is a vital way of life for many people in the UK. Whether that is to go
shopping or to go to work, transportation helps it happen. Public transport is
an ever-evolving branch of engineering. From using taxis, buses or trains, the
railways and roads need to be improved regularly for the public, or so it
seems. There are more cars on the road and more people taking trains than it
ever has been in the last 20 years. As the population of the UK is increasing,
so is the demand for transport. But, trains are over-crowded, buses are late, the
underground tube has cancellations and the motorways are at standstills every
other day. Is this down to the neglect of the transportation sector? Or is this
due to a greater cause? In this paper, I will see whether the UK transport
policy is going in the right direction.
What is the transport policy?
Policy is a paper aimed at improving quality of transport through strategy
analysis, designing and sharing innovative ideas, management practices, and
application bridging the gap between theory and practice in transport.
History of the transport policy
policy for the United Kingdom began in the 1950s and 1960s. The first
strategies developed were aimed at promoting the use of the car through the
establishment of motorways. It was implemented though predicting traffic, noise
and congestion levels rising to an unbearable standard, using the predict and
provide policy. This created the first-generation motorways of the UK, the M1
(London to Leeds), M6 (Birmingham to Carlisle), M4 (London to South Wales), M62
(Liverpool to Hull) and M5 (Midlands to South West England). They were and
still used to connect the country’s major cities.
Figure 1 M1 motorway in the
Report (1963) identified that in urban areas, more roads needed to be built to
minimise the environmental effect of the car, in the form of urban motorways,
which are elevated sections and underpasses. The report made suggestions for
setting the need for the transport sector to create a better experience for the
travellers, with the use of land planning.
Hence, more roads were going to be built.
The cost of
driving would always be influenced by the cost of fuel. Although, in the 1960s,
toll booths were suggested as a method of reducing road congestion within
towns. The idea was rejected due to the lack of technology at the time. By the
1970s, a new transport plan was introduced which made local governments
recognise other factors such as the environment, social equality and land
usage. This new transport plan reduced the number of roads originally to be built.
In the 1980s, the cost of driving was very low as fuel prices were low, the
impact of company cars and many the local government changes. This was the
start of the separation of the transport sectors as buses had their various
restrictions removed and trains became privatised. The decade saw the last of
the first-generation motorway, the M40, being built. However, in 1989, the
National Road Traffic Forecasts predicted a 142% growth in traffic levels
between 1989 and 2025. This lead to the government announcing a £23 billion
roads programme for the 1990s, with new roads and existing roads to be
improved. This lead to the conclusion that whatever the road policy congestion
would always increase; marking the end of
the predict and provide policy.
Privatisation of British
above, in the 1980s, the transportation started to enter privatisation. The
Privatisation of British Rail was the process by which ownership and operation
of the railways transferred from the British government to private companies.
This began in 1994 and the railways were fully private by 1997.
were always under government rule since 1948. In 1979, the Conservative party
was elected with Margret Thatcher as the head of the party. During her leadership, various state-owned businesses were
sold off to the private sector, most importantly the jobs related to railways.
Under her successor, John Major, that the railways itself became privately
owned under the Railways Act (1993). Ownership of the infrastructure, such as stations
was passed to Railtrack, while track
maintenance assets were sold to 13 companies. Passenger train ownership was passed
to three rolling stock operating companies. The stock being leased to the
companies by awarding contracts through a new system of rail franchising
overseen by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising. Ownership of freight
trains was passed to English Welsh & Scottish (EWS) and Freightliner.
process was very controversial at the time
and still is, with its success debated frequently. Many of the claimed benefits
of privatisation include a reduced cost to the taxpayer, lower fares, improved
customer service, and more investment. The strategy was claiming at the time
“The best way to produce profound and lasting improvements on the railways is
to end British Railway’s state monopoly.” But many within the Conservative
party believed that privatisation was a mechanism to manage the railway industry’s
gradual decline without a heavy burden on the taxpayers. 2
The process has
never been reversed by any of the following
governments and the system remains unchanged. Although, in 2001 Railtrack
collapsed, which saw its assets passed to the state-owned Network Rail, which
also brought in-house track maintenance in 2004.
