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02 0712 TPS_professors_letter-press_releasepdf
Press release (2002)
  • Marcus R Wigan
12 July 2002
Dear Secretary of State,
We are university professors specialising in the field of transport, and share society's widespread dissatisfaction with its present quality, efficiency, equity and environmental impacts. We write to express our concerns about some unrealistic expectations about how to make effective progress on these problems.
Many politicians would like to be advised that a programme of selective road building, together with promised improvements to alternative methods of transport, will be sufficient to improve travel conditions, without the need for traffic restraint. The evidence is that if traffic growth continues at the rates of recent decades, such a package will not in practice achieve its intended effects.
Investment in public transport infrastructure, and provisions for walking and cycling, are indeed necessary, but in congested conditions they will also need priority allocation of road space, without which a genuinely attractive service will not be possible. People will only choose to make significant changes in their travel choices if there is a recognised and substantial advantage in doing so.
We have a range of different views about the scale of road building that should be undertaken - some of us advocating more, and others less, than is currently planned. But we all agree that efficient road planning depends strongly on a clear understanding that there will have to be active policy intervention to manage the demand for road space at congested times and places. Without this, the benefits of any infrastructure expansion would be substantially eroded by extra traffic, disappointing car drivers and non-drivers alike.
One much-discussed method of managing demand is to charge users of all methods of transport for the full costs that each journey imposes on society as a whole. Some of us have carried out research over many years on the benefits of such an approach. Potential benefits include some reduction in congestion and environmental damage, and the provision of funds which should, in full or part, contribute to transport improvements. We have also studied the social and political reasons why such charges may be rejected, or delayed - but we stress that in that case, other methods of influencing the demand for travel become more necessary and more urgent, not less. These methods range from detailed street design to long term land use planning, and there is much international evidence on how to make them successful.
We are not elected politicians, and we certainly do not consider ourselves as uniquely qualified to define the objectives of a transport policy. But we have gained considerable experience in studying what will work, and what will not. Policies on infrastructure, operations and prices must be consistent with each other, if they are to offer some chance of making things better instead of just accumulating long term problems.
Publication Date
Summer July 12, 2002
Publisher Statement
Transport Planning Society
PRESS RELEASE 12 July 2002
Embargoed until 06.00 hours Monday 15
Transport Professors Warn of 'Unrealistic Expectations' in Transport Policy
Herewith is an open letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling MP, signed by 28 UK transport professors in their personal capacities, raising their shared concerns about current transport policy. The signatories constitute the majority of the UK transport professors with whom we are in touch. A number of others expressed their support for the general principles of the letter, while not wishing to sign for personal reasons. The letter therefore reflects a significant and substantial body of concern over policy within the transport profession.
All the signatories would want the letter to be seen as a friendly and constructive communication intended to continue and raise the level of debate about policy and to draw to the Secretary of State's attention some key issues at a time when he will be reviewing and potentially revising the 10 Year Plan for transport.
The letter has been co-ordinated by the Transport Planning Society (TPS). TPS, the professional focus for transport planning issues in the UK, is a Society to facilitate, develop and promote best practice in transport planning and provide a focus for dialogue between all those engaged in it, whatever their background or other professional affiliation. A key aim of TPS is to confront and generate debate surrounding contemporary issues in transport planning and Chair of TPS, Prof Glenn Lyons, believes the concerns raised in the letter merit attention and close consideration both by the Department and the wider transport profession. The Secretary of State is being invited to respond to the letter through TPS. In the spirit of encouraging professional debate, the professors' letter is being made public with copies being sent to the main specialist writers/broadcasters in this field. Details and a copy of the letter will also be posted on the TPS website (
Citation Information
Lyons, G., Allsopp, R., Bannister, D., Bell, M., Bielefeldt, C., Cole, S., Goodwin, P., Grieco, M., Hamilton, K., Hills, P., Hine, J., Jeffery, D., Jones < P., Kirby, H., Lesley, L., Lowson, M., Maher, M., May, A., McDonlald, M., Metz, D., Nash, C., Smyth, A., Stradling, S., Urry, J., Vickerman, R., White, P., Wigan, M., Wright, C. (2002) Letter to UK Secretary of State Alistair Darling. and Press Release by the Uk Transport Planning Society.12 July