The vital role private and public sector collaboration plays in tackling decarbonisation challenges was outlined by London’s deputy mayor for transport Seb Dance at this week's Smart Transport conference.
Dance highlighted several initiatives where the sectors will continue to work in partnership, including on e-scooter and e-bike trials.
On the capital’s e-scooter trials, Dance said: “We must learn from the first trial, what works and what doesn’t, including considering how we integrate the newest technology available to the private sector, such as audible warning sounds so that people can hear scooters coming and the ability to detect when the vehicles are being ridden on the pavement. “
Dance said this worked differently to the dockless e-bike rental market in which individual London boroughs have their own agreements with operators.
“We understand the previous government was going to introduce powers for city authorities to manage micromobility, including both e-scooters and e-bikes in their areas, and we continue to believe that such legislation should be introduced and hope that it will be forthcoming,” he told delegates, adding: “Learning from the success of the e-scooters trial governance, the benefits of dockless e-bikes can be best shared and managed through the public sector and the private sector working together.
“We don't just use these partnerships to trial new vehicles. We also work collaboratively to try out new technologies to improve the way we manage the existing network.”
During a Q&A session, Dance was asked whether falling revenues from the Covid pandemic meant now was the time for London to introduce a road user charging scheme.
He answered that a financial deal struck with the Government earlier this year was “a necessary step to ensure that the transport system can function”, adding: “It means that we can put ourselves on the path to financial sustainability in terms of day to day operations.”
However, he said: “We still need Government support for big capital projects. So, where does road user charging come into this? Road user charging encompasses a whole range of policies from the congestion charge, which is a very blunt instrument, but which has been effective from its inception, all the way through to slightly more sophisticated measures, such as the ultra low emission zone. And as you know, we've consulted over the summer on the potential expansion of that zone.
“And that is about as sophisticated as our schemes get at the moment – so you can deal with the time of day, the type of vehicle and the geographical area.”
While recognising the car provides a vital transport link for some people, Dance highlighted that more than two thirds of car journeys across Greater London could be undertaken by foot or bike in under 30 minutes.
He added: “If we can find a way of having a more sophisticated system that rewards drivers in areas where there is access to public transport for leaving their cars at home, but says to drivers with no access or little access to public transport, ‘actually, it's not going to cost you as much to drive your car as it would in central and inner London’, that would be a much, much better system.
“It's not just a pipe dream, it's deliverable,” he added. “The question now is whether we can work successfully with the private sector to deliver that in a reasonable timeframe, because, undoubtedly, is a really exciting potential evolution of the current schemes that we have.”
Dance began his presentation by highlighting London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s aim to have 80% of all journeys across the capital undertaken by active travel or public transport by 2041.
More conference coverage to come…