The Green Transport Revolution
(And How to Pay for It)

Dr Spencer Fitz-Gibbon
for the
Green Party of England & Wales
May 2001


Labour's 60 billion 10-year roads plan

The Green alternative:
A shopping list for a social transport revolution

The public wants it


Labour's 60 billion 10-year roads plan

When the Labour government revealed its 180 billion 10-year transport plan to 2010, it attempted to cover its environmental embarrassment with the flimsy veil of green rhetoric. We were witnessing a blatant return to the days of Tory roadbuilding, wrapped decorously in the language of "integrated transport system" and "modernising Britain's transport infrastructure." Politicians who had promised us they would have failed if within five years of coming to power there were not many fewer car journeys being made, were planning to build 100 new bypasses and widen 360 miles of trunk road and motorway - regardless of the fact that this would significantly increase traffic. Apparently they saw no inconsistency between this ecological barbarism and their rhetoric about "putting the environment at the heart of government" and their avowed concern to tackle climate change.

All this was going to cost the taxpayer 60 billion directly, including road maintenance. But it would also cost society at least 110 billion in externalities - the hidden costs of road transport, ranging from the health costs of pollution to the economic damage caused by climate change. And this is a very conservative estimate. [ 1 ]

The purpose of this report is to indicate the huge benefits of transferring funds from roadbuilding to the Green alternatives - to indicate just what Britain could buy if we scrapped the national roads programme.

The Green Alternative:
A shopping list for a social transport revolution

Scrapping the roads programme would liberate some 35 billion over ten years. Of course there would be greater savings under this scheme, because:-

  1. Major traffic reduction would significantly reduce wear and tear on the roads, cutting the bill for road maintenance.
  2. Banning the heaviest lorries would save millions, if not billions, in the cost of bridge-strengthening projects currently planned.
  3. As we reduced traffic, the externalised costs would fall

But this report merely focuses on the 35 billion. And 35 billion could pay for ALL of the following:-

  • 20,000 residential streets redesigned as Home Zones. This would be four times as many as in the Netherlands, which has pioneered Home Zones. [ 2 ] Home Zones reduce road accidents and reduce the proportion of deaths. They create safe play space for children. They transform the residential urban environment, and are especially welcome in run-down inner-city areas
  • Sixteen times as many bus lanes as we have at present. This would speed up bus journey times and make travelling by bus more attractive - helping to replace car journeys with public transport, and thus cutting congestion and pollution. [ 2 ]
  • Comprehensive Safe Routes to School programmes for every school and college in the UK. [ 2 ] As well as many other benefits, this would cut morning rush-hour traffic by 10%. [ 3 ]
  • Light rail systems for sixteen more cities, like those in Greater Manchester and Sheffield. This would replace many millions of car journeys every year. Studies indicate that this could create at least 56,000 extra jobs. [ 4 ]
  • 8 billion to reduce bus and rail fares, to be spent over a 10-year period. This would help make public transport more competitive vis-a-vis the car. It would be a form of subsidy entirely justified both by considerations of social justice, and by reductions in environmental and health impacts and the economic costs of these.
  • 2 billion specifically for improvements to rural public transport. Some 17% of rural households don't have cars. Britain's villages need good bus and rail links.
  • 2 billion specifically for improving transport for disabled people. This would be a major contribution to social justice

The public wants it

An opinion poll in May 2001 found that 61% of respondents wanted to stop roadbuilding and invest in alternatives instead. Only 22% supported the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy of trying to do both. [ 5 ]

Those 61% support Green Party policy over the transport policy of the other parties. And if those 61% vote Green, they are voting for a Green transport revolution. It's hardly surprising that public opinion has moved so impressively in the Green Party's direction, because the Green transport revolution would have huge benefits. It would improve the nation's health, as some 24,000 people die every year as a result of air pollution, and traffic is a major cause of this. [ 6 ] It would create many thousands of jobs. [ 7 ] It would provide safer, healthier, generally more pleasant urban and rural environments, including traffic-calmed neighbourhoods and Safe Routes to School programmes for every school and college in the UK.

This would be one of the single most effective steps in the greening of society.


1. See Fair on Fuel, Fair on the Future: A social, economic and environmental case for higher fuel taxes, Green Party, November 2000. The best available figures indicate that road transport's externalities amount to between 11.2 billion and 17.2 billion a year, not taking into account climate change. At the upper estimate therefore, the hidden costs of road transport during this 10-year period may be 172 billion, plus transport's 25% or more contribution to the costs of climate change.
2. Extrapolated from figures provided by Transport 2000: . Further information from .
3. Eco-logica environmental consultancy. See also Safe Routes to School, Green Party, May 2001.
4. See Best of Both Worlds: Green policies for sustainability AND job-creation, Green Party, May 2001.
5. ICM/Ecologist, reported in the May 2001 issue of The Ecologist.
6. See Fair on Fuel, Fair on the Future, op cit, for estimates of the health costs of road transport.
7. See Best of Both Worlds, op cit, which indicates that Green transport systems sustain more jobs per m of investment than spending on road transport.

Thanks to the following for their assistance: Alan Francis (Green Party Transport Spokesperson), Prof John Whitelegg (Eco-Logica environmental consultancy), Dr Lucy Ford, Dr Tony Grayling (Institute for Public Policy Research); and also the Environmental Transport Association, Friends of the Earth International, Friends of the Earth UK, the Global Commons Institute, The Guardian, the House of Commons Library, the Road Danger Reduction Forum, and Transport 2000.

Promoted and published by Spencer Fitz-Gibbon,
The Green Party, 1a Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ.
Tel 020 7561 0282. Fax 020 7272 6653.
Email .