinking. Since then, there have been dozens of other transport-related official documents.

Not to be accused of slacking, the Government has surpassed itself and produced within record time another transport White Paper – The Future of Transport: a network for 2030 (Cm 6234) – which this time focuses on the very long term. In fact up to 2030, and setting the framework agenda within which all sectors of the logistics industry will have to work for many years to come.

This includes not only those industry sectors actually moving freight, by whatever transport mode, but also sectors involved in building new warehousing, seeking locations for freight villages or concerned about port developments. The document has wide industry appeal.

Overall, the White Paper looks at the factors that will shape travel and transport over the next 30 years. In the process it sets out how the Government will respond to the increasing demand for travel, maximising the benefits of transport while minimising the negative impact on people and respecting the environment. According to the White Paper a central part of the strategy is firstly to bring transport costs under control; secondly, underline the importance of shared decision-making at local, regional and national levels to ensure better transport delivery; and thirdly, introduce improvements in the management of the network to make the most of existing capacity.

From the freight perspective a transport network is required that can meet the challenges of a growing economy and increasing demand for travel, while also achieving environmental objectives. This means a coherent transport network with the following:-

lThe road network providing a more reliable and freer flowing service for both staff travel and freight, with people able to make informed choices about how and when they travel.

lThe rail network providing a fast, reliable and efficient service, particularly for inter-urban journeys and commuting into large urban areas.

lPorts and airports providing improved international and domestic links.

The White Paper emphasises that transport is vital to the economy and the way we live. Therefore, decisions that are taken now will have an impact for decades to come. As such, it is essential that a long-term view be taken.

With this in mind several fundamental challenges are recognised and need to be considered. For example, the transport system helps to underpin the international competitiveness of the British economy. However, mobility comes at a cost whether financial, social or environmental. The Government wants to ensure that all can benefit from mobility and access, while at the same time minimising the impact on other people and the environment, now and in the future.

Another challenge to be faced is that the UK is the world’s fourth largest economy and a growing one. While this is beneficial, experience suggests that as the economy grows, people’s need and desire to travel, for business or leisure, will also increase. This must be FIG 1: Increase in traffic from 2000 levels (all roads, England)445%40%35%30%25%20%15%10%5%0%2010Source: The Future of Transport: a network for 2030 (Cm 6234), DfT, 2004.20152005recognised, and the pressures it creates. There is a need, therefore, to plan ahead to get the best out of the transport system without damaging the overall quality of life.

Furthermore, account needs to be taken of the ways in which travel is changing. Basically, people are becoming more accustomed to travelling further. Also, demographic changes and choices about where to live will continue to have a significant effect. If current trends continue, over the next 20 to 30 years, the population will continue to grow and people will generally live longer. According to the White Paper the population is forecast to increase by 8%, an extra 4.5 million extra people by 2025.

Consequently, as the population increases and people become better off, so the demand for goods will increase. Furthermore, pressures on the road network will continue to grow to unacceptable and unsustainable levels. A 40% increase is projected in road traffic covering the period between the years 2000 to 2025 (see Fig 1).

New strategy

The government claims these challenges have been compounded by decades of under-investment. The White Paper says that transport requires long-term planning and that there is a need to anticipate and manage the pressures in coming decades. The government’s new transport strategy hopes to build on the progress that has been made since the implementation of Transport 2010 – The 10-Year Plan, published in 2000 and marking the beginning of a more strategic approach to transport.

The new strategy extends Government investment plans to 2014-15, but also looks further ahead and is built around three central themes:-

lSustained investment over the long period.

lImprovements in transport management.

Planning ahead.

Sustained investment over the long-term Source: The Future of Transport: a network for 2030 (Cm 6234), DfT, 2004.spending by the Department for Transport (DfT) will rise by an annual average of 4.5% in real terms between 2005/06 and 2007/08. This includes an additional £1.7Bn transport reform package for the railways, over and above in the ten-year plan provision. The expenditure on transport up to the year 2015 is illustrated in Fig 2.

With regards to improvements in transport management the Government is reorganising the rail industry to improve performance, drive down costs and get better value for money. To put these plans into effect, legislation will be introduced to create a structure where Government sets the strategy and controls public expenditure. Better traffic management will ease congestion on the road network. Capacity will be added to the road network and options to be explored include measures such as tolling on new roads or introducing road-pricing schemes.

Another document, the Road Pricing Feasibility Study, has been published in conjunction with the White Paper and concludes that a national scheme of road pricing has the potential to cut congestion by about a half as well as providing environmental benefits. The study says that road pricing is becoming technically feasible in the next ten to 15 years. But for a scheme to work it would need general public acceptance and a great deal of preparation work over a number of years.

