Category Archives: Infrastructure

Our traffic reduction laws don’t work, but a small amendment could change that

This post is by Roger Geffen, policy director at Cycling UK.

The UK government’s recent transport decarbonisation plan (TDP) has had a mixed reception. The consensus seems to be that it contains plenty of positive ideas but that it is very weak on a clear overall direction for the transport sector. Commentators have voiced frustration at its lack of a plan to reduce the demand for travel, so that the UK transport sector can play its part in averting the unfolding climate crisis.

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The government should ignore the backbench sceptics and get on with its transport decarbonisation plan

This post is by Greg Archer, UK director of Transport & Environment.

The UK government’s recently announced transport decarbonisation plan is unquestionably a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. First, the good. Proposals to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) are world leading and an excellent basis from which to achieve only zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035. The bad was the failure to address aviation and shipping emissions, with unfounded optimism that international agreements and technology will deliver the required transformation. And the ugly was the departure, in public statements made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, from the clear messages in the plan that less vehicle use would be necessary and good for society. Instead, he danced to the populist tune that the car shall remain king, albeit electric. Critics may question if he really believed what he was proposing.

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The Transport Decarbonisation Plan is a good start, but more is needed to make transport genuinely green

Last week, the government published its strategy for a greener transport system, the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, which has been welcomed for new policies on electric vehicles and a significant positive shift in tone around cycling, walking and public transport. While it also recognises the many benefits that come from making transport greener – healthier lifestyles, savings for consumers and hundreds of thousands of new jobs – what will this plan actually change?

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Without a plan there won’t be enough energy for low carbon transport by 2050

This post is by Dr Philippa Horton, business manager for the UK FIRES programme.

Whilst the transport sector is taking on the task to decarbonise, there is an even bigger challenge ahead around the energy needed to do it. There simply won’t be enough zero carbon energy to meet the projected demand for green transport in 2050. Plans to deliver transport services with zero emission fuels will not be enough on their own, a new focus on energy efficiency is required to make sure it can happen.  

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What it’s like driving a green black cab in London

For London Climate Action Week (#LCAW2021), we spoke to a driver of one of the most iconic forms of transport in London, the black cab. Green Alliance’s senior political adviser, Joe Tetlow, interviewed cabbie Sardar Manyana about his experience of driving one of the newer ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs). 

How long have you driven a black cab? Have you always driven a ULEV? 
I’ve been a taxi driver for over four years. Previously, I drove a conventional TX4 black cab, but for the past 18 months I’ve been driving a hybrid ULEV, made by the London Electric Vehicle Company, which I rent.

What incentives are there to switch to a hybrid black cab? 
Non-ULEV black cabs are still allowed to operate and avoid London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) charge. However, the advantages of having a ULEV cab are that it’s quieter and has a sunroof with six seats, and some customers love the fact it is a ULEV too. The government offers a grant worth £7,500 to own one. However, they are very expensive, costing between £55,600 and £58,000 plus insurance, which is why I rent.

What about the cost of running your cab and the ease of charging it?
The cost of charging is between £5.50 to £7.00 per charge, depending on the chargers used. If it’s done at home it’s cheaper, but I live in an apartment, so don’t have access to charging at home.

Even though ULEV manufacturers claim you save money, you don’t, mainly because finding a working charging point is so hard and the interruption to your working time of charging. Even a fast charger, at 50KW, takes between 45 minutes and an hour to charge. On full charge, vehicles run for about 50 to 55 miles which isn’t very practical as the average cabbie covers between 70-80 miles in a day and many live outside London. The battery power needs to be improved.

With current technology, this vehicle is not yet very cost effective to run. Some charging points are out of action for months at a time, and there are constant problems with contacting customer service to get them working. The chargers that do work are often illegally occupied by parked private vehicles, or are being used by private hire vehicles when the chargers are meant to be exclusively for taxis.

