Monday, January 3, 2011

World Transport Policy & Practice – Vol. 16, No. 3

The Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice is the long-standing  idea and print partner of World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda since 1995. The Winter 2011 edition appears today, and in the article that follows you will find the lead editorial by founding editor John Whitelegg. (For a more complete introduction to World Transport click here.)

- - - > To obtain your copy of WTPP 16/3 click here.


Editorial 3 John Whitelegg

Abstracts & Keywords 5

Determining the Factors that Do and Do Not Influence the Demand for Less Polluting Modes of Passenger Transport: A Case Study of Kolkata, India 7
- Madhumati Dutta and Guruprasad Samanta

Public transport policy in Australia: a density delusion? 35
- Paul Mees

How WA got public transport right 43
- John Stone


- John Whitelegg, Editor

Recent events in the political life of the UK have given us all a splendid insight into the mind sets and ideological biases of senior politicians and decision takers in an advanced sophisticated and highly intelligent nation. The UK now has a coalition government consisting of the Conservative Party and its leader (now Prime Minister) David Cameron and the Liberal Democrat party and its leader (now Deputy Prime Minister) Nick Clegg.

The coalition government has moved quickly to address its main concerns which revolve around reducing the deficit and stabilising the national economy. These are worthy objectives but transport policies and spending as always reveal that this simple objective is rather more complicated and involves a significant historical shift towards higher levels of mobility, higher spend on things that go fast and higher spend on things that the relatively rich use.

This is also the case in reverse and funds are being cut for local facilities and services that would reduce the need to travel (i.e. increase accessibility within range of walk and cycle trips). There are no projects on the stocks to address the deplorable record of the UK’s privatised and de-regulated buses that serve to deliver large profits to bus companies but poor quality services to users and there are no plans to sort out over-crowded ancient trains on urban rail systems around cities like Manchester and Leeds.

The first few months of coalition government have produced daily statements about the need to reduce public expenditure and reduce the deficit but senior politicians are still committed to spending of £32 billion on high speed rail, £16 billion on a new railway line across London (Crossrail), new road building running at about £4 billion pa and maintaining the subsidy to aviation which runs at about £10 billion pa in the UK.

At the same time the government has encouraged local authorities to cancel speed cameras which have a proven effect on reducing death and injury in the road traffic environment and the Minister of Transport, Philip Hammond, has announced that he will end the “war against motorists”.

Putting aside the fact that we have not noticed a “war against motorists” bur rather the opposite, we appear to be facing a policy shift away from the world of sustainable transport, sustainable mobility, demand management and traffic avoidance. Ending the war against motorists might be more convincing if it was associated with ending the war against cyclists, pedestrians, children and the elderly who still suffer death and injury in the road traffic environment on a totally unacceptable scale.

The ideological shift towards fossil fuel hyper-mobility is further evidenced by the so-called “bonfire of the quangos” (see note). The government has abolished the Sustainable Development Commission which did splendid work pointing out that transport and mobility trends were actually contrary to the objectives of sustainable development and the growth of aviation was especially problematic for climate change and air quality around airports as well as for delivering agreed principles around “the internalisation of external costs”.

Abolition is an effective way of silencing the voice of reason. Next on the list is “Cycling England” which has worked heroically to transform the poor quality performance of cycling policies and encouragement in England and has produced a 27% increase in cycling levels.

It is interesting to link the deficit discussion to the bale out of banks that cost the UK government £850 billion. Whilst not wishing to diminish the importance of reducing deficits it does look like enormous sums of money can be found for things that underpin the workings of financial markets and fiscal policy but not at all for things that increase and improve resilience, quality of life and allow our cities to operate in a highly efficient manner at a much lower total public and private costs. We have forgotten about externalities.

In a world increasingly at risk from very large environmental social and economic shocks linked to peak oil, resilience and climate change it does increasingly look like we are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A future dominated by diminishing amounts of fossil fuel availability, damaged food production and ecological systems as a result of climate change, billions of people living in poverty, large cities in China, India and Africa increasingly dominated by motorised transport at the expense of sustainability, and one million deaths in so-called road traffic “accidents” each year looks very bleak.

A species that is encouraged to go further and faster as if movement is intrinsically a good thing may well look back to 2010 as a major missed opportunity to correct the intelligence deficit rather than focus on the fiscal deficit.

John Whitelegg

Note: Quangos are “Quasi Autonomous Government Organisations” that have been set up with specific remits to deliver policy objectives or provide specialist expert advice. The full list of Quangos to be abolished/reformed has been published by the BBC

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- - - > To obtain your copy of WTPP 16/3 click here.

About the editor:

John Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York's Stockholm Environment Institute, and is founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. John is a local councillor in Lancaster.

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