Mayor’s Transport Strategy – a breath of fresh air

Professor David Begg
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The Mayor’s Transport strategy is a breath of fresh air – and not just in a metaphorical way. It is visionary and robust. It gets the balance right between enticing Londoners to continue the shift away from car travel to more sustainable modes (walking, cycling and public transport) with the essential, but politically more difficult stick measures.

We need both if sustainable transport’s share of the market is to increase from 64% to 80% in 2041. This will put London right up with the best in the world in terms of sustainable transport market share – only just behind Hong Kong. However, when you consider that Hong Kong has four times greater population density than London, and that this is the main determinant of sustainable transport market share, it puts into perspective what an ambitious target this is.  

The only way London can continue its economic success story, while at the same time breathing clean air, reducing congestion and road accidents and making mobility in the city more equitable, is if the sustainable transport mode shift target is met.

If we get transport right then we can achieve “good growth” which is fair, equitable and leads to a better quality environment. 

Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport, deserves credit for leading on this strategy and making sure it’s as radical as it can be. The politically difficult part is the vehicle restraint measures such as road pricing. More detail needs to be fleshed out on this and it could be argued that they don’t go far enough. However road pricing is back on the agenda and the public have to be brought onside. 

The financial challenge in delivering this strategy is considerable against a background of public transport having to operate without a subsidy from 2019. Transport for London has responded to this challenge by reducing public transport operating costs for the first time in decades. However if they are to deliver on this new strategy they need new revenue streams. It makes sense to charge activities we are trying to discourage, such as driving highly polluting vehicles and vehicles which make inefficient use of road space. 

It’s great that moving people is at the heart of the strategy and not moving vehicles. This is music to the ears of those of us who have been campaigning for more bus-friendly policies. 

London has a track record on modal shift which compares favourably with any city in the world in the 17 years since TfL came into being.  The car’s share of the market across London has declined from 47% to 36% over this period with sustainable transport’s share increasing by 11%.  To continue with this success story, car and van restraint measures are essential. It will not be enough just to make the sizeable increase in public transport capacity and to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive. 

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