A new TUC report published today (Wednesday) sets out an investment plan for public transport across England and Wales to meet net zero targets, improve quality of life, and boost the UK economy.
The TUC says that the plan fills a gaping hole in the government’s recently published net-zero strategy, which failed to explain how it will achieve the ‘modal shift’ away from car that the Committee on Climate Change says is necessary.
Overview of plan
The investment plan published today – produced for the TUC by Transport for Quality of Life – is designed to meet the UK’s target to cut emissions by 68% by 2030 (from 1990 levels).
The transition to electric cars is vital, but not sufficient. The UK Climate Change Committee warns that: “Electric vehicles must not be the sole focus, with action also needed on demand and a modal shift.”
To reach the 2030 emissions target, a reduction in total car mileage of at least 20% is needed.
The Scottish government has already set a target to achieve this reduction. Today’s report sets out how it can be achieved in England (not including London) and Wales, based on the combination of:
The plan would require an average of £9.9 billion in annual capital expenditure up to 2035. And the additional operating costs for expanded bus, tram and rail services would reach £18.8bn annually by 2030.
Economic and social benefits
The plan is estimated to boost annual GDP by £52.1 billion by 2030 through productivity gains.
This estimate is based on productivity comparisons with European population centres that have better public transport provision than the UK.
Further GDP gains:
The investment plan will generate GDP growth from construction work and supply chains across the period of capital expenditure to 2035.
In less urbanised, areas where the estimated productivity gains are lower due to the nature of industry, the investment plan can support growth in sectors like tourism and hospitality.
140,000 new jobs would be created working directly in bus, tram, and rail operation.
A further 830,000 jobs would be created in manufacture, construction, and infrastructure for buses and trams up to 2035.
And up to 1.8 million jobs would be supported indirectly through the rail investment, although they cannot all be considered ‘new’ jobs as change on this scale would result in movement across the labour market.
In 2020, a fifth of UK households had no access to a car, rising to 35% in the lowest income bracket.
This plan will extend social and economic inclusion by increasing routes and reducing journey time, aiding journeys for accessing work, public services, retail, leisure, family, and friends.
Public transport use has health benefits compared to cars, as journeys tend to include walking or cycling to access services.
New public transport services
The TUC believes that ministers and transport authorities should consult the public about how to extend and upgrade public transport services where they live and work.
However, the TUC recommends the following as part of the overall programme that the investment plan could fund:
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:
"Everyone knows that we have to cut carbon emissions – and that switching to public transport is a big part of how do it.
"Investing in public transport will help us meet net zero targets and reduce the threat of catastrophic climate change. And it creates jobs throughout England and Wales, boosts the economy in every community, and improves everyone’s quality of life.
“Commuters will have faster and cheaper journeys to work. New connections will bring new businesses to places where people need economic opportunities. We will save lives with cleaner air. And we will reduce loneliness and isolation by making everyone better connected, wherever you live.
“With this report, we’ve done the work that Conservative ministers should have done with their empty and incompetent net zero strategy.”
- Public transport for the climate emergency – full report: The report was written for the TUC by Transport for Quality of Life. Full copies can be downloaded here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2023-04/PublicTransportForTheClimateEmergency_.pdf
- Report launch event: The report will be launched today at an event in Manchester, with speaking including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, and general secretaries from UK transport unions. More information about the event is here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/events/public-transport-fit-climate-emergency
- Why London is not included: The Mayor of London has set ambitious targets for the capital to reach net zero emissions by 2030, compared to the UK target year of 2050. This will require progress on a faster scale than covered by the methodology in this report. For a longer explanation of London’s needs, and the reasons for excluding it from the calculations, see pages 20-21 of the report.
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