Price of Travel
The process may
have had a lower burden on the taxpayer, but the cost of public keeps on
As we have
entered 2018, the rail fares have increased by 5.6% since last year. Which is
outrageous if you compare this to the real wages figure, that has fallen by
0.2% over the last three months. How do companies expect the average
middle-class citizen to afford a train ticket if the prices keep on going up
when their wages are going down? As a student who travels from outside London
daily, it is getting to the point where it is cheaper for me to live in the
city instead of commuting to it. It costs me £280.72 monthly, with student
discount to get into London last month. This month, it would most likely cost
me up to £300 monthly. Where renting in London in a £180 student hall room
costs £720 monthly. It is more expensive, but the time wasted due to delays,
signal failures and cancellations, commuting by train is not worth it. It has
been argued that if the rail was publicly owned, the system could save £1.2
billion a year 3. This money could be used to cut fares, like mine
by18% and the £1.2 billion could be used to design more efficient, cheaper and
greener trains and networks that the country could be happy to use.
privatisation, the average rail journey has increased by 22% and Anytime
Tickets, (they allow you to travel at any-time during the day, peak or
off-peak) by 245% 3. The train used to be for people who didn’t
have the luxury of driving a car or even affording
one for that matter. It used to be one of the cheapest ways to travel, but with
these current prices, it seems like only the upper classes and upper middle
classes can afford it.
explain why on some trains there is still a first-class cabin. These cabins are
soundproofed with a lot of room so that
the passenger can enjoy their journey. Unfortunately, these cabins cost up to
33% more than a standard class ticket. To others, if they can afford it, they
would take the offer. Since the cabins take a lot of room, it ends up hurting
the customers who can only afford the standard tickets. The standard cabins
happen to be overcrowded, uncomfortable and unclean. The space taken by the
first-class cabins should be open to all so that more people can get on the
train and help reduce overcrowding. This might be the reason why the new
electric trains do not have a first-class cabin, instead, they have a minimum of 8 cabins per train journey.
Figure 2 Many commuter trains are overcrowded 5
Supply and Demand
privatisation began, the number of passengers has increased by 200% to an
average of 4.5 million passengers per day 6. This is mainly
apparent in London Waterloo Station, which has 200 million passengers per year,
the most in any European country.
station has many connections; you can go to Bournemouth, Southampton,
Portsmouth, Woking, Basingstoke, Poole, Salisbury and Reading 7.
This is great in showing that the United Kingdom is more connected than ever.
However, the with more people using trains, South West Trains (train line at
London Waterloo) has started running fast trains during rush hour, which is now
between 6 – 10 am and lengthening trains
to deal with the high passenger demand. Even for Great Western Railway, to help
with high demand and minimise delays, train doors close after 40 seconds upon
arrival at a station and 93 new Intercity Express Trains will be released by
2019 8. There will be 20% more seats, more legroom, air
conditioning and tables.
Figure 3 The new Intercity Trains 9
Even though this has helped improve capacity by 25%,
the trains are dealing heavy damage on the rails, which happens to be from the
Victorian Era 6, while some of the rails are being replaced
currently on the weekends.
Higher Demand Equals More
passenger numbers of train users have
reached 4.5 million per day, the demand for a good train service is higher than
ever 6. With the increased demand, the way to solve it is by increasing the
capacity of trains as well as how frequently then run. This may be the main
reason why National Rail has started to electrify a number of the trains in
services as well as the tracks they run on 10.
