Scotland has targeted a 20% reduction in car use by 2030 – while England will leave change to market dynamics. Which approach is right?
In 2020 the Scottish Government set out a commitment to reduce car kilometres travelled in the country by 20%, citing it as essential in the fight against climate change. In January this year Transport Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities published the consultation on the route map to achieving that target. It focuses on encouraging local travel, switching to public or alternative transport, and combining journeys.
Conversely, one minister recently announced that England will not set a national target of car reduction, leaving that and congestion to market dynamics. Could that approach work?
Infrastructure being wasted?
Some are plain in their disagreement with England’s lack of action on a targeted car reduction, citing congested and polluted city centres even when local authorities have taken action to design services to reduce congestion at peak times. Philip Hitchen, Managing Director of Belle Vue Manchester, says there should be a focus from government both on targeting a reduction in congestion and maximising existing transport infrastructure. In particular, he highlights Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM’s) designated school bus services, and the strain that traffic places upon roads not designed to withstand modern congestion levels.
“We feel positive that car journeys can be reduced, but not necessarily that people can be trusted to make the switch to public transport,” says Phil. “People sit in their comfort zones and need encouragement to get out of them, particularly where reducing car journeys is concerned. There could be a great focus on this and also in the areas of car sharing and cycle-to-work schemes.
“TfGM designed the Yellow School Bus Scheme in 2003 to reduce parents’ cars on the roads and it is a scheme that worked.
“Today we have a fleet of 50 school buses taking kids to school in Manchester, Stockport, Tameside and Cheshire. It does not mean to say that the English government could not still have a focus on reducing car journeys though. We are a school bus operator. The bigger bus companies have a great transport infrastructure and service schedule that needs pushing and a government car journey reduction scheme would assist.”
Phil believes any best practice from Scotland could also be shared with the English Government. “It remains to be seen whether the schemes are successful, but it’s a start,” he says. “Progress can be monitored and adjusted as things go along until successful completion. The greater successes will be city centre-based rather than in rural areas, and in our opinion this is where the focus should be.”
And Phil warns of what the consequences may be if there is no target on congestion in his area, particularly as population increases. Educating people on the effects of increased congestion, from pollution to a city’s overall carbon footprint, could be effective: “We all have to take responsibility for our own actions. I used to attend the Etihad Stadium in a car. There is total congestion getting to football grounds and city centres. These days, I take a bus or train and a tram. It’s economical, efficient, relaxed, and leaves me to focus on business or social activities. You don’t realise the benefits until you experience them. People need educating, and a scheme to reduce car journeys is vital in England if we are to support a reduction in car congestion and emission control zones.”
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