“Near-catastrophic breakdown in sustainability” says Hammond (Philip, not Richard)

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"Near-catastrophic breakdown in sustainability" says Hammond (Philip, not Richard)

Posted 3 October 2010 16:37 by martin

Quite an interesting speech from the transport secretary (for England), Philip Hammond, saying that the Coalition Government is 'committed to the sustainability agenda in everything it does, including transport', following 'a near-catastrophic breakdown in sustainability' in Britain over the last few years.

He admits that Transport wasn't the brief he expected back in May (he was beaten to that by the flamed-haired Danny Alexander), but claims that any lack of experience or expertise is balanced by his lack of baggage or preconceptions about what needs to be done.

In words, (time will tell about the deeds) he seems to get sustainable transport, citing:

“the critical role that … [it] must play in helping to deliver this Coalition Government’s core agenda: restoring fiscal responsibility; securing sustainable economic growth; achieving carbon reduction goals and establishing social justice.”

While much of the hype around sustainable transport seems to revolve around batteries and fuel cells and biodiesel and other such stuff, Hammond admits that technology alone won't deliver, and that behaviour change will be necessary:

“in the short-term because technological change alone will not get us where we need to be fast enough on the urgent agenda of greenhouse gas reduction, but in the longer-term because other elements of a sustainable transport solution – in particular, dealing with congestion – cannot be solved by technological advance alone.”

So it appears he hasn't been completely co-opted by the techno-fix brigade in the automotive sector.

And when it comes to short-distance urban travel he recognises that the challenge is to make public transport or walking and cycling 'the most attractive options', as when carefully implemented they 'demonstrate extraordinarily high value-for-money'.

He even talks of the need to reduce the demand for travel , particularly for business, by introducing a portfolio responsibility for 'non-travel'.

All encouraging stuff.

So how is the DfT going to help make these alternatives flourish?

Not a lot of detail here, but much talk of  'localism':

“…as a key part of our local transport agenda, we want to devolve as much responsibility  for local transport initiatives as possible to the local level. By the end of this Parliament,  I want to see far fewer civil servants sitting in my Department evaluating, monitoring and appraising transport schemes proposed by local authorities in Bradford, Birmingham or Bristol.”

Local Transport Minister, Norman Baker (Lib dem), has also announced a Local Transport Fund, that will 'challenge local transport authorities outside London to develop packages of measures that support economic growth and reduce carbon in their communities as well as delivering cleaner environments, improved safety and increased levels of physical activity.'

But no details about funding amounts and mechanisms until later in the year.

So honeyed words from Hammond, a promise of a bit more beef from Baker, and a general sense that local government will have to 'get on with it'.

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