Plan for Drivers – Where’s the plan for transport?

4th Oct 2023

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper yesterday launched ‘The plan for drivers’, a ‘new 30-point plan to support people’s freedom to use their cars and curb over-zealous enforcement measures’.

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While 'The plan for drivers' itself has some commendable proposals for example on harnessing the latest road technology (through rolling out the ‘Live Labs 2’ programme), developing a ‘New Road Condition Standard’ and optimising traffic flow through incorporating AI, it has been met with criticism for its inconsistent approach to transport planning. 

Sue Percy CBE, Chief Executive, CIHT said:

“CIHT is concerned by the headline statements that have been issued in support of this plan. 'Plan for Drivers' has created inconsistency in the way that government (UK) appears to be addressing active travel. CIHT believe that we (the UK) must take a analytical approach to transport policy and this plan only appears to be seeking to generate political headlines.”

“As highways and transportation professionals, CIHT expects to see evidence based policy being produced by any government. Our profession will undoubtedly be disappointed by the tone, timing and seemingly overtly political stance of the ‘Plan for Drivers’.”

“The challenge for highways and transportation on achieving net zero requires a consistent approach to transport policy. This plan appears to place cars at the centre of potential transport planning decisions when CIHT has always called for an integrated (multi-modal) approach to highway, transport and infrastructure.”

CIHT will be reviewing the plan in more detail and will provide a summary of the key points for our members. 

We want to hear your views on this topic, please contribute via CIHT Connect, where we have set up a page for discussion. 

Join the debate here

CIHT Analysis

General comments

There is an implicit assumption that all these measures will be welcomed by the public. CIHT believe the government would have been better placed to consult on these measures before announcing them and to support its proposals with evidence-based analysis, especially around the application of 15-minute cities and 20mph speed limits. Many motorists are also users of public transport and active travel, and it should not be a binary choice between car and other modes.

Even though 50 million people may have a driving licence in the UK, this does not mean that 50 million people drive. There are  a variety of reasons why people may have a driving licence but not drive, e.g. change in lifestyle or circumstances from when they originally obtained their licence. Some people, e.g. children, those who choose not to and some people with disabilities, cannot drive and therefore the provision of good, accessible public transport is essential to ensure all members of the public are able to make the journeys that they want or need to make.

The CIHT’s DfT funded Bus Centre for Excellence seeks to improve standards in the bus industry to ensure that buses remain a viable means of transport for all.

Whilst improvements to roads are welcome, there is a risk that facilitating car use is inconsistent with the government’s objectives of reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality. This seemingly single mode approach also contradicts other policies that seek to encourage sustainable transport modes such as walking and cycling. 

Although the government note that the shift to electric vehicles also supports the carbon reduction objective, the recent announcement to delay banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars until 2035 means that sustainable transport modes should not be diminished if we want to see progress against emission targets now. The environmental impact of car travel is not limited to carbon emissions – there are air quality impacts from particulates whatever the propulsion system. 

Cars are the most popular mode of personal travel in many rural areas however, this is because it is the only mode available rather than it being the preferred mode. It is essential that public transport and active travel is supported so that people can choose modes of transport which are both better for the environment and their health.

Specific comments on the 30-point action plan

Smoother journeys
We support the permitting of red flashing lights for breakdown vehicles, helping to protect recovery drivers by making them more visible at the roadside, as we believe it is important for roadside workers to be as safe as possible whilst doing their job. 

It would be helpful for the government to clarify what would happen to the surplus from Lane Rental schemes if there were no potholes left to be repaired or roads which required resurfacing. It would be counter-productive to resurface roads for no reason as this would increase emissions and contribute to traffic congestion whilst road was being resurfaced, for no obvious benefit.

It is also unclear why the weekend has been singled out for extended fines for overrunning streetworks. Overrunning streetworks during the week also impact on all road users.

The CIHT has recently completed a piece of work on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Transport industry and agree that AI should be used to optimise traffic flow.

Stopping unfair enforcement

The CIHT can assist government in developing what “right speed limits in right places” mean and support local authorities with guidance for their implementation. 

We do not believe that the Low Traffic Neighbourhood review should look at addressing existing LTNs that have not secured local consent as this goes against the principles of local democracy – it is not the role of central government to overrule local decisions where those decisions have been made following due process.

We support consistency of enforcement however we would be against any proposal to curb enforcement powers of moving traffic contraventions, such as yellow box junctions, as without enforcement, traffic management measures are ineffective.

Reducing the ability of local authorities to enforce traffic management measures goes against the principles of local democracy, as central government will in effect be making local decisions.

We do not support the proposal to restrict local authorities’ ability to generate surpluses from traffic offences as it would create traffic management issues if the public realised that the threshold had been reached and so any future contraventions would not be enforced.

Easier parking

We support the National Parking Platform as long as it allows local authorities to set their own tariffs and rules of operation for parking. One-size does not fit all and the parking needs of city centre authorities will be very different to that of a rural authority.

Digitalising Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) will be useful but it will be very difficult to keep up-to-date given the number of changes made by local authorities to parking and moving traffic regulations. If the digital TROs are to be kept accurate, there will be a very large burden for local authorities at a time when they do not have the resources to cope with existing demands. There is also the issue that traffic regulation orders are updated before the change is made on street, so if the digital representation of where parking spaces are is based only the traffic orders, it may not match the on-street reality even if the traffic orders are kept up-to-date.

Inconsiderate driving

The CIHT is happy to support the government in a communications campaign to tackle inconsiderate driving, which happens across the road network and not just on motorways. We would welcome discussions with the government on how the Institution could assist with road user education. 

We also support allowing local councils to roll out noise cameras to target unacceptable vehicle modifications.

We would like some clarification on whether the government are planning on decriminalising littering so that a PCN could be issued via camera enforcement and how the government plan to deal with the issue of who the offender is, as DVLA data will only provide information on the registered keeper and not necessarily the person who littered. This will prove problematic for minicab and taxi drivers if their passenger’s litter as they will receive the PCN – is the government planning on providing exemptions for groups such as these?

Transition to zero emission driving

The CIHT supports the government’s proposals relating to facilitating the transition to zero emissions driving and would welcome more information on how the government is supporting drivers on low incomes to make this transition. 

We would be happy to support the government with the creation of guidance on the use of safe cross-pavement solutions which has been signed off by disability groups. 

Given our position in the industry, the CIHT is perfectly placed to helping the government working with industry to myth-bust concerns about Electric Vehicles. 

Don't forget to join the debate and comment on any of our analysis here on CIHT Connect

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