Smart Transport

Road pricing and free public transport essential to tackle climate emergency

An Eco Levy for driving in urban areas, balanced by making local public transport fare-free are among the measures needed to tackle the climate emergency, says a report published by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Transport for Quality of Life (TfQL).

The report acknowledges that no city has tried the combination of a mileage-based Eco Levy and free public transport but “this is the kind of transformative policy that is now needed”.

“A policy prescription for slow, steady carbon reduction that might have been sufficient 25 years ago is no longer fit for purpose. Because we have left it so late to tackle carbon emissions from transport, we now have to take urgent action,” TfQL said.

It argues that if only 50% of new car sales are electric by 2030 (the Government’s current aim), car mileage will have to be cut by 60% for emissions reductions to stay on track.

“Rapid action to reduce car use will only be fair and command public consent if it takes place in parallel with big changes to our transport system that give people decent, clean and affordable ways of travelling to work, education and services, by foot, bike or low-carbon public transport. So in order to be able to meet our obligation to act on climate change, we need to recognise a basic right for everyone to be able to live decently without having to own or drive a car,” TfQL says.

In addition to an Eco Levy and fare-free local public transport, the report recommends the following actions:

  • Make carbon reduction the Department for Transport’s top priority; adopt a whole transport sector carbon budget (including international aviation and shipping); and translate the national target into subsidiary targets for government departments, Highways England, and regional and local bodies.
  • Transfer the money currently spent on road-building in its entirety to invest in sustainable local transport. Bring in other national and local sources of funding for sustainable transport, including a public transport payroll levy.
  • Ensure all new development is in locations that are served by excellent public transport.
  • Redeploy Highways England engineers to build a strategic cycleway network alongside all single-carriageway main roads, for 15 km either side of every settlement.
  • Change the structure of the railway so that it is a single entity operating under public control, in the public interest, and bring all local public transport under local authority control, so that we can set standards for public transport frequencies according to settlement size and adopt a Swiss-style integrated national and local public transport timetable.

Taking these actions will "ensure that future generations have a planet that is worth living on," the report says.

"Cars will not disappear. But we will use them much less often, because other means of transport will be more efficient, affordable and attractive."

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