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How to…decarbonise transport

A series of 40 new case studies, compiled by Friends of the Earth and climate change charity Ashden, shines a light on interventions that local authorities have made to tackle climate changes. Of these, 10 cover the area of transport with cases on waste, energy, nature, buildings and climate vulnerability also reported.

Here‘s a taste of our five favourite transport stories from the collection:

Southwark tackles obesity and air pollution

Southwark Borough Council introduced ten Streetspace schemes, siting them in areas with schools, poor air quality and above-average levels of childhood obesity; Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation provided £250,000 funding because of the potential health impacts. Results have yet to be assessed, but a similar scheme in Tulse Hill in south Lambeth increased cycle use by 50% and reduced private car use by 10%.

Streetspace is a London-wide programme which aims to make walking and cycling easier and healthier, by introducing measures such as reducing vehicle movements, widening footpaths and improving cycle access. One of the big challenges for Southwark was getting public buy in, with the council saying that political commitment was a must and that public consultations held at the locations of the schemes worked well.

Leeds goes electric

Leeds City Council has the largest electric vehicle fleet of any council in the UK and started planning its transition to electric six years ago. This year, it is even switching its refuse collection fleet over and has its sights on its ‘grey fleet’ of staff-owned vehicles that are used for council services. Between 2018 and 2025 it expects to have saved at least 1,274 tonnes of carbon emissions.

The council invested £5m into fleet electrification between 2019 and 20202 and will invest a further £2.5m up to 2023, with input from various government departments and funds. Its business case for investing showed that although electric vehicles have higher upfront cost, they have cheaper running costs and longer lives. A further step was the introduction of a scheme which allows local businesses to trial an electric vehicle for free for one or two months.

More bikes and buses in Leicester

Leicester City Council has invested £40m in walking, cycling and public transport, which came in two tranches from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund. Transport is the city’s largest source of emissions and the council wants to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Measures include an electric express bus network, 8km of new bus lanes, smart ticketing allowing contactless and mobile payments, 26km of new cycle and walking routes and an e-bike hire scheme with 500 bikes at 50 locations around the city centre. The council reckons that its investment in contactless payment will deliver £3.63 for every £1 invested by increasing use of the service and reducing operation costs. Overall, it thinks that every £1 invested will deliver health and wellbeing benefits of £2.84.

Brighton & Hove get on their (electric cargo) bikes

Brighton & Hove City Council has bought 12 electric cargo bikes of various capacities. Some are used by council teams while others have gone to logistics company Zedify and local businesses. The council has also created a scheme to encourage businesses to switch to Zedify, offering a £125 subsidy.

Brighton & Hove paid for the bikes with an £80,000 award from the Department for Transport’s £1.2m e-Cargo Bike Grant Fund. Bikes cost between £2,000 and £4,000, depending on the capacity, make and model. One challenge has been the impact of the pandemic and Brexit: it has been difficult to buy certain types of cargo bikes due to supply chain disruptions.

Nottingham makes millions from workplace parking charges

Nottingham introduced its workplace parking levy in October 2011 and it remains the UK’s only working parking levy. The levy applies to employers with 11 or more parking spaces who must pay £428 a year per space – although they can claw some of that back from employees if they want to. As well as saving 7,840 tonnes of carbon, the scheme has raised £83million since its inception.

Money from the levy, with funding from other sources, has paid for an extension of the city’s tram network, a renovation of its train station and the expansion of its electric bus fleet. The improvements to public transport have led to 3 million private car miles being saved and air quality improving. The levy scheme cost £1.8million to set up and costs £475,000 a year to operate.

Final thought

A challenge identified in several of the case studies was getting buy-in from local communities and particularly from private car users. At first, no one likes the thought of being penalised for driving or having to leave the car at home. So, it takes some bravery on the part of the local politicians to get behind these schemes.

For instance, in Nottingham, businesses and property owners were worried that the parking levy would damage the economy of the city, whereas the opposite has been true. Less congestion makes places better to work and live in. Creating better public transport networks also helps improve social equity, since people who cannot afford to own and run a car are at less of a disadvantage.

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