Better public transport and ‘major reduction’ in emissions plan welcomed by Future Generations Commissioner
A new transport vision for Wales’ future that prioritises public transport and active travel is a positive step towards shifting the nation’s travel habits, says Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe.
‘Llwybr Newydd – New Path’, Welsh Government’s new 20-year transport strategy, sets out ‘ambitions’ to reshape transport in Wales, including a new sustainable transport hierarchy.
Welsh Government said it wants to move Wales away from an over-reliance on private car use by 2030, to ‘an active travel nation’ improving our health, environment and economy.
Ken Skates, Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, said the long-term vision for an ‘accessible, sustainable transport system’ set out a commitment to a major reduction in transport emissions so “we are all playing our part in the address the crisis we face”.
Welsh Government has pledged to create safer, better cycle paths and more space for walking and cycling, a faster, more reliable network of bus routes, and more and better trains, services and stations to connect people with employment, health and leisure.
It also plans to roll out technology and infrastructure to deliver low emission buses by 2028 and said it will work with the UK government to develop rail as part of the wider solution to congestion on the M4.
The draft strategy responds to challenges from the commissioner on the government’s approach to planning and funding transport in Wales including her high-profile interventions on the M4 Relief Road. The strategy has been informed by the commissioner’s years of work in advising the government on how they must transform mobility for the future.
In her Future Generations Report and Manifesto for the Future she stresses the need for investing in improving digital connectivity and low carbon forms of travel, rather than putting a reliance on building new roads, and supporting active travel like walking and cycling.
Transport currently makes up 17% of Wales’ carbon emissions and a national effort to change behaviours, in response to the commissioner’s recommendation for ‘modal shift’, will see Welsh Government improve sustainable choices for people and businesses, including growing public transport and reprioritising spending.
The commissioner encouraged more people to share their views and respond to the draft strategy via the consultation process, and praised its long-term commitment to a healthier way of living.
She said: “Transport planning is about improving people’s lives and this is a clear commitment by Welsh Government to giving people better options for how they live and work.
“Some of Wales’ most vulnerable people are most harmed by the poor air that comes with our reliance on old modes of transport. This plan has the potential to tackle health and employment inequalities and properly connect people with their communities.
“I look forward to working with Welsh Government to ensure that spending decisions meet the ambitions for decarbonising and open up our transport system to fit the needs of all.
“This commits us to moving away from building new roads as a standard fix, setting out long-term investment in active travel, public transport and digital connectivity for a Wales we all want to live in.”
Car sales in the UK have fallen by 33.2% so far this year, compared with the same period last year, according to figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) while sales of electric cars are growing.
Ms Howe warned that the new strategy must be backed up with action including deprioritising investment in roads, putting more money into walking cycling and public transport and investing in good broadband for all, which will help to reduce the need to travel in the first place, as is identified as a key priority within the draft strategy.
Ms Howe said processes to support transport interventions, such as WelTAG (Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance) which looks at the impact on well-being of a proposed transport project, should follow the strategy’s transport hierarchy (walking and cycling, public transport, ultra low emissions vehicles, other private motor vehicles – in that order) before considering road-based schemes. There must be a robust assessment of this and funding should not be awarded to any scheme which cannot clearly demonstrate how the correct process has been applied.
Welsh Government has a long-term ambition for around 30% of workers to work from or near home and said it would collaborate with planning, health and education through initiatives such as ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’, which the commissioner recommended as a policy to support living local.
The commissioner highlighted innovative examples such as Carmarthenshire Council’s investment of £50m to boost digital connectivity in the region, to deploy more full fibre fixed broadband connectivity, as well as 4G, 5G, and the Internet of Things – a network of physical objects that are embedded with technologies to connect and exchange data.
You can read Welsh Government’s draft Wales Transport strategy, here.
A consultation has been launched for people to have their say on the plans, which runs until 25 January 2021.
Some of the Future Generations Commissioner’s recommendations for more sustainable travel:
- Decrease spending on road infrastructure and increase spending on public transport and active travel including the introduction of free public transport for young people in Wales.
- Invest in better ways to connect and move people through improving digital connectivity, active travel and public transport.
- Set a national target for modal shift to enable people to adopt low carbon modes of travel.
- Allocate at least 50% of capital transport spend on improving bus and train services. (Currently around 62% of the transport capital budget is being spent on building new roads.)
- Invest in responding to the Climate and Nature Emergency – Commit to increasing spend year on year.
- Make broadband a critical public service.
Welsh Government’s new priorities for transport:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by planning ahead for better connectivity, more local services, more home and remote working, and more active travel, so that fewer people need to use their cars on a daily basis.
- Growing public transport.
- Safe, accessible, well-maintained transport infrastructure that also supports more sustainable transport choices.
- Making sustainable transport more attractive and affordable.
- Support innovations that deliver more sustainable choices.