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Sustainable travel experts believe England must adopt a similar traffic reduction target as other UK nations

Sustainable travel experts have argued that England needs to adopt a traffic reduction target as seen in Scotland and Wales instead of continuing to build more roads.

At a Transport Select Committee hearing, while discussing strategic road investment in the light of reaching net zero by 2050, it was said that England would benefit from such a target.

Transport for Quality of Life associate Lisa Hopkinson said: “[Scotland] have got a 20% traffic reduction target, which was set in order to meet their carbon budgets.

“They’ve done a lot of work trying to work out what do they need to do in order to achieve that. They have consulted on a draft route map and that is the sort of thing we need to be doing in England as well.”

Transport Scotland published its draft route map to achieve a 20% reduction in car kms by 2030 in January 2022. It has since been working on the final version of the route map which will be published in the next few months. A firm date for publication has not yet been given.

The Scottish transport body believe the reduction target is vital in its push for net zero.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “We know that we need to take bold action to tackle the climate emergency and this world-leading commitment makes the scale of our ambition clear.

“We cannot reach net-zero emissions through technological solutions alone so we need individuals, communities and businesses in all parts of Scotland to look at their own habits and behaviours and think about how they could make changes. We don’t expect car use to drop at the same rate in urban and rural areas and the route map makes clear that there’s no one size fits all approach.”

The initial conversation in the Transport Select Committee stemmed from an argument that National Highways road building involved long cycles that left many local authorities with roads that didn’t meet expectations by the time the projects were completed.

Transport Action Network advisor Ralph Smythe said: “We [England] need to adopt a test and learn approach.

“A more agile approach [to road building] that’s very different from the long cycles that National Highways has of taking ages to do a scheme and then suddenly finding when it’s built, it’s not what the local authority wanted.”

Hopkinson continued: “When we looked at 87 or so strategic road schemes that have been completed, many of them overclaimed things.

“They stated things like, this is vital for the connectivity, this is vital for regeneration of this area. When you actually look after the road has been built whether those claims were substantiated, we found very little evidence.”

A National Highways spokesperson commented: “In terms of projects, we evaluate each major scheme against its original objectives and the majority find that these have largely been met.”

Hopkinson went onto discuss how England would benefit from a Roads Review Panel, such as the one that has taken place in Wales.

She said: “Yes, I think that [a Roads Review Panel] would be a good idea. If we have a problem, whether it is congestion, safety or regeneration, there are multiple solutions. If Department for Transport guidance on appraisal was followed properly, we should be looking at all the solutions. We should be looking at demand management, pricing, new roads, or whatever it is, and then making a decision on that.”

The Welsh Roads Review Panel announced its findings last month in which it elected to scrap nine major road projects in favour of finding more carbon-friendly alternatives.

The announcement followed a year-long review in which all new road building projects in Wales were put on hold in July 2021.

Hopkinson further believes much like in Wales there has to “be a better evaluation of the claims made for these new roads” and that “they don’t always live up to their promises.”

Transport Scotland believes car usage is an element of daily life that is particularly linked to inequality and have tried to reflect this in its draft roadmap of traffic reduction.

A spokesperson said: “The principle of a just transition is at the heart of our route map, supporting our work to tackle inequality and child poverty. We recognise that for some people reducing car use, especially in the short-term, will be more challenging – including disabled people and their families – but we also need to recognise the unfairness of a status quo where the ‘car is king’ and where car use is made too easy, at the expense of other healthier, fairer options.”

Along with the route map, Transport Scotland will also introduce a number of actions intended to plug the transport gap needed to achieve a 20% reduction in car traffic.

The spokesperson continued: “We’re setting out a whole range of actions, some in the short term – like free bus travel for under-22s, Low Emission Zones and providing superfast broadband for 100% of premises – and some longer term, including our work on demand management options including pricing and the cost of motoring.

“What’s absolutely crucial is that we all play our part and consider how we can modify our own behaviour and drive down car use for a healthier, fairer, greener future.”


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