Public don’t prioritise sustainability in new urban transport development

A new study by Copper Consultancy has found a disconnect between government and public priorities for urban transport development, particularly when it comes to sustainable forms of transport. Following Theresa May’s commitment to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, the report, Public attitudes to urban transport, indicates that people are more willing to support infrastructure that presents tangible benefits, as opposed to meeting broader national needs.  

Specialist infrastructure and development communications consultancy, Copper Consultancy, this year conducted a survey of 1,600 people across the UK, following a period where large rail and road schemes have dominated the conversation around the country’s transport network. 

The study found that despite the current government’s zero-carbon agenda, respondents were more invested in direct, tangible benefits of new developments. Only 28% of respondents prioritise improving sustainability and air quality in new transport architecture, as opposed to the following top three priority benefits - more reliable journeys (37%), greater access to public transport (33%) and easier commutes to work (31%).

“With urbanisation on the up at the same time as a global climate emergency top of the news agenda, the smooth delivery of greener, more efficient urban transport infrastructure is crucial,” commented Andrew Weaver, director of infrastructure and major projects at Copper. “To do that, urban planners need to get better at setting out a vision to communities to build support for new urban transport projects.

“Our research shows that it’s important for promoters to form long term, meaningful relationships with the public to build trust from when projects are proposed through to delivery. A successful project needs to be aligned with public objectives, telling a story that resonates with national audiences as well as local communities.

“Investment into transport infrastructure like heavy rail only tend to be supported if the public can see how it will benefit their own communities by adding tangible benefits. Investors and planners therefore need to change their approach by communicating the benefits of their schemes, and to get better at bringing opportunities to life for communities in order to deliver significant projects for the UK,” said Weaver.

Click here to access the Public attitudes to urban transport report.

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