To consider the report of the Executive Director of Policy, Strategy and Government Relations.
Huw Jenkins, Lead Officer – Transport Policy, presented a report which provided a follow-up to Members on the development of the fourth Local Transport Plan (LTP). This would provide a strategic transport framework to extend to 2040. The report updated Members on the work to date in developing the “Vision and Goals”, discussed and endorsed by Members at their meeting of November 2021, and on the next steps.
The main aim of the report was to update the first report brought to this Committee in November 2021 with a draft vision and goals to drive the next LTP. It would replace the two existing plans for the City Region. Back in November he had reported on how we would be starting with a quite structured process, looking at what transport needed to do, what the policy context required us to do, what wider City Region policies required us to do and from that would develop transport policies, a transport strategy, a funding programme and actual schemes would fall out of that process. The starting point was therefore to gain an understanding of what transport needed to do to support the City Region.
The draft vision contained five draft goals and they had been pretty well received following informal endorsement by the Committee last November and discussions had been taking place with a range of bodies around those goals and there had been broad acceptance that they were meaningful and delivered the right sort of priorities across the board. There had been a number of changes made to the draft document and to the goals themselves and they had been summarised in paragraph 3.2 of the report. It showed how the draft vision had evolved since November. For example, the document in Appendix 1 now reflected the Integrated Rail Plan and the Decarbonisation Strategy. The City Region had adopted its own Net Zero Carbon Plan very recently and the role of transport in decarbonising was critical throughout this. In respect of transport trains were responsible for some 34% of carbon emissions as a City Region, whereas private cars typically provided around 67% of carbon emissions so there was clearly a lot of work to be done.
He felt that there was now a finalised set of visions and goals which had been set out in section 3.5 of the report which effectively set forward the vision for the delivery of a clean, safe, resilient and acceptable London style transport system that supported our various needs as a City Region and then five supporting goals as follows:
· GOAL 1 - Ensure that transport supports recovery, sustainable growth and development, and that our Transport Plan, Plan for Prosperity, Climate Action Plan and Spatial Development Strategy are fully aligned
· GOAL 2 - Achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 or sooner whilst safeguarding and enhancing our environment
· GOAL 3 - Improving the health and quality of life of our people and communities through the right transport solutions, including safer, more attractive streets and places used by zero emission transport
· GOAL 4 - Ensuring that our transport network and assets are resilient, responsive to the effects of climate change, and are well maintained
· GOAL 5 - Ensuring that we respond to uncertainty and change but also innovation and new technologies
The draft vision document was very much the starting point in setting out the future of transport. The diagram in section 4.1 showed the direction of travel required, advising that we were currently at Stage 1 in respect of understanding the challenges and developing the vision for transport. The next stage would be to go into some structured consultation with stakeholders and groups and he stressed the fact that it was not proposed to go back to ask some of the questions which had previously been asked. He stated that there was already a strong evidence base across the City Region based on people’s views following the Vision for Bus and the consultation around the Walking and Cycling Plans and therefore there were some clear views as to what people wanted. It was known that people wanted safe, segregated cycle routes and people were concerned about the cost of travel, cleanliness and poor punctuality. Having already got a clear understanding of what people wanted it would then be necessary to get under the skin of what a ‘London style’ network might look like. It would be necessary to understand people’s concerns and very often the perceptions which could be damaging when delivering this vision for transport and decarbonisation.
Stage 2 would be to understand what the future might mean in transport terms e.g. some of the more technical work to understand what economic growth and different ways of working meant for transport. For example, how far did the vision for transport take us on that decarbonisation journey and how close to net zero 2040 would it get us. It would be necessary to test some of that in detail in order that a preferred transport strategy could be developed which he was hoping to bring back in the Autumn and which would then form a fundamental building block in the transport plan. The aim was to seek adoption of the plan in Spring 2023 and also to undertake an integrated assessment of the plan looking at the equality implications, environmental implications and social value implications.
He reiterated that the document was a starting point in the plan and was not the full strategy and therefore there were aspects that still needed to be updated and there were events beyond our control which would always have an impact. But in conclusion the next stage would be to go out to consultation to start to develop the options around different scenarios and what that meant in transport terms following which he would bring a report back to the Committee around the preferred strategy.
Councillor Gordon Friel felt that this was a very good draft document to start off with. He referred to page 39 of the agenda which mentioned putting rail freight on the front foot. He had concerns that with the current lack of investment in rail freight he could not see any further investment coming forward. It was therefore going to be really difficult to move forward within the next 50 years in respect of rail freight especially given the constraints of gauge clearance etc and he hoped that further reports would be brought back to the Committee on progress with rail freight.
