Dos and don’ts for policy-makers after Covid-19
01 May 2020
Please, oh please, UK Government, don’t let us return to what was our ‘normal’ when we emerge from the coronavirus emergency.
- return to the contradictory transport policies we have seen so far in the 21st century which, on the one hand, call for reduced/zero carbon emissions but, on the other, promote aviation and the provision of more highway capacity that leads to more road trips and poor air quality
- hold back from funding investigations into ‘green’ technologies/alternatives to fossil fuels
- further weaken the planning system and making it ever easier for unsustainable housing and highway projects to be built whilst not making it compulsory that all new developments meet high eco standards and provide green lungs/open spaces
- demand more housing and other infrastructure than is justified by the latest population data
- remove from elected local authority representatives the right to determine local planning/transport interventions, but require them to take air quality into account in making decisions
- retain the current, flawed, transport appraisal system which is based on assumptions that traffic will increase (not now likely to materialise) and that all time spent on trains is wasted
- prioritise the economy to the extent that the environment is put at risk, for instance by rushing to support travel for the sake of it or poorly designed schemes to get things moving
- try to pretend that the whole Covid-19 thing, (or something similar), could never happen again or that its rapid spread had nothing to do with international travel
- And don’t fail to learn from best practice in other countries. Be looking around now to learn lessons.
- For a better future, do:
- seize the moment to promote environmentally sound practices and sustainable lifestyles, shortened supply chains (eg. more local foods for local markets) and transport innovations
- re-prioritise ‘reducing the need to travel’ by encouraging self-sustaining local communities
- discourage unnecessary travel with a fuel pricing system that recognises the environmental damage done by traditional fuels and by reconsidering a road pricing system
- make it easier to work from home by requiring all new homes to be designed with a proper work/study area or office and ensuring all homes have access to fast broadband
- confine road investment to local safety improvements for the foreseeable future in view of the exponential rise in home working and the reduction in commuting (which was apparent prior to the Covid-19 crisis). Re-focus transport spending on sustainable modes/active travel.
- scrap the roads programme and treat land as the finite resource it is, requiring sequential land-use policies that prioritise regeneration initiatives and ‘brownfield first’ and protect areas with special designations, important open spaces and countryside for their health/wellbeing value
- In view of hugely reduced business travel forecasts, re-evaluate HS2’s economic case versus its environmental impacts and rescind the notice to proceed. Re-focus instead on providing new stations and more passing loops, re-opening closed stations and lines, providing better rolling stock/more carriages, upgraded signalling and station facilities and longer platforms
- support zero carbon, carbon capture and tree planting schemes (including a return to tree-lined streets in urban areas). Ensure adequate funding for maintaining newly-planted trees
- help to suppress the re-emergence of demand for overseas travel by investing in initiatives aimed at re-invigorating the UK holiday, hospitality, leisure and entertainment sectors
- have in place robust Covid-19 recovery plans that factor in climate change mitigation and also resilience plans (and the emergency supplies necessary to back them up) for future epidemics/ cataclysmic events which will prioritise food and medical supplies and the safety and health of key workers, including those who keep transport systems functioning.