Policy statement

Transport Hierarchy

This policy statement takes a focused engineering look at system design, addressing how we can change our approach to meet the demanding targets across our transport modes.

We have developed the Transport Hierarchy (‘the Hierarchy’) using robust engineering tools to allow the prioritisation of multiple measures to improve the complex system known as our transport network.

This Hierarchy has similarities with the Waste Hierarchy (reduce, re-use, repair and recycle) and the Energy Hierarchy (reduce demand, use renewable sources, increase efficiency, use low-carbon technology, use conventional energy).

The Hierarchy sets objectives that ensure resilience and adaptability in the energy requirements of our transport network, with a focus on delivering societal needs. It pulls together policy proposals that demonstrate a consensus for this type of approach.

The combination of cross-modal consensus and sound engineering makes this a powerful tool to achieve the step change needed to deliver a sustainable transport network. We believe that this Hierarchy should be used by all governmental departments and businesses when making decisions on their transport choices in terms of both use and planning activities.

Key recommendations

The government should:

  1. Adopt and use the Hierarchy at all levels. Local authorities should use it for planning and local journeys. Departments (eg Health and Education) whose core activities are not transport, but generate demand for transport, should use it to evaluate the transport impacts of policy decisions.
  2. Incentivise to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
  3. Enable more journeys to be made without a car.
  4. Demonstrate best practices in sustainable transport, eg reduce travel through use of IT, public transport, promoting car clubs and cycle hire.
  5. Review policies that favour less-efficient modes, or penalise the efficient.

Business should work to future-proof business models, products and services by:

  1. Reducing travel impacts by encouraging flexible, home-working solutions.
  2. Encouraging sustainable travel modes eg cycle commuting; public transport for business travel.
  3. Encouraging lift sharing for commuter travel, eg reduced car parking; organise car clubs for employees, eg a cost-effective solution for businesses in place of private pool car fleets.
  4. Review car use policies and rewards (companies give car allowances but do not always buy train tickets). 


All reports and policies

Browse all our reports, policy statements, consultation responses and presidential addresses

View all

Have a question?

Contact our press team.