Transport Decarbonisation Plan: Shapps agrees to rethink roads policy

Chris Ames

The Government has agreed to review the National Networks National Policy Statement (NNNPS), which governs the development of major projects on England’s road and rail networks.

The announcement came as part of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) much-delayed Transport decarbonisation plan but follows a legal challenge to the 2014 NNNPS on the grounds that it does not reflect the Government’s more recent commitments relating to climate change.

In a document that is light on genuinely new policies, the DfT also announced an ‘intention’ to phase out the sale of new diesel and petrol HGVs by 2040, ‘subject to consultation’.

The consultation proposes a 2035 phase out date for vehicles weighing from 3.5 to 26 tonnes and 2040 for vehicles weighing more than 26 tonnes – ‘or earlier if a faster transition seems feasible’.

The document states that the Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands, also significantly delayed, will be published 'in due course' and that rail electrification projects will be announced 'shortly'.

The DfT said the plan ‘also sets out how the government will improve public transport and increase support for active travel to make them the natural first choice for all who can take them – creating a net zero rail network by 2050, ensuring net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040 and leading the transition to green shipping’.

In the foreword to the document, transport secretary Grant Shapps conflated zero emission and zero carbon vehicles. He wrote: ‘It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive, but increasingly in zero emission cars.’

Mr Shapps added: ‘Our major transport infrastructure programmes were designed before the pandemic. We want to understand how changing patterns of work, shopping and business travel might affect them. As new demand patterns become clearer, we will also review the National Policy Statement which sets out the Government’s policies on the national road network.’

Current road building plans include a tunnel for the A303 at Stonehenge

Chris Todd, director of Transport Action Network, which has brought legal challenges to both the 2020-25 Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2) and the NNNPS, described the promised review as ‘a step in the right direction’ that ‘vindicates our two legal challenges of Grants Shapps’ previous refusals to re-examine this outdated roads policy in the last 12 months’. But he warned that it would not necessarily deliver the change needed and was also unlikely to ‘happen very quickly when urgent action is required in this area’.

He said: ‘Without a cut to RIS2 funding and soon, the roads programme will continue pulling us in the wrong direction, undermining the ambition in this plan. That’s why our third legal challenge on RIS2 is so important in getting the UK back on track to meet our national targets and to start to show international leadership ahead of COP26. A judgement on that challenge is imminent.’

Roger Geffen, policy director at Cycling UK, said the plan ‘contains some interesting ideas [but] seems confused about the overall direction it is going in’.

He said: ‘As we emerge from the pandemic and approach the international COP26 climate summit, this was a golden opportunity to show leadership, by setting targets for how quickly we will halt and reverse the growth of road traffic, and to re-allocate transport spending accordingly.’

Among other road transport ‘commitments’ in the plan is the re-announcement of an existing £15m spend in 2021/22 ‘to help address the backlog in traffic signal maintenance to improve traffic flow and reduce emissions’.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


  • Smart motorways' BCR problem
  • New lighting decision support tool



View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Senior Project Manager

Up to £50,823 per annum
The role of this post is to oversee the project management, development and implementation of the County Council’s Major Transport Projects.. Leicestershire
Recruiter: Leicestershire County Council

Programme and Change Delivery Manager (Spatial Planning and Urban Design)

£43,833 - £53,115 Depending on skills and experience
Are you a change delivery manager with expertise in England’s local government spatial planning and urban design sector? Wandsworth, London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Bridges Manager – Highways and Transportation

£49,320 to £57,376
You will be responsible for... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Head of Major Projects and Infrastructure – Highways and Transportation

£59,526 to £67,815 plus 10% recruitment payment
This role will be pivotal to the effective delivery of our Highways and Transportation service, therefore requires an... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Principal Travel Plan Officer

£34,728 to £38,890 per annum
We have a fantastic opening within our team for a Principal Travel Plan Officer. Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Director of Economy & Environment

£96,414 to £106,650 per annum
You will play a leading role in driving forward the county’s ambitious growth programme. Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Gloucestershire County Council

Director of Transport & Highways

£96,414 to £106,650 per annum
You will play a leading role in driving forward Gloucestershire’s ambitious, multi-million pound transport and highways programme. Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Gloucestershire County Council

Board and Partnership Board Chair

Up to £60,000 per annum
This is unique opportunity to lead the Northern agenda and play a pivotal role in creating new opportunities for 15 million people in the North. Manchester/Leeds (Flexible)
Recruiter: Transport for the North

Waste Strategy Manager

£47,672 per annum
We are looking to recruit a waste strategy specialist to add the necessary technical expertise to our team. North Tyneside, Tyne and Wear
Recruiter: North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council

Highways Officers

£26,999 to £29,636
Are you someone who is looking to progress their career with one of the most highly regarded highway services in the country? Selby, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Highways Operative

£19,312 to £21,748
We are looking for Highways Operatives to work as part of our operations teams here at Kirklees Council. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Senior Environmental Health Officer

£44,370 - £50,964 per annum
As a Senior Officer in the Food Safety & Infectious Disease team, you will be one of the operational leads on... Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recruiter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Permit Officer

£24,982 - £27,041
In October 2016 Cambridgeshire County Council launched it Permit Scheme for Road Works and Street Works. Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Traffic Systems Engineer

Competitive Salary
This is a full time role, with a minimum of 37 hours a week for a 6 month interim period, with the potential of the role going permanent. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Transport Compliance Officer

£27,741 - £30,451 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen for two Transport Compliance Officers to join our Transport Services team at... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Client Team Leader - Highway Maintenance

£40,876 - £42,821 per annum
Are you looking for a challenge that widens your experience, adds something unique to your CV and helps to make Warwickshire the best it can be?  Warwickshire
Recruiter: Warwickshire County Council

Head of Waste & Parking

£62,235–£68,615 pa
Are you passionate about waste recycling and the bigger picture of sustainability and tackling the climate emergency? Horsham, West Sussex
Recruiter: Horsham District Council

Project Engineer x2

Grade H £35,745 - £43,857
We’re looking for experienced civil engineers to join our well-regarded design and implementation team. Havant, Hampshire
Recruiter: Havant Borough Council

Environment Locality Officer

£27,741 - £29,577 per annum
The officer will play a key role in collaborative working with other internal & external stakeholders specifically... Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Senior Principal Structures Engineer

£39,880 - £42,821 per annum
We are looking for a dynamic structurally competent and relevantly experienced officer, to deliver the structural requirements and disciplines on... Bristol
Recruiter: Bristol City Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video