Overall, there are far too few rapid electric charging points in important central areas like Kensington, Westminster, Fulham, and there are no chargers that I know of in Mayfair. Some chargers are in car parks, but then you have to pay to park while you charge.

What can the government do to help? 
If the government seriously wants to cut congestion and pollution, they must be more serious about funding road users to switch to electric or other cleaner methods of travel. And they need to look at how the whole system works and increase clean energy access to support it, including many more rapid chargers.

I also believe they should consider restricting the use of private cars on London’s roads, and prioritise public transport, including black cabs, pedestrians and cyclists to encourage the public to use their cars less. We also provide a service to a lot of vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, so it is vital that we have access to all roads, which we currently don’t have in some areas of London. London’s ultra low emission black taxis should be seen as part of a clean public transport system and be given 100 per cent finance at no interest to buy electric vehicles, and a scrappage scheme for older vehicles could help speed it up.

Better planning of road space would also improve the flow of traffic and sharing with bikes, as would more carefully timed traffic lights. Road closures for low traffic neighbourhoods should be planned along with other measures to cut traffic, otherwise they simply squeeze more traffic onto other roads, increasing pollution and congestion there, which still negatively affects people’s health.

We black taxi drivers work very hard to get our badge and know the city’s roads inside out, so we should be consulted and included in plans for greener city transport, as we’re an important part of that future.

Infrastructure should be at the heart of the UK’s climate adaptation strategy

This post is by James Heath, chief executive of the National Infrastructure Commission.

I write this from a modern flat in the centre of a big city on the hottest day of the year so far, unable to open my windows because a telecoms operator is digging up my street to lay full fibre broadband cables.

I hesitate to complain about my situation, not least as there will be many millions in far more precarious situations as a result of global warming, and because faster internet connections can reduce more carbon intensive activities like the daily commute.

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Why the north needs new powers to deliver on decarbonisation

This post is by Piers Forster, professor of physical climate change and director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds, and Climate Change Committee  representative on the Transport for North Partnership Board.

Transport for the North (TfN) will shortly be launching a consultation on its decarbonisation strategy, which has already been approved in its current form by civic and business leaders across the North. It is the first regional strategy of its kind in the UK will provide a benchmark for other regions. In the meantime, it is important to hear from politicians; officials; business groups; interest groups; and, of course, the people of the north of England, through the consultation to make sure the strategy is as strong as it needs to be.

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What the UK can learn from Welsh transport strategy

This post is by Jack Wilkinson-Dix, policy officer at the Energy Saving Trust.

Cutting the carbon emissions of transport, whether in Wales or the rest of the UK, will be a critical challenge in the coming years as the country transitions to net zero. The Welsh government recently published its transport strategy, Llwybr Newydd (New Path), which sets a strategic vision for transport decarbonisation to 2035. This is the culmination of years of engagement with Welsh stakeholders, including through a consultation which the Energy Saving Trust responded to in January 2021.

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Including flights abroad in the UK’s climate target is a huge step forward

This post is by Greg Archer and Matt Finch of Transport & Environment.

If holiday makers ignore the cost of flights they quickly max-out their credit cards and create a cash crisis. If countries omit their international aviation (and shipping) emissions from their national carbon budgets they run the risk of overshooting their climate targets and contribute to frying the planet. So the UK’s decision to include our international flights and shipping emissions in its sixth carbon budget is not just good accountancy, it is a huge step forward towards limiting these pernicious, invisible and, to date, largely unmanaged emissions.

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We can only get good infrastructure for a greener future if the public are involved

This post is by Dr Katy Roelich, associate professor at Sustainability Research Institute, Leeds University

In its 2015 report Opening up infrastructure planning, Green Alliance argued that “…public engagement is critical to finding common ground between different stakeholders and making infrastructure delivery successful in the UK.” Six years and three national lockdowns later, we’re even more aware infrastructure’s crucial role in our daily lives.

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