Policy Option 17: Towards a Net Zero Carbon Transport Network

  1. Emissions from transport currently account for around a third of greenhouse emissions in Oxfordshire, with the majority of this from road traffic Although vehicle fuel efficiency and the switch to lower emission vehicles has started to have some impact, emissions from transport have not been falling as quickly as in other areas such as energy, meaning that the proportion of emissions from transport (road and rail) have increased over the last few years. (Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire Report). Reducing carbon from transport movements will therefore be key if Oxfordshire is to meet its climate action commitments.

  1. Both local and national policy is clear that there is a need to cut our carbon emissions from transport. At a national level this is set out in the emerging Department for Transport De-carbonisation Plan, which already includes strategies for increasing walking and cycling, and bus use At a sub-national level, ambitions for a net zero carbon emissions transport network are set out in the recently adopted Transport Strategy for England's Economic Heartland At a local level, a new Local Transport and Connectivity Plan is being developed, with a draft Vision recently consulted upon which focuses on improving digital connectivity, active travel and public transport to support the move towards a net zero carbon emissions transport system, and meet wider social/ health outcomes.

  1. These policies indicate that if we are to achieve required reductions in carbon emissions from transport, there will need to be a change in way that transport is planned and managed. In particular, there will need to be:

  • A reduction in overall travel movements, especially by private vehicles, enabled in part through investment in digital technology;
  • A shift to public transport and active travel modes, especially for shorter journeys, enabled by increased investment in public transport, walking and cycle networks;
  • Better management of freight and goods, with a focus on decarbonisation and enabling zero emission 'last mile' deliveries;
  • A significant uptake of zero carbon vehicles, supported by investment in charging facilities, and, 
  • Ensuring the opportunities offered though technology and innovation to support sustainable transport solutions are taken up.

  1. Spatial planning has a clear role in supporting the move towards a net zero carbon emissions transport system. In particular, the location and design of new development can have a significant impact on the propensity for people to travel, and the number, type and length of travel movements. For example, the recently completed RTPI report, 'Net Zero Transport; the role of spatial planning and place-based solutions' sets out that transport and land-use planning needs to be integrated if carbon reductions are to be met. 

  1. Development plan policies can assist and be complementary to the policy development in transport and infrastructure plans. Paragraph 104 (b) of the NPPF (2019) states the need for planning policies to ‘be prepared with the active involvement of local highways authorities, other transport infrastructure providers and operators and neighbouring councils, so that strategies and investments for supporting sustainable transport and development patterns are aligned,’ whilst (d) states that policies should, ‘provide for high quality walking and cycling networks and supporting facilities such as cycle parking (drawing on Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans).’ 

Policy Options

  1. Building on this guidance, the Oxfordshire Plan policies can in particular support the emerging LTCP policies, and any associated updated transport targets needed to move towards a net zero carbon emissions transport network. This includes active travel policies, expected to focus on developing an active travel network for the county and further developing Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans at key settlements. Policies can also support better sustainable first mile/ last mile transport connectivity to public transport hubs such as rail stations. This will help complement major planned investment, including service and station improvements enabled through East West Rail, and other major rail capacity investment proposed as part of the 'Oxfordshire Connect' priorities arising out of the Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study. 

  1. The alternative of leaving these polices to local plans is not supported given the strategic and cross boundary nature of transport network.

Preferred Policy Option 

Policy Option 17: Towards a Net Zero Transport Network

All development proposals should be planned to both take account of, and take opportunities to support delivery of an Oxfordshire net zero carbon emissions transport network, including:

Supporting delivery of enhanced walking and cycling networks and routes, including those identified as part of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPS), and more strategic active travel links between settlements and other key locations such as areas of employment and public transport hubs; 

Supporting delivery of enhancements to the bus network, including proposals for bus priority measures and service enhancements;Supporting delivery of enhancements to the rail network, including linking in with new and improved stations, and supporting service enhancements;

Supporting delivery of improvements to transport interchange, including enhanced transport hubs such as at rail stations that facilitate take up of sustainable travel opportunities, and where relevant link with opportunities for park and ride;

Supporting delivery of measures that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the freight and logistics network that are consistent with delivering a net zero carbon emissions transport network: and,

Supporting delivery of improvements to the local and strategic road network that are consistent with delivering a net zero carbon emissions transport network.

It will be important that the location and planning for new development takes into account the more detailed policies within the County Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP), and where relevant other policy, both at a sub-national and national level. In particular, it will be important to take into account and support strategic cross-boundary proposals that contribute towards delivering a net zero carbon system, such as strategic public transport improvements like East West Rail.

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