Over the past year, a number of strategies and policy papers have been produced by the Department for Transport and its agencies which provide an imperative for action from local responsible authorities. Summarised below are some of the most important policy drivers aimed at producing a more economically and environmental sustainable passenger and freight transport system for the UK.
Transport: An Engine for Growth
Although in places Britain’s transport infrastructure can be ranked with some of the most comprehensive and safe systems in the world there are growing concerns that its weaknesses are acting as a brake on our economic performance. In its global competitiveness report The World Economic Forum ranks the quality of Britain’s rail network at 16th in the world, and our road system at 24th in the world – both far below policy-makers’ aspirations. Transport: An Engine for Growth set out six principles adopted by the DfT to transform our networks into accelerants rather than brakes on the economy. These principles are:
- On time and on budget: “[DfT] will keep the promise made in the Spending Round, accelerating investment and improving efficiency.”
- Comprehensive investment: “[Dft] will make major and sustained investment in transport and ensure that investment is balanced between different modes of transport and geographic areas.
- Maximising economic benefits to the UK: “economic benefits explain why [DfT] need to invest in transport as well as guiding how we should invest, including giving longer-term certainty to the UK supply chain.”
- Protecting the environment, harnessing technology: “People and business want to stay on the move without causing undue harm to the environment. [DfT] will support new technologies that have the potential to revolutionise how we travel, reducing financial and environmental costs while retaining personal mobility.”
- Working with the private sector: “Government will not do this alone. [DfT] want to continue to see significant private sector investment in transport and will work to provide the conditions to attract investment in our infrastructure, making the UK a place where international transport companies want to bring their business.”
- Giving our partners more control: “[DfT] will give local businesses and authorities and our partners, including the Highways Agency, more freedom to determine how funding should be used.”
Gearing up for efficient highway delivery and funding
Supporting the strategic principles set out in Transport: An Engine for Growth will be a range of practical policies aimed at reconfiguring the way our transport systems operates to optimise their improvement and effectiveness. A first step was Gearing up for efficient highway delivery and funding a nationwide consultation published in January aiming to garner ideas on how the £5.8 billion of funding for highway maintenance between 2015 and 2021 can be best distributed. On the agenda within the document are potential incentives to encourage the take up of highways asset management; the uptake of efficiency principles in repair work; funding major maintenance projects; cycle and footway maintenance; alternative funding mechanisms; detrunking; and PFI. A draft policy and formal consultation on funding allocation will follow on from the initial consultation this summer.
Measures to support uptake of ultra low emission vehicles from 2015 to 2020
Similarly the Office for Low Emission Vehicles have also ran a consultation, more specifically a call for evidence, to inform an emerging policy which will set out Measures to support uptake of ultra low emission vehicles from 2015 to 2020. Over the parliament the government has invested £400 million in electric vehicle take up and has announced an additional £500 million to continue to develop the low emission vehicle market after 2015 to build on our current package. OLEV want to ensure that the new package supports inward investment as well as increasing vehicle uptake. The call for evidence is split into 2 sections:
- core elements of the existing package – seeking views on how the current offer should be developed
- other initiatives we could support to expand the ULEV market in the UK – seeking views on whether more targeted support in particular areas would be appropriate
Cross rail will be a 118-kilometre (73-mile) railway line serving London and the South East. It will link Reading and Berkshire in the West and Essex in the east with central London with a high frequency service. The central part of the line, tunnels under the capital, is currently under construction with work beginning in 2009 after several decades of proposals. It is Europe’s largest railway and infrastructure construction project.