process of electrification, various engineers and surveyors will be needed as
this is the biggest rail modernisation since Victorian times 11. The trains
run on overhead electric lines, this will indicate that if some of the previous
tunnels and bridges are not high enough, they will need to be rebuilt to
accommodate the new technology. Also, the platforms for many stations will need
to be lengthened to accommodate the longer electric trains. I see this on my
route university at West Drayton, Hayes and Harlington and Ealing Broadway
National Rail has planned to reopen the Varsity Line. This was the transport
link between the famous English university cities of Oxford and Cambridge, it
was opened in 1846 and closed down in 1993. It is going to cost £7 billion to
open the railway as most of the rail is covered in greenery and the tracks are
from the Victorian era. As this will link the two cities, a lot of money can be
made from this as well as help improve the economy. The National Infrastructure
Commission has described the Cambridge county area as one of the most important
parts of the United Kingdom 12. This is due to the region currently
generating up to £90 billion per year towards the national economy, but it is
predicted to rise up to more than £250 billion per year with these changes. As
it is known, around Cambridge, there is a lack of available homes and
infrastructure, so people, especially the locals are being priced out of the
market. This is making it harder for businesses to recruit staff, which can end
up damaging the economy. However, with the government trying to start the
restoration of lost capacity, more people will be able to work due to this new
transport link. With engineers and surveyors repairing the railways and
creating new infrastructure, the engineering sector will have a huge demand for
High Speed Rail 2
has a plan to free up the transport networks by creating new lines, such as High-Speed Rail 2, to help bring the country
closer together. However, many people are not happy with the rail project going through.
On the Colne
Valley in Hillingdon has been hit with environmental protestors 13. They were
trying to protect the green land areas surrounding the rail developments. They
have been reported to try to save up to 100 acres of ancient woodlands, an area
which once destroyed, it cannot be replaced or recovered. Sadly, they were
served an injunction to make them stop. Jonathan Bartley, the Green Party
co-leader was shocked that they were given one since they were peaceful
protestors. Many critics of the scheme have expressed concern over the
escalating price tag as well as the damage High-Speed
Rail 2 could deal to the environment. It
has been labelled as the most expensive railway development in the world,
costing up to £56 billion for the whole scheme. On the other hand, advocates
say that one High Speed 2 is completed,
it will be the fastest rail network in Europe with trains holding 1100
passengers, travelling at speeds up to 250 miles per hour.
With High-Speed Rail 2 going through, this must
automatically mean that there will be a surplus of jobs for engineers, right?
Unfortunately, this might not be the case. Carillion, the construction company
handling the project, has recently collapsed 14. The company has already begun
to lay off thousands of workers.
Fortunately, the French company Kier has taken on around 200 of Carillion’s former
employees as they are taking on the responsibility for the construction work on
UK motorways and the High Speed 2 rail line 15. Unfortunately, the Carillion
collapse does not only affect the
transportation industry with failure to finish High Speed 2 and being the
second largest rail maintenance supplier after National Rail, it will affect
various industries too. Such as military, prison and education.
As a new
company is taking over a majority of the project, as well as taking over some
of the previous Carillion contracts, does this mean that more jobs would be
created? Most likely, as Kier said to have won a number of new contracts,
including a £160 million contract to build a new biosciences facility in
Harlow, Essex. With the influx of work they have agreed to take on, they would
most likely have to hire a new workforce
to help deliver the contracts on time. With a higher number of people working,
the economy will grow and the demand for engineers will go up.
Is the Transport Policy Sustainable?
Environmental and Social Sustainability
To help with
the higher demand of train customers, the railways are becoming electrified 10.
This allows for the trains to be faster, greener, more reliable and helps
support the economic growth in Britain.
The benefits include more capacity so more passengers can
take the train. Interestingly, the number of seats has increased compared to
diesel trains of the same length. As well, they are faster than the diesel
engine trains. As someone who takes the train, there is a massive improvement
of the speed and a huge decrease in my travel time. It has roughly decreased by
10 minutes, which may not seem like much, but it helps with the connections
that I have to make when getting the various tube lines to university.
electrification of the rail is very beneficial to the environment, especially
the air, as the carbon dioxide emissions are 20 to 35% lower than those of a
diesel train. This means that cities, like London, will have a higher air
quality. Also, due to the electric engines, it is much quieter than the
previous train engines. As I live near the motorway, the M25 and M4, and the
train station, it is not very quiet. But with these electric trains, the night
is slightly quieter, making it easier for me to sleep.
