Public transport upgrade for net zero could deliver £52bn productivity boost

13th April 2023


The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has published an investment plan to overhaul public transport across England and Wales, which it claims could help deliver net-zero emissions and provide a £52bn productivity boost by 2030.

The plan includes electrification of the full rail network, a new guarantee of an hourly bus service for every village, and completion of both branches of HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Midlands Rail Hub.

It would result in a 120% mileage increase in journeys by bus and tram, an 80% increase in journeys by rail, and a 10% reduction in car travel, according to the TUC’s analysis.

Furthermore, the plan would deliver 140,000 new jobs in bus, tram, and rail operation, and 830,000 jobs in manufacture, construction, and infrastructure for buses and trams by 2035.

It would require an average of £9.9bn in annual capital expenditure over the next 12 years, and the additional operating costs for expanded bus, tram and rail services would reach £18.8bn annually by 2030.

The TUC said that the proposals fill a “gaping hole” in the government’s recently published net-zero strategy, which failed to explain how it will achieve the “modal shift” away from car use that the Committee on Climate Change says is necessary.

"Everyone knows that we have to cut carbon emissions – and that switching to public transport is a big part of how do it,” explained TUC general secretary Paul Nowak. "Investing in public transport will help us meet net zero targets and reduce the threat of catastrophic climate change.”

The investment plan – produced for the TUC by Transport for Quality of Life – is designed to meet the UK’s target to cut emissions by 68% from 1990 levels by 2030.

Overall, it estimates that up to 1.8 million jobs would be supported indirectly through the rail investment, although they cannot all be considered ‘new’ jobs as there would be movement across the labour market.

Further GDP gains would also be expected from construction work and supply chains across the period of capital expenditure to 2035.

Nowak added: “Commuters will have faster and cheaper journeys to work. New connections will bring new businesses to places where people need economic opportunities. We will save lives with cleaner air. And we will reduce loneliness and isolation by making everyone better connected, wherever you live.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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