Experts ask: Where is this country’s transport policy?

An interesting development in the world of infrastructure planning came this morning as thirty two UK transport Professors, published an open letter which has been picked up by the Daily Mail, to the Secretary of State for Transport, Right Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, raising a number of concerns about the current state of transport policy and investment in the UK.

At the heart of the letter is a concern of an over emphasis on the economic benefits of infrastructure at the expense of people and the environment, this is what the National Trust term the “triple bottom line” on all planning decisions and something we were very concerned about recently with the overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Areas of concern also raised are:

  1. Whether currently proposed infrastructure investments will deliver the employment and economic growth that they claim
  2. A need to recognise the value of integrated land-use and transport policy and the dangers of a rush to develop quickly rather than well
  3. The lack of understanding  of how investment in cities and the new range of smart growth policies can deliver economic and environmental benefits
  4. A lack of clarity over big questions such as how we fund transport.

The letter has been co-ordinated by the Transport Planning Society (TPS), which represents transport planners in the UK and is also supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute.

The Chair of TPS, Keith Buchan, said, “Our aim is to encourage the Secretary of State to recognise what smarter transport and land use planning could achieve if placed at the heart of policy. We do not want to see the UK slipping back into the dead end of trying to build our way out of congestion.”

The letter contained some obvious criticism of HS2:

– “As the 2006 Eddington Review pointed out however, the UK is already comparatively well connected, rendering the employment gains promised for many schemes difficult to realize.”

– “Across all of our networks we would urge a continuation or acceleration of smart demand management measures to ensure we get the best use of the infrastructures we already have – including our telecommunications infrastructures.”

A colleague and I recently attended a discussion with Evan Davis on ‘The future of British infrastructure’ where the lack of a coherent transport strategy formed the brunt of frustrations raised by the many developers in the room.

With investment in infrastructure fashionable in Westminster, it would certainly make sense for a strategy to be adopted and communicated to gain more public support for major infrastructure projects.

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