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Towards zero carbon travel – Sustainable transport in Oxfordshire

Oxford Friends of the Earth is a thriving and effective local group that has been active for over 40 years. Our purpose is to work together to promote a healthy and sustainable environment

Transport is the UK’s largest source of carbon emissions, accounting for about a third of our total carbon output. It is the only sector to have made no meaningful contribution to emission reductions to date. Almost two thirds of road transport emissions are from cars. Breathing motor traffic pollution leads to the premature deaths of around 8,400 people every year in the UK, and is linked to one in five childhood asthma cases.

OxFoE’s work includes:

  • Action towards a sustainable transport policy for Oxfordshire (see below)
  • Work with COHSAT, the Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Transport – other members include Cyclox and Oxfordshire Liveable Streets
  • Opposing the proposed Oxford – Cambridge Expressway  – in 2018 we set up the No Expressway Alliance.  While the Expressway has been cancelled – an important victory! – we continue to be vigilant on new roads and over-development. We are supporting the work of the No Expressway Group, who are focusing now on the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Arc’.

Work on transport issues is moving forward at three speeds. There is immediate work around plans to make Oxford and other towns safer places to walk and cycle, which includes the plans for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – see the work by  Oxfordshire Liveable Streets https://oxlivsts.org.uk/

Secondly there are the existing plans for the Zero Emission Zone and the ‘Connecting Oxford’ which would limit private car travel through the city. 

Finally there is the need for longer-term change and for an effective County transport plan. Our key points are below.   Any realistic hope of getting to zero carbon fast enough to tackle the climate crisis will need a major shift to trains and buses for longer journeys. We need to push for investment now in better rail and bus services and a local ‘Metrorail’ service with new stations, along with much more support for safer walking and cycling.

January 2022: Transport planning in Oxfordshire – speaking up for a clean transport system!

Oxfordshire County Council are consulting on their new ‘Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP)’.The consultation runs from 5 Jan – 16 March 2022.

We said in 2020 that “The LTCP must set out, from the start, a clear route to delivering a zero carbon transport system as part of the UK’s legal commitment to creating a ‘Net Zero’ society. All proposed council investment on transport must be assessed and agreed on the basis that it contributes to this goal.”  

We are pleased to see that the overall aim for the Plan is now “for a zero-carbon Oxfordshire transport system that enables all parts of the county to thrive”. We also welcome the ‘headline target’ that aims to ‘Replace or remove 1 in 4 current car trips in Oxfordshire’ by 2030.    This is a big step forward from the initial document where Climate Change was merely listed as one of several ‘wider challenges’ .

The headline targets are now: “By 2030 our target is to:
• Replace or remove 1 out of every 4 current car trips in Oxfordshire
By 2040 our targets are to:
• Deliver a zero-carbon transport network
• Replace or remove 1 out of every 3 current car trips in Oxfordshire
By 2050 our target is to:
• Deliver a transport network that contributes to a climate positive future.”

These are targets that we may broadly support. The aspirations here are welcome. But delivery on previous plans has been very unsuccessful. The background to this is:
• Total vehicle miles up 29% 1993-2019
• Average speeds down 2% since 2015
• Declining bus usage
In this context a 25% reduction in car trips in 8 years will need real political commitment.

We will be holding a discussion meeting on the LTCP in late Juary 2022. If you would like to feed in to the discussions, email: climate@oxfoe.co.uk with ‘transport plan’ in the subject line.

Our specific points for the LTCP are:

  1. An ambitious rail development strategy to create the space for both long distance travel and a ‘Metrorail’ system for the county. A first priority must be investment in improving rail network capacity between Didcot and Oxford.
  2. Bus travel to be free for under 30s (as it is for older people). We also seek a consultation on the case for all local bus travel to be free (as it is in a growing number of cities).
  3. High quality local cycling and walking facilities – with the construction of networks of segregated cycleways in urban areas, and cycle routes connecting larger towns.
  4. A Local Transport Authority for the county as the best way to deliver an integrated system.
  5. A specific consultation on the future of rural transport in Oxfordshire.
  6. A clear strategy to reduce congestion in urban areas that may involve road pricing or congestion charges.

There is more information here:

  1. Invest now in better rail services and a local ‘Metrorail’ service with new stations

A commuter focused rail service for the county with will be a key way to reduce traffic especially on the A34. This requires major investment in improving the rail network between Didcot and Oxford as a first step. Our councils and government must prioritise this.

Anyone who travels in the north-south Bicester – Oxford – Didcot corridor (along the A34) could use the rail system much more if we have a frequent commuter ‘metro-rail’ service. Capacity and connectivity must be improved and the County must push for national investment in this.

 

 

  1.  An improved and coordinated county-wide bus service

Bus travel can be speeded up by measures to cut delays by cutting congestion. New traffic management schemes will help provide better bus services.

We need an Oxfordshire Transport Authority for the county (similar to Transport for London) as the best way to deliver an integrated system which provides good access to all major settlements in the county.

Bus travel should be free for under 30s (as it is for older people). We ask for consultation on the case for all local bus travel to be free (as it is in a growing number of cities across the world), paid for in part by road pricing or congestion charges.

  1.  High quality local cycling and walking facilities

If people are to cycle more we need proper networks of segregated cycleways in urban areas, and cycle routes connecting larger towns. These will include ‘cycle streets’ and rural ‘greenways’.

  1.  Transport and cleaner air

Transport is the major source of air pollution in the county. 

Electrification of our transport system is an agreed national target. We should look to see this happen as fast as possible to cut pollution in Oxfordshire. This will require rapid increases in electric charging systems. Councils and other public bodies should take a lead to ensure that all their vehicles to are zero-emission.

 

If you would like to feed in to the discussions, email: climate@oxfoe.co.uk with ‘transport plan’ in the subject line.