Low-carbon mobility: A sustainable future for transport

This report focuses primarily on reducing transport-related carbon emissions through innovation, influence and investment.

Climate change concerns have been the subject of extensive media coverage and it is widely accepted that human-activity carbon emissions are a strong driver of global warming and climate change.

There are many ways in which environmental performance of transport can be improved. In this report we explore various measures that could reduce transport-related CO2 emissions under the themes of:

  • Social values and public behaviour
  • Modal shift
  • Rail network capacity
  • Fiscal measures
  • Railway’s carbon footprint

In this report we assess the relative cost-benefit impact of various policy actions on transport CO2 emissions and cost-effective policy actions that the government could take to reduce CO2 emissions from transport. The objective of the study is to present existing research in the context of overall impact on transport emissions and stimulate further discussion and debate. It is not an exhaustive study which encompasses all potential actions to reduce transport-related emissions.

We believe that more can be done to meet government carbon reduction commitments and that the railway should not only contribute to the development of sustainable mobility, but lead the way in providing a vision for low-carbon living.

We aim to establish what environmental advantage rail holds over alternative modes of transport, and what scope for improvement there is for the environmental performance of the current transport system.

Key recommendations

This report has generated a number of recommendations for cost-effective policy actions which will yield a reduction in CO2 emissions for transport. These recommendations have been made in the context of an infrastructure investment programme which can deliver current railway capacity and performance and accommodate the predicted future growth.

A balanced and integrated transport infrastructure investment policy across all modes will be, in itself, hugely instrumental in generating modal shift to rail, addressing capacity and subsequently providing a reduction in CO2 emissions for transport.

  1. The government should campaign to endorse, promote and educate on the environmental impact of travel and ‘green’ transport choices.
  2. A review of rail pricing policy, comparatively with the costs of other modes.
  3. Transport environmental duty imposed on all transport modes in accordance with associated carbon emissions.
  4. Increase in the proportion of national grid electricity generated from renewable sources and combine upgrade/enhancement of the national grid system with rail network electrification.


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