Transport roundtable calls for ‘clearly defined’ five-year delivery plan that gives industry, academia and the public a roadmap of how it intends to support the movement towards a Net Zero system by 2050

Technological change and human behaviour make the future of transport hard to predict, so how can we build an future transport system fit for all?

That was the main question at a recent roundtable jointly organised by The Forum and think tank Institute for Public Policy Research.

The roundtable discussed how transport system is integral to people’s lives, with nearly all of us travelling at some point daily, whether by walking, driving, cycling or using public transport. With the UK aiming to reach Net Zero by 2050, policymakers, industry and researchers must work closely together to design a transport system capable of meeting that goal.

The roundtable discussed how, when designing and delivering a future transport system, there are currently huge uncertainties over what it will look like. This is due to how difficult it is to predict what the role of technology, policy and consumer behaviour will be on shaping a transport system that is decades in the future, reports Imperial College London.

The speakers agreed that if we are to reach Net Zero, national and local government, businesses and other organisations need to start designing and building the necessary infrastructure now in order to enable that transition.

One of the most significant challenges highlighted by the roundtable is that any transition must have the support of the public. This support is particularly important at a time when both government spending and household incomes is likely to be lower in the short to medium term, as a result of the impacts of the pandemic and the increasing cost-of-living.

The speakers agreed it was crucial to ensure that greener forms of travel must be both more convenient and cheaper than traditional forms of transport, otherwise any attempt to promote greener forms of travel are unlikely to succeed.

The roundtable also discussed the role of electric vehicles (EV) and their importance in the transition to Net Zero.

Many of the panellists welcomed the significant strides in EV technologies in recent years which has seen them beginning to displace the traditional petrol and diesel car.  

However, the roundtable was also cautious about the timeframes for when we will see EVs completely displace traditional petrol and diesel cars, with some panellists stating they are unlikely to until the 2040/2050s. With car usage now declining among all age groups except the over 50’s, the roundtable emphasised instead that along with the moves to encourage the transition to EVs, the government should consider further measures to promote active travel like walking and cycling in towns and cities to reduce the overall reliance on cars.

The roundtable made several recommendations to the government. This included publishing a transport strategy, with clearly defined 5-year delivery plans that gives industry, academia and the public a roadmap of how it intends to support the movement towards a Net Zero system by 2050.

Speakers agreed that such a strategy should include local authorities and mayoralties across the UK, to avoid initiatives being delivered in a piecemeal or haphazard way.

Finally, they recommended that the government start implementing large-scale pilot schemes to assess the impact and effectiveness of different policies such as car scrappage schemes or moratoriums on roadbuilding.

These policy testbeds could play a vital role in supporting academia, industry and the government to see which measures have both public support and enable the transition towards greener forms of travel.

Imperial researcher Dr Aruna Sivakumar, Director of the Urban Futures Lab and Reader in consumer demand modelling at the Centre for Transport Studies took part in a roundtable last week with industry experts, policymakers and researchers which examined the future of the transport system.

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