Mr. Tony Grant of SUSTRANS.
© John G. Fender 2011
Tony Grant of SUSTRANS addressed the Scottish Region at Napier University on the subject of sustainable Transport. He began his presentation by pointing out that the majority of journeys made by people are of relatively short distances, for example, 62% of journeys by car are less than 2 miles in length; 70% of journeys to and from work are by car.
He then posed the question of why sustainable transport should be promoted. He said that there are a number of reasons to do so and outlined the most important ones. Firstly, climate change. The amount of greenhouse gases produced by transport is growing at around 2% per annum and the growth in transport is outstripping any benefits by improved efficiency achieved in transport, such as more fuel efficient engines or better routes. It is estimated that by 2030 the quantity of greenhouse gases produced by transport will have increased by 20%.
Climate change is leading to extreme weather and some of these events have affected the UK and Europe, the most recent being the floods in Carlisle and the European heatwave of 2004. Road transport accounts for 62% of global greenhouse gas production and auto production accounts for another 21%. The production of greenhouse gases is falling for all other production sectors, whereas for transport it is increasing. The Kyoto agreement required UK production of CO2 to be 20 million tonnes per annum by 2050 and reductions in greenhouse gas production can only be achieved by the use of new technologies, reduced use of vehicles and increases occupancy, hence the need for sustainable travel.
Looking at the oil situation, Mr. Grant revealed some interesting figures. Discovery of oil peaked in the 1960's and we now consume four barrels for every one discovered. Production will peak in the next few years, estimated to occur around 2010, after which it will not be possible to produce more oil. With the reduction in the discovery of new reserves, it is a case of "spending out inheritance". Production of oil equalled the amount being discovered in 1990 and there is a major problem for the future in the making. It is predicted that production of oil will start falling after 2010 from 25 billion barrels of oil per annum to 5 billion barrels of oil per annum by 2050. Already we are seeing some strains in the oil industry, particularly as China is consuming far more oil and oil prices have reached new records on the markets. Although OPEC has recently announced further increases in production, the prices have continued to increase.
Transport impacts on almost all parts of society and congestion is one of the major concerns. In the UK something in the region of 78 billion miles per annum are covered by commuters and additionally some 43 billion miles are covered for work purposes. The cost of congestion is estimated to cost UK businesses some £20.billion per annum. It is estimated that there are 10 million empty seats each day, mostly in commuters cars.
The health of people is also linked to transport. In the UK asthma costs the health service some £1 billion per annum. A growing problem is obesity and experts are predicting that obesity problems will overtake smoking as the major cause of death in the next 15 years. In Scotland, the cost of treating obesity is now £171 million and this figure is expected to increase. Children living near busy roads have been shown to have twice the risk of developing respiratory problems and there are 20% more heart attacks in areas of higher noise levels, including traffic noise.
Social inclusion is another area to consider. Some 28% of households do not have access to a car and this figure rises to 56% for single parent families and 59% for those in the lower income quartile. People in the highest income band undertake more than twice as many trips and travel 3 and a half times further than those in the lowest income band. The greatest use of taxis and minicabs is by those in the lowest income quartile. The issue of road safety is of major importance as 120,000 people are killed on Europe's roads each year. pedestrians and cyclist account for 35% of victims of road crashes and road crashes are the main cause of death for 5 - 14 year olds. In Scotland, 304 people were killed on the roads in 2002.
Tony Grant concluded his presentation by taking a detailed look at SUSTRANS and its activities. SUSTRANS has 35,000 supporters, 1,200 field rangers, 150 UK staff of which 10 are in Scotland. It's projects include the National Cycle Network which covers some 2,000 miles in Scotland. SUSTRANS is also a bridge authority with around 1,000 bridges in Scotland to look after. The UK wide network of cycleways had reached 8,400 miles by 2004. The network will encourage more people to cycle and SUSTRANS is creating more traffic free routes.
Other initiatives include the reallocation of road space and providing priority crossings for cyclists. Major initiatives are the "Safe Routes to Schools" project, designed to encourage pupils to cycle to school rather than go by car. In the UK only some 2% of primary school pupils and 7% of secondary school pupils cycle to school this contrasts with 60% in Holland and Denmark and Boulder in the USA where 20% of pupils cycle to school. The "Travel Smart" project is where individual travel plans are drawn up and discussions with individuals and families are undertaken. These are designed to change travel habits and include the provision of information, for example, local bus service timetables, where the nearest bus stop is, where cycle routes are etc. SUSTRANS is also promoting safe routes to stations and the provision of entrances to stations. For further information on SUSTRANS and it's activities, visit the SUSTRANS website at http://www.sustrans.org.uk/.
The Scottish Region would like to thank Tony Grant for his presentation, Rowena Colpitts for her assistance and Professor Howard Kirby and and Debra McEwan of Napier University for the provision of the meeting accommodation and refreshments.
Report by John Fender.
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