Summer 2009. Vol. 15, No. 2

John Whitlegg, founder and editor of  the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice makes a frontal attack on the need for radical overhaul of our transportation arrangements to move them closer to something that is sustainable and just. He takes the European Commission to task for utterly failing to develop a viable “Vision for the future of EU transport” — and offers a vision of his own.

This big picture vision of the sector opens the just published Vol. 15, No. 2 edition of the journal which is freely available at

Commission’s ‘future of transport strategy needs a reality check says T&E

In June this year the European Commission which is responsible for high level policy development for 27 member countries and over 300 million citizens produced its “Vision for the future of EU transport”. It was so bad that words fail your editorial team and we shall leave it to an impressive Brussels based organisation to comment on the “vision”:

Commission’s ‘future of transport’ strategy needs a reality check says T&E

Brussels, Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The European Commission has published its vision for the future of transport policy in the European Union. But the paper completely underestimates the challenges and proposes no concrete solutions, according to Transport and Environment.

Jos Dings, director of Transport and Environment said: “If this is the strategy for fixing rapidly growing pollution, congestion and accidents caused by transport, then we have a big problem: it doesn’t even scratch the surface.”

“Climate change, Europe’s flagship environmental policy, is mentioned only in passing, despite the fact that transport is the single most important sector holding back progress.”

“The International Energy Agency has recognised that conventional oil is running out and ‘unconventional’ alternatives such as tar sands will be even costlier and dirtier. But the Commission doesn’t give any clue as to how it proposes to deal with this issue of fundamental strategic importance to the EU.”

“The question of managing demand for transport is not mentioned, and even traffic congestion which costs the European economy EUR 120 billion every year gets little serious attention.”

“The current economic climate, and the impact that will have on national infrastructure budgets and on demand for transport is not considered. Governments need lean and green transport policies now. Road pricing schemes could help plug the gap and also bring huge economic and environmental benefits. But this has also escaped the Commission’s attention.”

“The only positive aspect of this paper lies in the recognition that technological leadership in environmental technology will benefit the European economy, not drag it down, as has often been said in the past.”

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Source: European Federation for Transport and the Environment –

The original European Commission document can be seen on:

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The World Transport Policy and Practice Vision for transport in the UK to be in place by 2050

Given the lack of understanding on the part of the European Commission on what a vision could and should involve we have produced our own vision and sent it to them today. This is it:

Transport in the future will be zero carbon. The zero carbon future will provide better access for more people to more things than is currently the case. Traffic congestion and time wasted stuck in jams will be a thing of the past and time currently wasted on commuter trips will be spent on rewarding and enriching activities.

All urban and rural areas will by 2050 have significantly enhanced public transport and cycling facilities bringing high quality and low cost transport choices within the reach of everyone. Those who opt not to use a car will save thousands of pounds a year by avoiding the fixed and variable costs of car ownership and use and will also avoid the uncertainties and potential disruption of oil price shocks as the world adjusts to shortages of supply and increased demand from developing countries. Individuals and families will have much improved air quality, reduced noise and stress from traffic and much improved community life stimulated by reduced levels of motorised traffic and reduced traffic on streets and through villages.

The shift to bike, foot and public transport will increase the spend of local people in local areas and will result in a renaissance of local shops and newly created jobs in local communities serving the increased level of spending locally that previously leaked out to global oil and car making sectors of the economy. Those that have given up individual car ownership will have an average of £3000-£4000 each to spend on local goods and services giving a further boost to local economies.

The car will still exist and be used by those who feels it has an advantage over other choices but fuel prices will rise to cover the full costs of supporting motorisation (the polluter pays principle) and parking will be recognised as a valuable asset that must be charged for at market rates.

Speeds will be limited to a maximum of 20mph/30kph in all residential areas and through villages to support the rapid take up of walking and cycling and to create high quality living environments. Speeds on motorways and dual carriageways will be limited to 60mph to reduce CO2 emissions and to encourage the take-up of eco driving techniques.

