In August 2022, the Local Government Association commissioned a programme of Action Learning Sets (ALS) that will bring together local authority councillors and officers to address challenges they currently face relating to decarbonising transport. The blog summarises the findings from the first session.
The Action Learning Sets will aim to provide ideas on the following questions:
- What does effective local leadership of decarbonising transport look like?
- How do we ensure that people are not left in transport poverty?
- What tools can be used to support community engagement?
- How do we ensure a whole council/cross-party approach?
The aim of the Action Learning Sets is to create a participatory, inclusive, safe space, where councillors and officers can share experiences and learning, ensuring that best practice decarbonising transport projects can be delivered.
Five Action Learning Sets were created incorporating twenty officers and twelve councillors. Participants of the programme will take part in 5 sessions between August 2022 and January 2023.
A training session was delivered on the 12 October to discuss decarbonisation strategies and to introduce the Action Learning Set approach. ALS participants were invited to bring a challenge to the first session which was linked to decarbonising transport within their authority.
The blog summarises the findings from this first session.
What would you like to get out of the ALS programme?
At the beginning of the first ALS session, we asked participants what they were looking to get out of the programme. The main takeaway is that councillor members and officers see the ALS programme as a great opportunity to share examples of how decarbonisation is being tackled in different regions of the UK. The opportunity to share challenges, learnings and knowledge of best practice was echoed in all groups. Additional aims included:
- an understanding of how best to take the agenda forward
- the opportunity for the validation of ideas
- to help prepare for the emergence of new Local Transport Plan guidance
- to understand how different regions are approaching the challenge, especially in the rural context
- taking the time to think about this issue in a friendly space
- an understanding of how to effectively engage with the public and politicians.
Challenges and enablers
The following challenges were discussed during the first ALS sessions:
How do we reduce public opposition to schemes?
Officers are faced with the continued problem of strong opposition from certain groups on road space reallocation schemes. The experience of the pandemic where road space was reallocated, sometimes without consultation has concerned many people.
- Ensure that there is an effective engagement and communication plan in place
- Make sure there is a strong narrative that can be told to take the public on the journey
- Analyse data to understand who lives in the city and who is travelling into the city. The need for targeted messaging between these different groups.
- Look at different media to communicate messages, such as TfWM’s LTP video Reimagining transport in the West Midlands - WMLTP5 | Transport for West Midlands (tfwm.org.uk)
How do we convince decision makers to take (sometimes) costly funding decisions to meet net zero?
The transition to net zero fleets can often come at a cost higher than business as usual. It may therefore be challenging to justify the business case to decision makers who are focused on using the most cost-effective option for the organisation.
- Ensure that the business case covers a variety of options
- Highlight alternative benefits that might not come out of the cost benefit assessment such as improvements to air quality and people’s health
- Consider alternative solutions – such as a more phased approach – where people can see the benefits before expanding the project further.
How do we deal with uncertainty within Local Transport Plan development?
There is significant uncertainty about when the new local transport plan guidance will be published. How can authorities continue to push forward with developing their local transport plans so that they aren’t losing time on addressing the complex challenge of decarbonisation?
- Map out how powerful your voice is in this space and what is within your gift to focus thinking
- De-risk the process by creating a dynamic risk register
- Ensure that any decisions are backed by sufficient evidence by looking to other regional bodies for best practice examples
How do you balance the competing demands for road space?
The solution of reallocating road space is often met with challenge. There is tension between different transport improvements such as bus priority schemes and Local Cycle Walking Implementation Plans (LCWIPs) and a lack of clarity over what takes priority. Additionally, there are competing demands from groups. For example, some may worry that removing car parking on key routes into centres will discourage economic growth, whereas others will feel that increased footfall will mean more economic growth.
- Need to bring the community along with you – continual communication and consultation is key
- The use of evidence to highlight the disbenefits of cars on air quality which is currently ‘killing and choking’ our cities and the use of case studies to show that increased footfall has been found to increase growth
- The need to take a wider network view rather than just look at specific corridors can help deal with competing demands and also take inspiration from other successful networks e.g. Manchester’s Bee Network
- Encourage a hierarchy of priority to be put in place which will help with decision making
- Carry out more pilots to understand what works well.
How to secure bus companies cooperation in an integrated bus system?
There is a need to create an integrated bus network to provide a viable alternative to the car. Challenges are faced trying to manage multiple bus companies of varying size. Bus companies want to operate the most profitable routes and will withdraw if they are not profitable.
- Funding is key and ensuring that you are in a position to submit a high-quality bid
- Sharing best practice between councils including bids of those that have been successful in receiving funding
- Demand-responsive transport (DRT) could be used to substitute non-profitable routes.
How do we get our message heard that the future of the city involves less car travel and more investment in public transport?
There are challenges of how to get public buy in around the idea that public transport can be a real alternative to driving a private car. The public lack belief in the public transport system to deliver transport in future. These challenges are exacerbated by negative headlines around car restrictions or additional charges that may be necessary to reduce car travel.
- The use of images and visuals may be helpful in communicating to the public what the future could look like
- Engage with schools and children to connect with children, who can act as catalysts to educate their parents
- Look to other best practice examples e.g. Manchester’s Bee Network and use of branding
- Use a range of media and tailor messages to different actors and stakeholders.