Covid-19: White paper has 14 ways for public transport to help sustain emissions reductions achieved in lockdown

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The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) has released a White Paper that features 14 recommendations for encouraging government to realign its policies for exiting the Covid-19 lockdown, to work alongside the goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gases and improving the nation’s air quality.

The paper: Rebuilding the bus market to meet the decarbonising challenge in a post-Covid world, has been produced by the Institute’s expert-led Bus & Coach Policy Group. It states that: Covid-19 changes nothing if, without intervention, the way we travel reverts back to congestion and pollution.

In a recently published article, Dr Felicity Heathcote-Márcz, Senior Consultant and Ethnographer, Atkins, said: “We face a short term health issue now, and a medium term economic wellbeing problem, however without a bus alternative to the car, more people will die from air quality issues than from Covid-19.”

The UK government’s policy document, Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge, was launched on 4 March UK. The document was the Department for Transport’s first step to developing the policy proposals and a coordinated plan for decarbonising transport. The legal requirement to reach net zero by 2050 has not changed. However, in the few weeks since this document was issued the landscape of the transport sector has changed beyond recognition.

Delivering the emissions reduction needed from transport is a significant and sustained challenge and net zero demands a fresh approach; one that CILT believes must build on the impacts that Covid-19 has had on changing travel behaviours.

The Institute believes that post-Covid recovery provides a unique and unrivalled opportunity to lock in the unintended consequence of the lockdown that virtually eliminated traffic congestion, resulting in better air quality, improved urban environments and vastly reduced carbon emissions.

This paper encourages government to continue to show the same commitment that it did before the pandemic and ensure funding is retained, but used rather differently than originally intended in order to mount a major pro-bus and active travel campaign.

Government also needs to lead an urgent national debate between stakeholders to identify how to change the planning, commercial and operational landscapes whilst reducing unnecessary regulation, in the short and longer term, all to make the bus a more attractive alternative to car use.

“As it stands, there is a potential for managing the pandemic and improving air quality to be seen as mutually exclusive policy objectives, however we believe that this is the ideal starting point for redoubling progress on the route to net-zero,” says Nick Richardson, chair, Bus & Coach Policy Group. “Key to preparing for the post-lockdown phase is to recognise that rebooting the bus and coach sector and enabling its contribution to net-zero needs commitment from central government, local authorities and operators.

“If we can use the reduction in travel that has been experienced during this pandemic, and enhance the bus and public transport offer, we will deliver a cleaner environment in addition to developing wider social benefits such as reducing loneliness, isolation and achieve improved mental health outcomes plus many economic objectives.”

“Public transport is fundamental to the economy, the environment and for effectively and efficiently supporting the movement of people,” says Kevin Richardson, chief executive, CILT(UK). “Government, devolved and local authorities must work with the profession to ensure that capacity and connectivity is maintained so that our transport networks are capable of delivering an efficient service that people can rely on to be convenient, cost-effective and coherent in a post-Covid world.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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