Like this site? Help us to make it better.


“Absolutely amazing” say campaigners as Government quietly announces it will prioritise a shift away from cars

Decarbonising Transport policy paper was published without notifying the media

Campaigners have described the contents of a new Department for Transport (DfT) document as “gobsmacking” and “absolutely amazing” for the way it seems to indicate a dramatic change in government attitude towards public transport, active travel and cars. The Decarbonising Transport: setting the challenge policy paper was quietly published earlier this week without notifying the media.

The document states the current challenges and steps to be taken when developing the transport decarbonisation plan, which is due to be published in autumn of this year.

"Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities,” writes Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in the foreword. "We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network."

The document goes on to list, “Accelerating modal shift to public and active transport,” as the first of six strategic priorities for the plan, which seeks to deliver a net zero emissions transport system.

To achieve that, the DfT says it aims to…

  • Help make public transport and active travel the natural first choice for daily activities
  • Support fewer car trips through a coherent, convenient and cost-effective public network; and explore how we might use cars differently in future
  • Encourage cycling and walking for short journeys
  • Explore how to best support the behaviour change required

Reacting to the document, visiting professor at Hertfordshire University, Stephen Joseph, told BBC News: "This is utterly gob-smacking. We're still digesting the document, but Grant Shapps' words really do seem to signify a radical change."

Cycling UK policy director Roger Geffen commented: "It’s absolutely amazing. This makes Grant Shapps the first government minister in the UK to talk about traffic reduction since John Prescott tried (and failed) to achieve this aim in the late 1990s.

“There are some holes in the document, but it suggests that the government really does seem to be taking climate change seriously."

Former Commons Transport Chair Lilian Greenwood said the contents were, “incredibly welcome if the rhetoric matches the reality,” but pointed out that would require a significant change in investment.

"Right now all our energies are on tackling the coronavirus but when we come out the other side we have an equally serious emergency because emissions from transport have to be tackled if we are serious about turning around the future of the planet for coming generations.

"It's great if the first choice is to be public transport and active transport – but that does mean the government has to change radically investment."

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

Add new comment


massive4x4 | 3 years ago

Modal shift away from cars?

Many have expressed scepticism as to whether this will happen. I'll add mine, this won't happen because it isn't possible/practical/desirable (read my whole post).

The Energy Technologies Institute looked at this a few years ago, I suggest anyone with an interest look at the report.

Figure 1 tells you most of the story, cars are greater than 80% of passenger miles. Are we seriously going to shift that many people to rail? Let’s say rail took 1/3 of cars passenger miles you'd need to increase the capacity of the rail network 4 fold.

Given that HS2 is costing £100 billion to achieve tiny fraction of that, the costs would be incredible and the environmental cost massive. Rail also isn't that green as while the trains can run on electricity (most don't) it is very infrastructure heavy, in fact electric cars and for that matter electric planes would have a lower environment impact due to their much lower infrastructure requirements.

As for cycling, the usage of cars is about the same in cycling friendly Demark or Netherlands as the UK. and for that matter any other European country. Increasing cycling 20 fold would only reduce car passenger miles by around 1/4.

I'm all for shared spaces, walkable neighbourhoods, full grade separated cycling networks, electric micro mobility. I think these will have a large positive impact on quality of life. However the idea that we will see a large modal shift away from cars is not credible.

I think what is most likely is that we see cars gradually evolve, all new cars will be electric within 10 years. Autonomy will most likely be able to cope with the majority of journeys be then which will also greatly decrease the need for ownership. Road pricing would also encourage sharing and/or a shift to 6-12 seat vehicles on some routes.

I think the government’s proposal (this is for consultation ergo this isn’t the solution just asking the question of stakeholders) is along the right lines. The reporting of consultation does however leave a lot lacking, for the foreseeable future the vast majority of passenger and freight miles will be by road transport.

srchar | 3 years ago

It's different this time.

It really is.

We need to inflate away an enormous debt pile, otherwise we are in for the mother of all debt deflations. The last decade has proved that printed money given to banks does not feed through into the real economy. This time, the printed money will be spent by government, with many expensive new pieces of infrastructure built. Current government seems to get that continued austerity was the wrong policy once the books were vaguely back in shape.

Prepare for lots of inflation and also lots of shiny new transport infrastructure.

Biker Phil | 3 years ago

It would be very interesting to see any figures for the environment and air quality after the lockdown and virus has gone away. Has anyone else noticed how clear the skies are? And how the air actually smells fresher? Perhaps we could all learn from this, and many could continue to work from home, and commute to work by bike.

Sriracha replied to Biker Phil | 3 years ago
biker phil wrote:

It would be very interesting to see any figures for the environment and air quality after the lockdown and virus has gone away. Has anyone else noticed how clear the skies are? And how the air actually smells fresher? Perhaps we could all learn from this, and many could continue to work from home, and commute to work by bike.

Yes, it's been noticed. And the "fresh smell", that could be the extra ozone!

Rich_cb replied to Biker Phil | 3 years ago
Philh68 replied to Biker Phil | 3 years ago

Look it up yourself, you can find live pollution stats across the world on

It’s having a global impact, the reduction in air travel alone making a massive difference. I’m an Aussie, and even though we normally have good air quality the difference is noticeable. There’s a monitoring station near me because of the coal trains to the world’s largest export terminal, two national highways and local industry, yet the AQI reading at 7am this morning was just 9, as low as I’ve ever seen it.

I don’t imagine it will last but it’s nice to enjoy it while I can. 

Gary's bike channel | 3 years ago

which normally means, ''we will find a narrow pavement, with junctions and many pedestrians, ruts and trees, and paint a picture of a shared path on them''.  

HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago

I actually read through this government paper for an article here. In my view the main points are:

  • it has been obvious for ages that to decarbonise you have to move away from the private car; still, it's surprising that a Minister has actually said it
  • a key para says there's to be a long-term active travel budget and dramatically increased in investment, and it will be announced in the Spending Review in the autumn. (I agree with Burt, let's wait and see)
  • you can register for updates about the transport decarbonisation plan, and ask to take part in workshops, by emailing TDP [at]
  • 'world-leading', 'global leadership' or equivalent was shoe-horned into the 68-page document 26 times - so we know what the latest propanganda catchphrase is.
eburtthebike replied to HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago

Thanks, useful info.  I'll try registering for the plan later.

eburtthebike | 3 years ago

Except that we've heard it all before, but they kept spending all the money on more roads and a few crumbs for cycling.  Remember that this government is headed by Boris the Liar; I'll believe it when I see it.

billymansell replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago


People got excited when Johnson BSd before the election about billions for cycling and walking only for him to back pedal (no pun intended) and for us to be told they'd lumped cycling and walking in the one pot with public transport. Then people got excited thinking we might get a fair share of that pot only to find out we'd be getting the scraps.

Jem PT replied to billymansell | 3 years ago

The proof will of course be in the pudding, but let's not forget that under Boris as London Mayor, cycling infrastructure in the capital improved massively (this ignores the bike hire scheme which I know he inherited from Ken Livingstone).

ktache replied to Jem PT | 3 years ago
1 like

There was a fair bit of failure first, don't forget.

A great deal of pointless paint, then blaming headphones.  What we don't need is huge amounts spent on awful infrastructure which no one will want to use, then nothing more because we don't appreciate the scaps that were thrown our way.

Latest Comments