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Stantec responds to the publication of the UK Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, July 2021


The commitments for electrification, network expansion and modal shift are a welcome move in the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan, but ambitious targets will still need to be set to make this vision a reality and ensure the places that we build and the transport infrastructure supporting them are relevant to the way we will be living in the future.

Reaching our net zero target requires the advancement of new transport technologies as well as behavioural change to how we approach mobility both now and in the future. The transport industry has had centuries of substantial change. Even before the pandemic, younger generations were exhibiting significantly different travel behaviours – with young men travelling almost 50% less by car than their counterparts 20 years ago.

As engineers, planners, and designers, it’s our responsibility to encourage more sustainable modes of transport, across the communities we serve and the infrastructure developments we design. Changes in the way we live and work have had a significant impact on the way we travel and will continue to evolve in a post pandemic world. The way we assess the effects of increasing travel demand – and how we plan for the transport effects of development – has undergone little significant change. In response, Stantec has been supporting Chartered Institute of Highways and Transport to lobby for this change.

We therefore welcome the acknowledgement from the government that we need to move away from transport planning based on predicting future demand to provide capacity, to planning that sets an outcome that communities want to achieve and provides the transport solutions to deliver those outcomes.

The Decarbonisation Plan confirms that the government remains committed to their ambitious roads programme, but for longer journeys, passenger, and freight, and alongside this, they make commitments to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles and enable the expansion of the electricity system to power the EV transition, with smart charging and also with ‘green’ hydrogen.

The government recognises that “we cannot pile ever more cars, delivery vans and taxis on to the same congested urban roads. That would be difficult for the roads, let alone the planet, to tolerate. As we build back better from the pandemic, it will be essential to avoid a car-led recovery.”

The plan includes a wide range of initiatives, funds, and policies covering: zero-emission buses and coaches, decarbonising the railways, modal shift of freight, ‘last mile’ deliveries, increasing average road vehicle occupancy, a new Code of Practice to signal the UK’s intent for MaaS, travel reward scheme feasibility study to use sustainable modes of travel, Commute Zero programme for long-term changes to employee travel habits towards public and active transport, and car-sharing, behaviour change research, Future of Transport: Rural Strategy to help improve mobility in rural areas while reducing car dependency, and more.

Stantec was involved in workshops with CIHT and MHCLG to discuss the reasons why more investment is made in highways rather than sustainable travel modes.  The Government is now set to publish a toolkit of guidance and information to respond to help rebalance this investment. 

The government state Local Transport Plans “will need to set out how local areas will deliver ambitious quantifiable carbon reductions in transport, taking into account the differing transport requirements of different areas. This will need to be in line with carbon budgets and net zero.” While we are supportive of a strategy that seeks to address: air pollution, climate change, noise and health and obesity, in seeking to decarbonise transport, we are keen to see action to drive forward this change.

There are targets for zero-emission vehicles and active travel, but no targets are set for reducing travel or accelerating modal shift.  UK FIRES research suggests that there will need to be 40% fewer cars on the road (or 60% of the size) to have the capacity to power EVs by 2050.  This needs to be investigated and targets set if we are to achieve zero carbon by 2050.

We would also like to see greater detail on the approaches that should be applied to making shared and public transport easy, accessible, reliable, and affordable compared to the private car.  A seamless shared mobility system should be the ultimate aim, with segregated or priority lanes to improve reliability, journey times and/or safety of users.

Just as climate change can’t be abated by focusing on one area alone, decarbonising our transport requires a holistic programme across our infrastructure and energy sectors. We look forward to seeing a comprehensive timeline and plan for how the phases of the Decarbonisation Plan are implemented for a cleaner, greener transport network.

About Stantec
Communities are fundamental. Whether around the corner or across the globe, they provide a foundation, a sense of place and of belonging. That's why at Stantec, we always design with community in mind.

We care about the communities we serve—because they're our communities too. This allows us to assess what's needed and connect our expertise, to appreciate nuances and envision what's never been considered, to bring together diverse perspectives so we can collaborate toward a shared success.

We're designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity, and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.

Stantec trades on the TSX and the NYSE under the symbol STN. Visit us at or find us on social media.

Stantec Media Contact                                               
Alicia De Haldevang
Stantec Media Relations

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