Cars will be alternatively fuelled either as plug in electric vehicles (PEVs) or hydrogen powered or hybrids of various kinds and all electric vehicles will be using electricity from a decarbonised electricity supply system based on renewable energy and micro-generation in all businesses, homes, schools and health care facilities.

Businesses of all kinds will find ways to introduce flexible working, videoconferencing, more family and child friendly working practices and will actively promote the end of the long commute. Links between businesses, businesses and customers and workers at home or in local “area offices” will be facilitated by a large number of electronic methods.

Deliveries of raw materials and goods to manufacturing sites will exploit the advantages of canals, inland waterways, estuaries and the UK’s excellent network of 300 ports as well as make better use of the rail network e.g. the German “Rollende Landstrasse” where whole lorries go on trains for sections of their journeys. Lorries will operate in ways that avoid cities, avoid long trunk-haul routes on motorways and are fuelled by alternatives to diesel that significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

More UK residents than is currently the case will take holidays within the Uk and broaden the concept of tourism to include a wide range of activities that involve gaining new skills and becoming expert in a wide range of sports and leisure activities. Traditional package tourism based on flights will be much reduced in number as a result of changes in the price of oil and the clearly developed policies of the Treasury to internalise the externalities associated with flying and driving. Travel opportunities to European destinations will be available in abundance and rail dominated (including Greece and Turkey). Shipping, cruises and ferries will be an integral part of the holiday experience.

The aviation industry will still be important but no larger than in 2009 and airlines and companies owning airports will be far more profitable and successful as they diversify into all kinds of communication and mobility activities and services. There will be significant job gains across all sectors of the aviation, rail and bus industries.

The health of all citizens will improve in the zero carbon world. There will be more lively local economies making jobs available in the community. There will be more social interaction giving everyone the health generating social context of living in a supportive community. There will be less noise and air pollution with attendant health benefits and much more physical activity contributing to a reduction in rates of obesity.

The demands on public finance and spending will be reduced. There will be no need for new roads, bypasses and motorway widening at current prices approaching £25 million per mile. A healthier and more supportive population and community will reduce NHS costs e.g. the predicted £50 billion pa costs of obesity by 2050.

Local communities will be far more resilient in the sense that a larger proportion of jobs, food and other items of consumption will be sourced locally and this will reduce the risks of disruption associated with long distance sourcing, oil price disruption and vulnerability to interruption in supply as transport infrastructure succumbs to damage from extreme weather events or shortfalls in fuel availability.

Cities will change so that there is far more green space and woodland and a higher number of homes and employment opportunities than is currently the case in low density developments. Land for eco-efficient car free housing can be found on car parks that will now be surplus to requirements and the projected need for new homes can be met without taking away valuable land in rural areas that will be needed for increased food production.

Cities will be far more friendly and supportive of children and the elderly with calmer environments, reduced traffic and increased feelings of confidence nd security. The shift away from the car will increase the amount of walking and cycling and the degree of mutual, friendly “surveillance” of all those using the public realm by each other. Everyone will feel safer. Children will rediscover the delights of independent mobility, the joys of getting to and from school, friends and local swimming pools under their own steam and the elderly will find it much easier to cross roads, hold conversations on the street and engage with neighbours in ways that ends social isolation and its related health damaging consequences

Urban and rural residents alike will be happier (Layard, 2004). A much improved local environmental quality linked to higher levels of integration with local food production, an income from microgeneration, heightened involvement with neighbours and community activities and a greater feeling of security and comfort from a more resilient society will all contribute to increase happiness and to higher levels of social cohesion.

The transformation of urban and rural society into one that has shifted a rather one dimensional emphasis on economic growth to one based on community growth, growth in happiness, reduced pollution, improved health and the creation of far more jobs, jobs that are far more evenly located across every locality and far more resilient to the unpredictable shocks and challenges of a globalised economy will also bring enormous benefits to population groups and sub-groups. No groups or sub-groups are worse off in the decarbonised transport future when compared with 2009.

John Whitelegg, Editor
World Transport Policy and Practice

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John Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, and is founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. John is a local councillor in Lancaster, and Leader of the North West (of England) Green Party.

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It goes without saying that comments are warmly invited. Just below.



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