NEWS / Blog / “Rhetoric and ambition outweigh the detail”


03 AUG 2021


Chair of ACE’s transport and mobility group, Andy Bell, on the Transport Decarbonisation Plan.


hile the UK has some clear decarbonisation successes it can be proud of, notably phasing out coal for offshore wind, there are also many areas where more needs to be done. Transport is one of those. Accounting for over a quarter (27%) of our national greenhouse gas emissions, its contribution remains stubbornly high.

It will come as no surprise, therefore, that among the usual flurry of Government announcements released just before the summer recess, was the Transport Decarbonisation Plan – pitched as the first serious attempt to deal with Net Zero in the sector.

As has often been the case with this area of policy however, rhetoric and ambition outweigh the detail within individual strategies.

Two examples of this from the Plan. Firstly, road user charging which was recommended by ACE a few years back, but is still not fully backed by Government. As well as replacing lost revenue from fuel duty as electric vehicles replace the combustion engine, it could become a flexible tool ensuring that new road building boots economic activity and acts as a level to control overall emission levels and vehicle use.

As has often been the case with this area of policy however, rhetoric and ambition outweigh the detail within individual strategies. Andy Bell, chair transport and mobility group

Secondly, while the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has argued that aviation growth is compatible with Net Zero ambitions, this is only up to a point and it is extremely likely that we will eventually need to introduce demand constraints. For now, however, this is a principle that the Government is reluctant to concede.

Another concern centres around how siloed the strategy feels. There are sensible proposals on different modes, but not enough recognition of what ACE members know only too well – that transport polices need to be grounded in ‘placemaking’, with the right mix of network connectivity, urban mobility and active travel policies.

Of course, Government is not the only actor in this field and delivery agencies such as Highways England and Network Rail, will also need to square the circle of the need for a vibrant transport system which boosts economic growth with full decarbonisation. The recently launched Roadmap to Net Zero outlines Highways England’s strategy towards net zero on maintenance and construction by 2040, with full net zero travel on our roads by 2050.

This is, of course, all welcome, but as with the overarching Department for Transport plan, we need to move beyond public commitments to the next steps.

To help us develop the further insights needed to shape this step-change, our transport and mobility and Net Zero groups are looking for support and input to co-develop this work on behalf of the industry. Get in touch today and let us know how you can help.

Andy Bell is chair of the Transport and mobility group and Director at Ramboll UK.

Andy Bell

Andy Bell

Director, Ramboll UK

Andy is chair of ACE's transport and mobility group.


Briefing - Transport Decarbonisation Plan

August 2021

Memebr-only briefing on key Department for Transport Plan.