With the newer
trains, they are also lighter. With lighter trains, there will be less track
maintenance happening as there is less wear to it. This means that there will
be fewer delays (more reliable service)
and more people can take use the train on the weekend, as track maintenance
happens on Saturday and Sunday.
is better for the economy. With the trains being faster, and having a higher
capacity, there are better connections so that more people can get to their
jobs in hard to reach areas. This could lead to more people opting to take
public transport instead of using cars to go everywhere. In the long run, this
could help with the pollution within some of the major UK cities, helping to
improve the quality of life in some areas.
T Charge Social
In London, a
new charge has gone through, the T Charge 16. This is to endure that the cars
driving in London meet the minimum European emission standards to help clean up
the polluted air in London. For petrol and diesel vehicles, they must reach the
standard of Euro 4 while motor tricycles should reach Euro 3 17. Only
motorcycles are exempt from the T Charge.
As it costs £10
per day to vehicles coming from outside London, if you happen to live in
London, you can get up to 90% off the price 18. Sadly, on top of this price,
the driver may have to also pay congestion charge which is £11.50 per day. With
fewer cars in the city, the air will get cleaner but does this mean that it
would force more people to take the overcrowded public transport to get into
London. Interestingly, there were 320.6 billion miles travelled by vehicles in
2016, this is an increase of 1.2% from 2015 19, while traffic on the
motorways has increased by 2.1%. Motorists are paying up to £40 billion a year
overall in motor taxation, but they must deal with bad traffic throughout their
day. Even though with the high charges drivers must pay, such as road tax and
congestion charge, why do they still choose to drive? The main reason is due to
the luxury of owning a car. If you have
your own private transport, you get to decide when you have to leave in the
morning, which route to take; it is all your own choice. On the other hand,
when you use public transport, you have to depend on everyone else, from the
driver to the signalling officer if you take the train. Consequently, people
will still choose to drive their cars and other vehicles no matter the cost.
Expansion of the Roads
Financial and Social Sustainability
As the roads
are becoming more congested, it would make sense that the roads are becoming
expanded. In 2016, there were 320.5 billion vehicle miles travelled, up 1.2%
from the previous year. Moreover, the traffic on motorways and rural A roads
have increased by 2.1% and 2.5% respectively 19.
As roads are a
part of ensuring economic growth, the government have published a programme of
upgrades to the major roads and motorways costing £6.1 billion. This is only a
part of the full programme costing £23 billion to fully upgrade the network
20. The roads will help improve congestion, enable shorter journeys,
increasing capacity as well as creating better local connections. This includes
the route for the A19 Downhill Lane junction. The new junction will help
support a new international manufacturing park by significantly increasing road
capacity, easing traffic and improving safety, as well as boosting the local
road connections between towns, the local
businesses can thrive as more people will be able to work within the towns. With a boost in the local
economy, the local councils can use the extra money to help further develop the
economy by improving their local education systems, help fund businesses as
well as build more infrastructure for the businesses. Transport Minister Jesse
Norman said, “Road users across England should soon be seeing the benefits of
these improvements in their daily lives, which are designed to link people
better with their jobs, friends, family and local amenities, as well as
connecting businesses with customers.”
will also help open up British culture as the A303 will have a corridor to
improve the journey times to the world heritage site (Stonehenge). This will
cost up to £1.6 billion but this will help improve tourism in the area. With
the motorways and the rural roads getting expanded, this will help improve
business throughout the United Kingdom. With less time on roads and less money
spent on transport, companies can use the saved money of expanding their
businesses. As more people would be working, the financial economy would increase.
On one hand,
the improved connections would benefit the various companies as well as the
country. Allowing the migration of workers to be much easier then what it was
previously. Workers would not have to worry if they had to relocate, finding
work would be difficult. Due to various companies expanding, they most likely
would just have to transfer to one of the new offices. On the other, the air
could suffer due to increased pollution levels as well as the noise coming from
the nearby roads, decreasing the quality of life to those surrounding them.
This might explain why London introduced the T Charge and other cities, such as
Birmingham, are thinking about implementing the T Charge as well.