Britain does not have a coherent transport policy, and conventional transport economics has reached a dead end. A transport policy should incorporate systematic thinking about the travel needs of society. However, in Britain, public investment in the transport system has been extraordinarily volatile.
We closed under-used railways and then experienced a doubling of passenger numbers that has prompted huge new investment. We gave up making substantial investment in motorways, but now have chosen to revive the road construction effort in a big way. We vacillate on road pricing, introducing congestion charging successfully in London, but backing off because of local opposition elsewhere.
We have delayed for decades the decision about whether and where to build additional airport capacity. The environmental impacts of transport infrastructure – global and local – have been a key focus, but now are not. This mess has come about because policy has focused on big construction projects and time-saving, instead of on the part people and places play in economic development.
This book sets out the principles that could underpin a strategic policy for transport. Instead of focusing piecemeal on trying (and failing) to get from place to place ever faster, we need to think about how and where we want the economy to develop, and about how new the digital technologies can help achieve this.
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