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Norman Baker, Minister for Sustainable Transport, explains the Government`s vision for a sustainable transport system

The Coalition Government’s vision is for a transport system that helps create economic growth, while cutting carbon emissions to tackle climate change. By improving links that move goods and people around; by helping people make more sustainable travel choices; and by targeting investment in new projects that promote green growth, we can help build the balanced, dynamic low carbon economy essential for our future prosperity.

In the longer-term, our decarbonisation programme will focus on key measures like the electrification of the passenger car fleet and the railway– and the development of a national high speed rail network to provide travellers with a long-distance alternative to car and air travel.

But in the more immediate term, addressing shorter, local trips offers significant potential in helping to boost the economy and tackle climate change. Two thirds of all the journeys we make are under five miles – many of which can be taken by walking, cycling or taking public transport – so by encouraging people to make sustainable local transport choices today, we can help boost economic growth and reduce carbon emissions quickly.

We took a significant step towards meeting these objectives in January when I launched the £560m Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the associated White Paper, ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon.’

The White Paper provides practical guidance to local authorities on ways they can develop more sustainable transport schemes to help them achieve objectives in their Local Transport Plans. We believe it is local authorities that know their communities best, and who can make the changes needed to encourage people to travel more sustainably. Our commitment to this vital agenda is reaffirmed by the unprecedented £560m provided for the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

The benefits of delivering these policies effectively can be felt across society. By enabling and encouraging people to make more sustainable choices, we can help reduce traffic congestion, which costs the economy around £11 billion a year. We can also tackle the problems of physical inactivity, air quality and noise, which are estimated to cost society up to £25 billion annually.

Walking, cycling and public transport are not just good for the environment – they are also good for the economy. Research shows that people who walk, cycle or take the bus to the shops also spend between 5% and 15% more – increasing turnover in the local high street.

We are very keen to receive bids for the Fund from local authorities which are in partnership with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, with the support of local businesses. In this way, we can capture the most innovative ideas to meet local transport needs.

The Fund forms part of a wider picture of Government measures to devolve power to local communities, ending the era of top down decision making which ignored the specific needs and behaviour patterns of local people.

For example, we have announced the Regional Growth Fund and Local Enterprise Partnerships to help stimulate local economies and place power back at the local level, and we have radically simplified transport funding for local authorities from twenty-six streams to four. This will give authorities greater flexibility in how they spend their funding, which is crucial if they are to deliver efficient and effective transport for their communities at a time of limited resources.

At the same time, central Government will no longer intervene in the way that councils review progress on local transport. Authorities will be required to publish accessible data on their transport activities to allow their communities and stakeholders to compare their performance against others and hold elected representatives to account.

Alongside these locally-driven initiatives, there is a wide range of other schemes that will benefit from a single national approach.

For example, we are providing £11m funding for Bikeability cycle training next year to give 275,000 ten and eleven year olds ‘on road’ training, and a commitment to support the scheme for the duration of this Parliament.

We are working with operators and public sector bodies to deliver the infrastructure to enable most local public transport journeys to be undertaken using smart ticketing by December 2014. And we are improving end to end journeys by encouraging transport operators – and those involved in promoting cycling and car clubs – to work together to integrate tickets and timetables, and provide better information for travellers.

Over £400m has been earmarked to promote the uptake of ultra low carbon vehicle technologies, and the Green Bus Fund will pay for about 500 new hybrid and electric buses, playing a vital role in unlocking potential and stimulating a growing market.

And as the first Transport Minister to have specific responsibility for promoting Alternatives to Travel, I am encouraging businesses, the public sector and individuals to consider their travel choices – and to establish when the use of ICT and new communications technologies might replace the need for journeys. We are working on an agenda for change and will be engaging with business, representative groups and the public sector to identify the potential for reducing business travel and commuting.

All these initiatives will help us deliver the ‘green growth’ that is at the heart of this Government’s economic agenda. Transport – and in particular local transport – will play a crucial role in helping us achieve our economic and environmental objectives during the Parliament and into the future.

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Written by Norman Baker   
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 09:46


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Maria Eagle , Shadow Secretary of State for Transport



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