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Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution > News Releases, Consultation Responses and Statements > 26 October 1994  

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26 October 1994


A new strategy covering all forms of transport well into the 21st century is outlined in a report published by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

Speaking on 26 October 1994 at the launch of the report the Chairman of the Royal Commission, Sir John Houghton, said 'An effective transport system is vital both for the efficient functioning of the economy and for the quality of life. Ways must be found to make the longer-term development of transport environmentally sustainable. We have proposed specific objectives and targets to provide the basis for a sustainable transport policy.'

The report identifies as major adverse effects of the present transport system:

deaths and injuries from road accidents
health and other effects from air pollution
the growing contribution to the greenhouse effect
the impact of road-building
disruption of communities by traffic
nuisance from noise
growing demands for non-renewable materials.

The Royal Commission expresses particular concern about the consequences of further large-scale growth in road traffic. It highlights the conflict between official forecasts of a doubling in traffic by 2025 and a road-building programme which, although spending more money than ever before, would not stop congestion getting worse. The report also draws attention to the environmental implications of the even more rapid growth in air traffic.

The key to a sustainable transport policy, the Royal Commission has concluded, is co-ordinated action by government and industry on several fronts. Economic growth cannot continue in a sustainable way unless transport and land use planning are integrated. Technology must be improved to cut fuel consumption and make vehicles less polluting. New residential, commercial and leisure developments should be sensibly located, so that people do not have to travel long distances, and are not forced to use cars for their journeys. The cost of private transport will have to rise because at the moment it does not reflect damage done to health and the environment. Resources should be switched from road-building to improving public transport.

The Royal Commission envisages the majority of journeys will continue to be made by car. However it wants health standards for air quality to be achieved throughout the UK by 2005 at the latest. The measures recommended for this purpose include tighter legal limits on emissions from all types of road vehicle, changes in the composition of fuel, collaborative research programmes, and incentives to owners of heavy vehicles in urban areas to use natural gas as fuel. The report also proposes targets for reducing noise levels, and for increased recycling of materials used in vehicles and road surfaces.

To help stem the rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the Royal Commission proposes that the fuel efficiency of new cars sold in the UK should be improved by 40% on average by 2005.

Much more use should be made of forms of transport which do less damage. Many short journeys can be made on foot or by cycle, if a network of safe routes is created. As well as protecting the environment, this would ease the health problems being caused by lack of physical fitness. The report proposes specific targets for reducing the proportion of journeys made by car in urban areas.

A continuing spiral of further road-building leading to further traffic growth would not be sustainable. The Royal Commission recommends that expenditure on motorways and trunk roads should be reduced to about half its present level. Resources should be switched to a ten-year programme to boost the convenience and reliability of rail services and other forms of public transport, which do less damage to the environment. The report also recommends ways of making more effective use of the existing road network.

The Royal Commission proposes specific targets for increasing the proportion of travel by public transport over the next 25 years, and for increasing the proportions of freight carried by rail and water.

The report endorses the framework for a sustainable transport policy which the government put forward in January 1994. The Royal Commission concludes that the price of fuel needs to double by 2005, implying larger annual increases in fuel duty than the government has so far committed itself to. This will provide the incentive for manufacturers to develop more fuel-efficient cars and lorries. There could be offsetting reductions in other forms of taxation, or part of the revenue from higher fuel duty could be used to fund improvements in public transport.

The most rapidly growing sector of transport is international air traffic. The Royal Commission calls for joint action by governments to end the anomaly that airlines do not pay any tax on fuel. It also calls for more stringent and comprehensive international controls on emissions and noise from aircraft engines.

Summing up the report's message, Sir John Houghton said: 'We hope the overall vision we have presented will generate the impetus and commitment required to realise the benefits of a new transport strategy. The challenge must be taken up by government, by industry, and by all of us individually. There are opportunities for industry to develop innovative technologies that will be competitive in world markets. The prize is a transport system which will be much less damaging to health and the environment, and at the same time more efficient in providing the access people want for work and for leisure.'

'Transport and the environment', the Royal Commission's 18th Report, is published by HMSO at �25.60 (Cm 2674, ISBN 0 10 126742 8).

Additional Information

The report 'Transport and the environment' identifies 8 objectives for a sustainable transport policy, and contains 110 recommendations and 17 proposed targets. A table showing the objectives and targets is attached, together with a list of some key recommendations.

