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New road projects not an answer to Scotland’s transport problems

1 July 2010

• Dramatic increase in road traffic and no-growth in active travel sees Government failing own policy targets.
• No need to initiate massive infrastructure projects to solve Scotland’s transport and economic problems according to a new report from the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland.
• Clever use of technology, a real boost for active travel and accessible towns and workplaces will deliver a healthier and better connected Scotland and cost far less for a Government looking for savings.

SDC report Getting ThereRecent figures show that commuters in the UK waste two days per year in stand-still traffic. In Scotland car traffic went up by a staggering 5.500 million vehicle kilometres from 1998 to 2008.

In a new report Government’s own advisor, the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland, draws up a bold new vision to help Scotland respond to rising transport emissions and increasing road traffic.

Research commissioned by the Scottish Government has shown that current transport policy will only be able to achieve half of the emission reductions needed to meet the Scottish Climate Change Act.

The report ‘Getting There’ highlights the gap between current trends and Government’s stated aims, and sets out solutions to help Government bridge this gap and deliver a sustainable transport system for Scotland. The Commission calls for radical action to reduce the demand for motorised transport and create a transport system which delivers on the aims of improving journey times and connections, reducing emissions and improving quality, accessibility and affordability.

Principles for the refresh of the National Transport Strategy 

SDC Scotland says the forthcoming refresh of the National Transport Strategy must take a new and radical approach to provide change at the scale and pace which is obviously required.

Professor Jan Bebbington, Vice Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission, Scotland, said:
‘We have consistently pointed to how unsustainable Scotland’s transport system is in our Annual Assessments of Government’s progress, and the fact that the Scottish Government has failed to meet its own indicators on transport. Emissions are increasing, road traffic levels are up, and the numbers of people either walking, cycling or using public transport remains critically low.’

‘If the Government is going to deliver a transport system that is good for the nation’s health, economy and that cuts carbon, it needs a completely new approach to transport decisions both in local and national government.’

The Commission is recommending the adoption of a new decision making hierarchy for the transport sector, so that emphasis is given to demand reduction rather than investment in new infrastructure. Combined with new measures to include benefits on health, social inclusion and local economy, such a sustainable transport policy will deliver excellent value for money while reducing carbon emissions.

SDC’s sustainable transport hierarchy

The first and preferred option in this hierarchy is to reduce the need for motorised transport. That means considering whether a journey is necessary at all, then considering how to get more people to use walking and cycling, “active travel”, to make their essential journeys. This not only reduces congestion and emissions, it improves health and costs a lot less than driving.

Getting There highlights examples from elsewhere in Europe showing where Scotland can learn from other countries. The next step is to encourage more efficient choices, such as car-sharing, bus or train. 

The report also points to a number of positive initiatives in Scotland, but finds that these are not being rolled out across Scotland quickly enough.

As a third step vehicles must be made more efficient. There are already many technical solutions available - not least in the area of ICT.

Capacity increases can be considered only if none of the above three options are appropriate and even then the emphasis must be on the most sustainable method of raising capacity.

Professor Bebbington, said:
‘The Scottish Government has the most ambitious climate change legislation in the world, so to deliver on this they need the most radical transport policy in the world. Our report demonstrates through a range of case studies how the demand for motorised transport can be reduced. And crucially, in doing so the Government would also deliver on a wide range of other objectives.'

'Following our principles would create a transport system where the most desirable way of getting somewhere is also the one with the most benefits to our health, environment, community, economy and society. ‘

 » Download Getting There: A Sustainable Transport Vision for Scotland

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