HELEN BURTON: Transport systems and climate change

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

Last week I attended a talk on transport given by Derek Coffee from the Campaign for Better Transport. (www.bettertransport.org) The organisation is a national one started in the mid-eighties and it campaigns for more integrated, sustainable transport systems, offering research, pooling ideas from many fields, lobbying politicians and supporting local communities with transport issues.

Derek began his talk by discussing the lack of co-ordination between buses, trains, walking and cycling routes. As you might expect car usage is rising and public transport usage is declining but I had not really thought in detail before about the affect this has on people and the planet. Air pollution levels are worrying at times even where we live. If you are interested in following them DEFRA takes daily readings which are available on its website by region and you can also sign up to email alerts telling you the daily air pollution measurements, air pollution forecasts or just alerts when the air quality threshold is exceeded. www.uk-air.defra.gov.uk/latest/currentlevels

With climate change on everyone’s agenda (well I would like to think so anyway) it is worth considering that domestic transport emissions account for around a quarter of UK greenhouse gas emissions. We are not all likely to ditch our cars anytime soon but improvements can be made by improving efficiency in new cars and vans, reducing HGV emissions through new developments like the use of methane in HGVs (UK Low Carbon Truck Trial), developing the electric car market and the use of biofuels. All of these types of developments can help, but at the same time it makes sense to have affordable, reliable public transport to make it a more attractive proposition.

Southern Rail has been in the news again this week as a group of MPs met with rail bosses to raise concerns about delays and shortages of carriages and drivers. Commuters are becoming increasingly worried for their jobs as they find difficulty getting to work and one local MP was even late to the meeting with rail bosses because of a train delay! MP Nicholas Soames recently asked in parliament under what circumstances the Southern franchise could be withdrawn and there have been renewed calls for the service to be re-nationalised. The Green Party has been suggesting this course of action for years but it is now gaining credence amongst other groups who feel the country would be better served by a national rail service. Having a reliable train network again would certainly be one step forward in terms of public transport.

With inactivity levels in the UK quoted as 63.3 per cent (World Health Organisation) compared to Holland for example, which has inactivity levels of 18.2 per cent it is worth considering local initiatives to make walking and cycling easier too and it would obviously also have an impact on health. Local group Bespoke campaigns for better, safer cycling provision in Eastbourne (www.bespokecyclegroup.org) and I am very glad that groups like this and the Campaign for better transport (all volunteers) are working to tackle these issues.