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Everyone’s transport system is better than mine…

24 October 2011
Everyone’s transport system is better than mine…

By Robin Haycock, Head of Transport, The Climate Group.

October 24, 2011. 

This blog is inspired by my constant wanderings (for business) over the last three days, where I have managed to travel from London to Lyon, and then around Lyon, by either walking or electric transport, therefore proving that ultra-low carbon transport is possible.

You may need to rethink how you live and work, but when you do, the world is a much better place and actually, working on long distance trains is a real pleasure.

But the point of this blog is to debate an interesting phenomenon; in Lyon, I experienced people telling me that for a population of 1.2 million in the Greater Lyon region, there was ‘too much’ public provision of transport and therefore this was also not the optimum low carbon transport solution.

I was shocked until I realised three important points about signalling a direction of travel:

  • People are moving to cities
  • There is still congestion - even in joined-up transport policy areas like Lyon
  • It is better to provide solutions that are convenient and better than the car ahead of policy and taxation to get people out of cars in cities.

In order to satisfy the big complaint from the private car owner, you have to provide joined-up transport policy and solutions ahead of pressure to change behaviour and driving social change.

Lyon does have significant overcapacity of provision and it is a joy to seamlessly switch from TGV to tram to trolley bus to bus to bike etc dependent on need and capacity - but they now have a massive opportunity to tackle congestion and are prepared for a world where people move to the city, causing it to grow.

The city is perfectly positioned to bring in young people who don’t feel the need to identify themselves with the private car, and this will be an asset for the city as it develops.

So we need to have a direction of travel clearly indicated, and in the medium term this means that the public provision may not be ‘the ultimate solution’ but it is fairly close. The same goes for ‘the plane is going to fly anyway’ group of arguments… in the end,  as people realise traveling by train is the better option, the planes become less full and therefore uneconomic to run.

It’s all about direction of travel that will result in a short term pain leading to a longer term gain.

The airplane organisations will fight back of course, and cheaper seats will be put out to encourage use - but long term my money is on the joy of working comfortably while travelling on a giant electric train connected to the internet and talking to friends and colleagues on Skype… 

Read more about what I did in Lyon here 

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