As everyone clammers for cleaner, better, more efficient transport systems, Steve Nash, IMI Chief Executive calls for central government to take stock, take control and learn from best practice
Hail Liverpool! which has just announced a £172 million investment in green transport schemes over the next five years. And bow down to Bristol, on the cusp of banning diesels completely during peak hours. A shout out for Shoreditch as it installs some of Europe’s ultra-low emission streets and let’s not forget our continental cousins in Barcelona, where city officials believe car-free ‘superblocks’ are the solution.
It’s happening everywhere. Hardly a day goes by without a local council announcing a carbon cutting scheme. And hats off to them I say! Here at the IMI we are as enthusiastic as the next person in reaching zero by 2050. But is simply demonising the car via a scattergun approach to green transport solutions really working?
Granted. Pollution and congestion are having a severe effect on people’s city living experiences across the country and action must be taken to cut emissions. That’s why manufacturers are falling over themselves to invest in making their cars cleaner, greener and more acceptable to the environmentally aware buyer. And I can see why devolved local government administrations want to take the bull by the horns and be the first to improve their city’s green credentials. But it seems to me that reducing NOx in our cities is as inconsistent as our recycling schemes, (do you put the cardboard in the green bin or the blue box, do I have to take my hedge clippings to the tip, or will the council collect them?) Different rules apply in different areas. Some air clean-up schemes work amazingly well, others not so. The problem is simply shifted into a neighbouring area, while the cyclists of Shoreditch pedal around in hipster heaven.
While the enthusiasm is there in bucket loads, successful transport planning needs strong leadership from the top. In our war on carbon emissions, a clear plan of the future, and a strategy of how that vision can be delivered is needed. Central government should be ‘command centre’, learning from the schemes already implemented in Britain and across the world. This information should be co-developed with the public and all other stakeholders such as, motor manufacturers, energy companies, local businesses, private and public organisations. Leading from the front, central government can make sure that everybody shares ownership and takes responsibility for the success of transport, both public and private.
The need for cleaner air inevitably means ‘out with the old, in with the new’ where technology is concerned and there’s no question this will impact skills in the motor industry.