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Regulatory review to unleash transport’s innovating spirit

Regulatory Review

03 April 2020
 

The government is inviting views on regulatory reforms to facilitate micromobility modes such as escooters, and encourage the spread of flexible bus services and mobility as a service (MaaS). 

A call for evidence has been issued on these three forms of transport as part of the Government’s wider transport regulatory review. In all, the review has three modal themes – roads (including autonomous vehicles), aviation (including drones), and maritime – and two cross-cutting themes of MaaS and transport data. 

In general, the review will only consider regulations or powers that remain held at UK level.

The call for evidence is badged a DfT document but in a sign that the review is as much about business as transport, responses by email and post are being handled by the DfT but the online survey is hosted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

The DfT sets out nine principles that will be followed “as far as possible” for mobility in urban passenger and freight transport:

  1. New modes of transport and new mobility services must be safe and secure by design 
  2. The benefits of innovation in mobility must be available to all parts of the UK and all segments of society 
  3. Walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys 
  4. Mass transit must remain fundamental to an efficient transport system 
  5. New mobility services must lead the transition to zero emissions
  6. Mobility innovation must help to reduce congestion through more efficient use of limited road space, for example through sharing rides, increasing occupancy or consolidating freight 
  7. The marketplace for mobility must be open to stimulate innovation and give the best deal to consumers 
  8. New mobility services must be designed to operate as part of an integrated transport system, combining public, private and multiple modes for transport users 
  9. Data from new mobility services must be shared where appropriate to improve choice and the operation of the transport system

Writing the report’s foreword, transport minister Rachel Maclean asks: “One of our first tasks is to try to understand the true benefits, and costs, of each new technology or service. How, for instance, can e-scooters make life cheaper, more convenient, and maybe a bit more exciting? But also: how safe are they, for their riders and for other road users, and how sustainable? Will they really reduce traffic, or will they reduce walking and cycling more?

“How can self-driving cars open up new travel possibilities? But also: what do they mean for road space and congestion in our cities if people switch en masse from buses and trains? Should the rules about micromobility and new car-based services be the same in congested city centres as they are in low-density suburbs?”

The Government is keen to see real-life trials of innovations take place, which may require legislative change (see panel). 

The Future Transport Zones (formerly Future Mobility Zones) will play a key part. The West Midlands Combined Authority was named the first authority to host a zone in 2018 and three more were named last month: Solent Transport, the West of England Combined Authority and Derby and Nottingham (LTT 20 Mar). The areas will share £90m of Government funding.

“Each Future Transport Zone will be a globally significant demonstrator of new mobility services, modes and models, creating a functioning marketplace for mobility, combining new and traditional modes of transport,” says the call for evidence. “The Future Transport Zones will be at a scale that is appropriate for testing regulatory issues.”

The DfT describes the regulatory review as a “once in a generation opportunity to reform regulation in transport”. “We expect the review as a whole to take place over three years. Some areas of the review will be completed ahead of that timeframe and we will act sooner if needed on our most significant and pressing findings.”

The deadline for responses is 22 May.

Shake-up for council transport powers?

Important legislative changes for local government could flow from the Government’s transport regulatory review.

Legislation is likely to have to be relaxed to allow local authorities to host technology trials.   

“There is little flexibility within current legislation to accommodate the trialling of new technologies easily and efficiently,” says the DfT. “For example, for Future Transport Zones to fulfil their full potential, it is likely to be necessary to seek exemptions to certain regulations so that certain modes, such as electric scooters, can be lawfully trialled.” 

Governance arrangements could also be shaken up. The DfT describes current responsibilities for regulation as “highly complex, with single-tier and two-tier local authorities, combined authorities and the Greater London Authority having a range of relevant responsibilities across the UK”. It is working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to consider the case for reform. 

The call for evidence asks:    

  • with regard to managing new transport technologies and services, are there powers currently held by national government, which you think should be devolved to local authorities, combined authorities or the Greater London Authority? 
  • where the local transport authority and the local highway authority are separate local authorities (such as in London and the combined authority areas), what should be the balance of powers and responsibilities to maximise the benefits of future transport? 
  • in this context, what role might sub-national transport bodies most usefully play? 

 
 
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