The presentation from Chris Jackson had been very good particularly around the uncertainties of costs relating to transport and he felt that it was a bit optimistic in relation to the advantages and opportunities. He questioned was the opportunity in the changing patterns with our local transport plan and that we were trying to plan against an unprecedented backdrop of financial unknowns such as what the cost of fuel would be next year, what the rate of inflation would be next year. It could be said that this would drive people away from utilising public transport but equally the high cost and inability to purchase motor vehicles might well drive them onto public transport. There was a great deal of uncertainty around all that and that was why this was a really good document.
Huw Jenkins responded that he was glad that the freight angle had come out as this was an important and significant part of transport and was an important part of the City Region’s role. It was integral to the Freeport, but he was also aware that freight adversely affected people’s quality of life as it emitted harmful pollution and it was a major cause of carbon. It would therefore be necessary to collectively decarbonise freight just as it was necessary to decarbonise transport. The challenge around that should not be under-estimated as there was an important role for rail in taking more freight, but it would not be the only answer.
There were problems with capacity on the rail network and it was an even greater problem for freight than it was for passenger rail, but it would be necessary to look at new solutions and hopefully this was what would be coming through the next stages of the transport plan. There was a need to start testing the role of hydrogen, the future in terms of electric cabs, electric tractor units, consolidation centres, and other ways of moving last mile freight. This was a particular issue with the number of white vans on the network with all of the online deliveries which had been a consequence of the pandemic. There was scope for consolidating some of those movements onto bikes for example. He summarised that there were a lot of uncertainties but there was an urgency around decarbonising from a freight point of view as well as across the whole transport sector. That would form part of the testing of the strategy.
Councillor Nathalie Nicholas commented that this was a really good draft document and she felt that the five goals were ambitious. Goal 3 was really important because in terms of health, wellbeing and quality of life if we did not have a healthy population they would not be on the network or be able to use the trains. This was a really important aspect and she was pleased to see that it had been included in the document. It was about changing people’s behaviour and she looked forward to this coming back to Committee.
Councillor Nina Killen said that it was good to see that accessibility was a theme throughout the document. Disabled people faced bigger barriers than any group when it came to transport and they were often the most challenged financially due to difficulties in accessing well paid work as a result of challenges in getting around. She referred to Motability’s recent report ‘Understanding the transport accessibility gap’ which stated that even before Covid, one in three disabled people said they just did not make some journeys due to problems with transport and one in five disabled people were unable to travel due to the lack of appropriate transport options. 40% of disabled people often experienced issues or difficulties when travelling by train in the UK and disabled people reported two to three times more difficulties than non-disabled people when travelling. She therefore was glad to see this had been included as a theme as it should continue to be at the forefront of what the authority did. It would also be important to hear the voices of disabled people through engaging with disabled people as part of the consultation process.
Huw Jenkins agreed with the comments made. It was a question which had been raised a number of times as part of the informal consultation. If the transport network was not accessible and usable by all the goals would not be delivered and neither would a network that supported economic growth. The network had to be attractive to people from 8-80 years of age and for every user. The points around health had also been very well made. Poor health was a factor which led to worklessness across the City Region and was a big factor as to why people who could work did not work due to poor health. There were so many compelling reasons in transport in economic and social terms as to why it was important to improve health and prevent people getting ill through transport emissions and transport consequences.
The Chair, Councillor Liam Robinson agreed that this was a really good piece of work and was part of the journey before the final Local Transport Plan was ratified early in the new year. From his perspective the most important thing was how the public would be involved in this process. This organisation was full of brilliant ideas but actually it was important to ensure that all of the travelling public were included in the process to get their thoughts, perspectives and views and ideas of things we should or should not be doing over the next 15 years and beyond.
Huw Jenkins stated that there was a draft brief that he would be happy to share separately that set out the process to be followed. It was recognised that it would be necessary to reach out and engage with different groups who had experienced different challenges over the years, for example, care leavers, younger people, people who drove and people who did not drive. Colleagues in the Research Team were currently pulling this together at the moment which would involve structured interviews, telephone interviews, face to face interviews, focus groups and drawing in different people from those underrepresented groups in the same way which had been done previously with the Spatial Development Plan. It would be essential to engage as widely as possible but in a targeted way and he would be happy to share those details separately.
RESOLVED - That the contents of the report be noted.