Outdated transport plan will make things worse

TAN [1] is concerned that Transport for the South East (TfSE) [2] is locking the region into a high carbon, car dependent future, with rising traffic and congestion. The TfSE Board is meeting on Monday (13th) [3] to approve its Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) which outlines transport investment in the region to 2050 [4]. However, with Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s announcement yesterday delaying many road schemes and slashing active travel funding, the SIP looks out of date before it’s even been adopted [5].

TfSE claims the SIP will contribute towards reducing carbon emissions, yet it supports a huge road building programme while public transport improvements, already pushed back, could now be in doubt. A claimed carbon reduction due to the SIP, of 1.4 million tonnes, relies on comparing the SIP’s implementation with a background scenario where there is NO ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles [6]. In that situation, anything would look good.

Unrealistically, TfSE relies on others to cut emissions more quickly [7], instead of acting itself to remove damaging schemes from the SIP. Even the RAC Foundation was forced to admit that speeding up the adoption of EVs “looks like a monumentally steep challenge, like scaling Everest on a bad day” [8]. Meanwhile stricter planning and demand management measures are actively being undermined by TfSE itself and its member bodies [9].

Chris Todd, Director for Transport Action Network said:

“TfSE is selling us a pup with its greenwashing propaganda. The SIP will not reduce carbon emissions by 1.4m tonnes or cut 4 million car journeys. These figures are pure fiction to mislead the public. The bottom line is that under the SIP, traffic and pollution will get worse, undermining us getting to net-zero by 2050, let alone sooner as some councils require.

“‘Decarbonisation and the environment’ were the headline priorities from the public consultation. Yet in response, TfSE has just rearranged the deckchairs on the Titanic. It has not reduced its road building plans, the source of so many carbon emissions and much environmental damage.

“TfSE’s hypocrisy is further illustrated by its promotion of out of town, car-based developments, while calling for stricter planning policies to cut car use. It’s clear that TfSE has no intention of taking difficult decisions to safeguard our future. Fine words are all well and good, and we’ve had plenty of them over the years, but now is the time for urgent action and TfSE has been found wanting.

“Given the roads programme is in disarray, lower traffic projections, and other rapidly changing situations, now is not the time to continue steering the Titanic towards the iceberg. We need to change course towards a more resilient and effective plan, independently verified to get us to net-zero. We need something able to stand the test of time to provide more attractive, reliable, resilient and affordable transport networks. Not one that is already out of date and makes things worse.”

He went on to say:

“With other sub-national transport bodies also looking to develop strategic investment plans, if this is replicated around the country we’re in big trouble. It will undermine delivery of the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan which relies on modal shift and using our cars less, in addition to fleet electrification to reach net-zero. Simply ignoring inconvenient truths doesn’t make them go away. It’s time for urgent action, not business as usual with some greenwashing.”

– ENDS –

Notes to Editors:

[1] Transport Action Network was established to support local communities press for more sustainable transport in England and Wales. This involves fighting cuts to bus services, particularly in rural areas, and opposing damaging road schemes and large unsustainable developments.

[2] Transport for the South East (TfSE) is the sub-national transport body for the South East covering Berkshire, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, East and West Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

[3] TfSE’s Board is meeting at 1pm on Monday, 13 March 2023 at LGA – 18 Smith Square, London. It will also be livestreamed.

[4] The consultation draft of TfSE’s Strategic Investment Plan can be found here

[5] Mark Harper Secretary of State for Transport laid a written statement before Parliament yesterday (Thursday, 9 March, 2023) stating that:

  1. Lower Thames Crossing – construction would be delayed by two years
  2. A27 Arundel – will move to next roads period (RIS3) so won’t proceed until after 2025

In addition, schemes being developed for RIS3 (such as A27 Chichester, A27 Lewes – Polegate, A2, M27 junctions and M2 J4-7 Smart motorway) will continue but for inclusion in RIS4 (after 2030).

[6] Its baseline is based on: reversal of the existing national policy banning the future sale of internal combustion engines, low levels of modal shift and progressive spatial planning principles.” From page 20, Transport Decarbonisation Thematic Plan, June 2022

[7] These include:

  • faster uptake of EVs (to fully decarbonise the vehicle fleet, including HGVs by 2050)
  • stronger planning and digital policies and decisions (to encourage shorter sustainable trips and to reduce the need to travel)
  • urban demand management policies (to discourage driving)
  • national road user charging as a demand management tool
  • further acceleration of vehicle fleet electrification, including HGVs by 2040

See, figure 7.4, page 69, Transport Decarbonisation Thematic Plan, June 2022

[8] On 23 February 2023 the RAC Foundation published a report: Is it necessary to reduce car mileage to meet our carbon emission goals? and issued a press statement from which the quote was taken.

[9] TfSE submitted evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s current inquiry into strategic road investment calling on the trunk road network to be used as a basis for more housing while West Sussex County Council is trying to develop more out of town retail at Broadbridge Heath.


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