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Transport User Voice – February 2020 – Chief executive’s editorial

05 February 2020

Back to basics to go carbon neutral 

 All eyes on Glasgow! 

The City Council has set a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030. This is in advance of the UN Conference on climate change (the so called ‘COP26’) which will be held in Glasgow in November. 

The City Council’s pledge is a laudable and significant ambition. But will it bring huge social, political and economic upheaval? Being both an optimist and a history student, I see humans have solved massive problems and survived traumatic change throughout history.  We have to sort this one. And time is pressing.

Carbon reduction in transport will inevitably play a key role all over the country. Nudging consumers into more sustainable travel choices will be preferable to forcing change on people. We have a wealth of data about what drives transport user satisfaction and choice. We want to deploy this data to help governments make the right decisions so they can help consumers make the right decisions.  

But in doing so, transport services must be more attractive. This may sound very basic, but it means making them far more reliable. Our data shows we are still, in places, in the foothills on this. We recently wrote to local authorities and operators in the West Country about the poor reliability of bus services. These basics need sorting, otherwise people will stay in or revert back to using their cars. 

In other places, our latest National Rail Passenger Survey results show the urgent need for improvement in reliability on Northern Rail. Last week it was announced that Northern would be taken into public ownership. But whoever runs those services in future must make a significant improvement in reliability.   

Likewise TransPennine Express (TPE) passengers has been hit hard in recent weeks. I wrote to managing director Leo Godwin about the totally unacceptable cancellations and disruption following the timetable change in December. TPE responded to our call for compensation firstly with a scheme for season ticket holders and, as we urged, introduced Delay Repay 15 on 2 February. 

We await an announcement on the next steps in the rail reform process. Passengers will judge the success of these reforms on the degree to which they make the railways more reliable, with more chance of getting a seat and boosted value for money. Prosaic? Yes, but that is what drives choice of how to travel. It must play a part in emission reduction strategies in transport. 

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