CPRE responds to Transport for the North Transport Plan Consultation
Despite an increased emphasis on traditional rail and zero carbon transport, the reality is that the Strategic Transport Plan’s strategies and scenarios will fail to achieve TfN’s net zero target by 2045.
Transport for the North (TfN) is a statutory body whose main purpose is to devise an over-arching transport agenda for the whole of the North of England. It does not itself apply for planning permissions or commission, fund or oversee the delivery of infrastructure projects. Its role is to try to thread together the individual aspirations of combined and local planning and highways authorities, National Highways, rail and bus companies and the freight and logistics industries into a comprehensive strategy.
During the summer of 2023 TfN has been consulting on a draft version of its second Strategic Transport Plan. Friends of the Lake District, CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region & Greater Manchester and CPRE Cheshire which together make up the North West Regional Group of CPRE made a joint response to it.
Although we were pleased to see an increased emphasis on traditional rail and a declared determination to achieve a zero carbon transport system, we have questioned the vagueness of some of the rail aspirations and asked for more detail and we have criticised TfN’s support for HS2 which received a damning report in July from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority which gave a red/ ‘unachievable’ classification to both the London to Birmingham and the Birmingham to Crewe phases of HS2. We challenged the reliance on electric vehicles as a prime means of reducing carbon when the Climate Change Committee has detailed how far short this will prove to be in terms of achieving carbon reduction targets. Similarly, we pointed out that vague references to alternative fuels, particularly for air travel and shipping, are not based on sound science and cannot be delivered fast enough to make a difference to climate change.
We found many contradictions in the plan which, on the one hand utilises some fine phrases such as ‘enabling modal shift away from car dependency’ but which, on the other, supports a massive road building programme, (that is not set out in the main consultation document), encourages the expansion of airports and is accepting of further expansion of logistics centres and road freight. Aspirations for increasing rail freight and public transport use are too low and the environment and social issues are seen as very much secondary to achieving economic growth. Most concerning of all was the totally inadequate approach to the climate change crisis and to issues such as poor air quality.
We have called for greater use of digital technology to help to reduce the need to travel, a reassessment of infrastructure schemes in the light of climate change as the Welsh have done (https://www.gov.wales/roads-review), a greater emphasis on the health of northern populations in terms of their being able to breathe clean air and more emphasis on reliable journey times by rail and road rather than on the speed of journeys – in keeping with the expressed desire of the travelling public. Their priorities in survey after survey are for better maintained roads and predictable journey times that allow them to plan their days better.
Our detailed response, as set out in TfN’s pro forma, can be downloaded below.