Great British Railways - a public service that supports achieving net zero across the whole economy
The Williams-Shapps Plan states:
Britain’s railways can and will spearhead the nation’s ambition to become a world leader in clean, green transport...the backbone of a cleaner, greener public transport network (to) ensure the railway reflects the needs of the towns, cities and regions it serves
The government’s priority...is to level up rail services and other public transport services in rest of the country to the high standards already set in the capital
Railways need to encourage a shift away from planes, cars and lorries. This includes making it easier to get to and from stations by walking, cycling or other public transport, supporting green infrastructure outside cities. This will help rail fulfill its role as a public service that supports achieving net zero across the whole economy and transport system.
Outside cities the rail system has a lot of spare capacity – except at pinchpoints where the lines into a big city converge. Between the pinchpoints there are excellent opportunities for groups of towns along the lines to use rail to provide public transport equal to that in London - Metroisation.
Connecting towns by an upgraded rail system will enable them to function as a larger whole, bringing the benefits of higher GVA, reducing carbon emissions and improving health and well-being outcomes through higher active and public mode shares. Together the towns form a ConnectedCity and plan their growth to enable people to live a sustainable country lifestyle that also has the benefits of the city - providing new housing, and using the land value uplift to generate income for GBR.
Modal Shift and Net Zero
The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has calculated that to achieve Net Zero by the deadline set in the UK Climate Change Act the mode share for public transport must increase by 24% for short journeys and 14% for longer journeys. These targets go far beyond the UK’s existing ‘best practice’ benchmarks. Emphasis must be particularly on journeys between 5 and 30 kilometres, as these produce the greatest emissions.
The National Infrastructure Commission states that currently in towns 80% trips to employment, services & social participation are by car compared with 64 per cent in cities excluding London, 41 per cent in outer London and 16 per cent in inner London. It warns that, as populations increase continued reliance on cars will inevitably lead to greater congestion, bringing some towns close to a ‘tipping point’.
Opportunity for Rail
There are 1186 towns in the England and Wales and 971 (82%) have a station.
The RTPI proposes
Step 1 - all new development is planned, designed and delivered to achieve net zero transport emissions.
Step 2 - making it easier for people to access the services and activities they need locally through the concept of 15-minute neighbourhoods and local living.
Step 3 - mode share for walking and cycling must increase by 10% for short journeys and 6% for longer journeys, while the mode share for public transport must increase by 24% for short journeys and 14% for longer journeys
Only rail can achieve these targets. In 2019, greenhouse gas emissions from rail made up just 1.4% of the UK's domestic transport emissions, while carrying 9% of passenger miles.
Integrating transport and planning is essential for Net Zero, as emissions from transport (24%) are greater than those from buildings (16%). Local Development Plans are a blue-print for an area for the next 15 to 30 years. Currently housing targets are often allocated land in Local Plans without an understanding of the transport consequences.
ConnectedCities and its partners Space Syntax and Geodesignhub are developing an integrated set of tools that can be used by local governments and stakeholders throughout the UK, and potentially across the world. This ‘disruptive technology’ will put Great British Railways at the heart of the UK’s green growth and recovery.