Finally, in regards to planning ahead the long-term trends in travel are evident and the government recognises that we cannot build our way out of the problems faced on the road network. Doing nothing is not considered an option. However, the Government will lead the debate on road pricing and will work with the stakeholders to establish how and when pricing might provide the reliability and standards users want. At all levels, national, local or regional, the government will ensure that transport decisions are taken alongside decisions on liveability, sustainable communities and other policy areas.

Underlying these three themes, and an important underlying objective of the government’s strategy, is balancing the need to travel with the need to improve quality of life. This means seeking solutions that meet long-term economic, social and environmental goals. The salient points of the white paper are detailed Box 1 (p33 and below).

Sustainable freight

According to the White Paper sustainable freight transport will focus on approaches which offer the best outcomes for the economy, society and the environment. However, the paper recognises that efficient freight transport is essential for the economy and the country’s prosperity. At the same time the government acknowledges that the ageing and over-stressed networks have been asked to cope with levels of travel never anticipated when they were designed.

Recognition is given to the fact that roads are central to the freight industry, carrying 81% of goods moved by weight. However, the railways are a vital part of the country’s transport infrastructure and shipping’s strengths are in freight, with some 75% of traffic movements through just four ports, all in the South-east.

Continuing economic growth coupled with a projected growth in both population and households it is likely that demand for goods, and movement of goods will increase. From the government’s perspective the challenge will be to accommodate this demand in a way that is acceptable to society. To that purpose the Government’s key aims will be to:-

Facilitate the continuing developing of a competitive and efficient freight sector, while reducing the impact that moving freight has on congestion and the environment.

Ensure more reliable routes for moving goods to consumers and businesses.

Exploit the potential for more efficient logistics.

Fund more sustainable transport practices.

Assess modal shift programmes.

Encourage more efficient road-based operations.

The government’s strategy to achieve more sustainable freight comprises several elements. For example, consideration will be given to access to infrastructure. Measures such as road widening, tolling and road charging should benefit and improve journey reliability.

Rail freight operators will be given greater certainty about their rights on the existing network and a group of key rail routes will be identified on which freight will enjoy and pay for more assured rights of access. Modal shift programmes will continue to encourage freight to be shifted from road to rail and water where this makes sense, and where appropriate the government will offer financial support. Also, the Government will press ahead to deliver a lorry road user-charging scheme by 2007/08.

Technologies, such as satellite tracking and RFID provide information about the location of the vehicle and its cargo. This allows freight operators to be more efficient, reducing mileage, operational costs and fuel consumption. The industry will drive the uptake of these technologies, but the government will carry out research and promote best practice where appropriate.

The government will also examine the scope for freely accessible electronic information about the road network, such as speed limits or height and width restrictions, to allow better journey planning and safer driving.

Future actions

The Government is committed to getting the most out of planned increases in spending over the next ten years. Pressures on the transport budget are growing, driven both by increasing costs and growing demand. The Government maintains it will not just react to these pressures with more public spending, but will bring costs back under control and make the existing resources work smarter and better. Action will be taken on two fronts.

First, the Government will make better trade-offs across different modes of transport and across the parallel agendas of regeneration and housing. Some major road and rail investments are of such national significance that they should continue to be decided by central government.

FIG 2: transport spending, 1994-45 t0 2014-1518Billion16141210864201994-951995-961996-97Pre-10 Year Plan ependiture1SR2004 allocations310 Year Plan21998-991999-20002001-022002-032004-052005-062006-07New Long Term

Funding Guideline2Transport Innovation Fund42007-082009-102010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15The new transport strategy charts a course over the next 30 years, founded on:-

lNew capacity where it is needed, assuming that any environmental and social costs are justified.

lLocking in the benefits of new capacity But below this national strategic level the government will promote better decision making by publishing guidelines for the level of spending on transport within each region. This would make more transparent the choices that national, regional and local partners have in each region between investment in regional railways and public transport subsidy.

Second, the Government intends to give delivery partners incentives to develop and deploy coherent, innovative, local and regional transport strategies that rise to the challenges set out in the White Paper. A new Transport Innovation Fund will be established by the government to support the costs of local and regional authorities measures designed to tackle transport problems. Such measures will include road pricing, modal shift and better bus services.

Two other documents were published in conjunction with the White Paper – Feasibility of Road Pricing in the UK: a report to the Secretary of State and The Future of Rail (Cm 6233), both available at

Frank Worsford works in the transport studies group at the University of Westminster.

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