Central England in pole position for transport decarbonisation, report suggests

The transport system in central England can reach net zero emissions by 2050, according to a new study. A draft transport strategy by the England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) partnership sets out ambitious targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 whilst supporting sustainable economic growth over the next 30 years. Currently EEH transport carbon dioxide emissions are disproportionately higher than in other UK regions – 47% compared to 37%.

Historic underinvestment in infrastructure and services in EEH has led to close-to-capacity transport, digital and other infrastructure networks And the EEH transport network is currently over-focused on routes to London, leaving East-West travel underrepresented. A new study by University of Oxford and University of Southampton provides an evidence base for the draft strategy.

Pathways to Decarbonisation maps the EEH road and rail transport network and uses advanced modelling to demonstrate a variety of ‘pathways’ EEH could take to achieve a net zero carbon transport system by 2050. The strategic transport model predicts passenger and freight vehicle demand and simulates traffic on major roads, predicting changes in flows based on a number of variables. The forecasts take into account the changes in both exogenous (e.g. population and income) and endogenous (e.g. travel time and travel cost) variables linked to travel.

‘EEH is committed to net zero emissions from transport by 2050 – if not sooner,’ said EEH programme director, Martin Tugwell. ‘Our partnership with ITRC demonstrates how we are harnessing the world class expertise and innovation which exists in the region in order to achieve this. We know a ‘business as usual’ approach to our transport system and relying on national interventions alone will not get us where we need to be – we need to go further.

‘By utilising cutting edge modelling techniques, Pathways to Decarbonisation is an incredibly valuable piece of work, exploring the extra measures which could be taken. It shows there is a viable pathway to achieving zero carbon but that this requires a wholesale change to the way we view and plan connectivity: a systems approach that aligns interventions in transport, digital and energy infrastructure to a common objective. Our draft transport strategy reflects this paradigm shift, and I’d encourage people to have their say during the consultation which runs until October 6.’

Professor Jim Hall, director of research in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford and Director of the ITRC, added: ‘The UK is committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net zero, and every part of the economy needs to contribute. Decarbonising transport is a big challenge, but technology is now giving us a big help because electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and can now drive as far after a full charge as a polluting car does on a tank of petrol.

‘However, this analysis by the Universities of Oxford and Southampton demonstrates that technology is not enough. There needs to be very firm policy leadership, including on the question of road user charging, together with infrastructure investments in electric vehicle charging, public transport, walking and cycling. ‘Our analysis has used the NISMOD infrastructure simulation model to explore possible futures and advise England’s Economic Heartland on the choices that need to be made to ensure that the region’s Transport Strategy is consistent with our climate commitments.’

Photo Credit – Schwoaze (Pixabay)

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