A framework for a sustainable transport policy, which the Royal Commission endorses, was put forward by the government in January 1994 in 'Sustainable development: the UK strategy' (Cm 2426).

In preparing its report over the last 2� years, the Royal Commission has made a general survey of the environmental effects of transport systems and focused on those which it considers should have highest priority. It received written and oral evidence from a large number of organisations and individuals, including government departments, trade associations and academics. It sought the views of transport users at a public meeting in Gateshead in July 1993. Visits were made to installations and organisations in the UK and other countries. Among special studies carried out was a projection of vehicle emissions to 2025, taking account of foreseeable developments in pollution control.

After analysing recent trends and the consequences for health and the environment, the report considers alternative perspectives on transport policy. It discusses the economic costs and benefits of transport, the potential for improvements in road vehicle technology and performance, and the interaction between transport and land use planning. It puts forward the components for a sustainable transport policy under the headings of freight, local journeys and long-distance transport. Finally it makes recommendations about the implications for national and local government, the organisation of transport services, and the European Community.

Royal Commission reports are presented to the Queen and laid before Parliament. The government publishes a detailed response, by convention within 6-12 months.


A: To ensure that an effective transport policy at all levels of government is integrated with land use policy and gives priority to minimising the need for transport and increasing the proportions of trips made by environmentally less damaging modes.

B: To achieve standards of air quality that will prevent damage to human health and the environment.

B1: To achieve full compliance by 2005 with World Health Organization (WHO) health-based air quality guidelines for transport-related pollutants.
B2: To establish in appropriate areas by 2005 local air quality standards based on the critical levels required to protect sensitive ecosystems.

C: To improve the quality of life, particularly in towns and cities, by reducing the dominance of cars and lorries and providing alternative means of access.

C1: To reduce the proportion of urban journeys undertaken by car from 50% in the London area to 45% by 2000 and 35% by 2020, and from 65% in other urban areas to 60% by 2000 and 50% by 2020.
C2: To increase cycle use to 10% of all urban journeys by 2005, compared to 2.5% now, and seek further increases thereafter on the basis of targets to be set by the government.
C3: To reduce pedestrian deaths from 2.2 per 100,000 population to not more than 1.5 per 100,000 population by 2000, and cyclist deaths from 4.1 per 100 million kilometres cycled to not more than 2 per 100 million kilometres cycled by the same date.

D: To increase the proportions of personal travel and freight transport by environmentally less damaging modes and to make the best use of existing infrastructure.

D1: To increase the proportion of passenger-kilometres carried by public transport from 12% in 1993 to 20% by 2005 and 30% by 2020.
D2: To increase the proportion of tonne-kilometres carried by rail from 6.5% in 1993 to 10% by 2000 and 20% by 2010.
D3: To increase the proportion of tonne-kilometres carried by water from 25% in 1993 to 30% by 2000, and at least maintain that share thereafter.

E: To halt any loss of land to transport infrastructure in areas of conservation, cultural, scenic or amenity value unless the use of the land for that purpose has been shown to be the best practicable environmental option.

F: To reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport.

F1: To reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from surface transport in 2020 to no more than 80% of the 1990 level.
F2: To limit emissions of carbon dioxide from surface transport in 2000 to the 1990 level.
F3: To increase the average fuel efficiency of new cars sold in the UK by 40% between 1990 and 2005, that of new light goods vehicles by 20%, and that of new heavy duty vehicles by 10%.

G: To reduce substantially the demands which transport infrastructure and the vehicle industry place on non-renewable materials.

G1: To increase the proportion by weight of scrapped vehicles which is recycled, or used for energy generation, from 77% at present to 85% by 2002 and 95% by 2015.
G2: To increase the proportion of vehicles tyres recycled, or used for energy generation, from less than a third at present to 90% by 2015.
G3: To double the proportion of recycled material used in road construction and reconstruction by 2005, and double it again by 2015.

H: To reduce noise nuisance from transport.

H1: To reduce daytime exposure to road and rail noise to not more than 65 dBL Aeq.16h at the external walls of housing.
H2: To reduce night-time exposure to road and rail noise to not more than 59 dBL Aeq.8h at the external walls of housing.


Numbers in parentheses refer to numbered recommendations in the report.

Base decisions at all levels of transport policy on finding the best practicable environmental option (40)

Reduce expenditure on motorways and other trunk roads to about half the present level (58)

Double the price of fuel by 2005 (28)

A big increase in public transport investment over a ten-year period (70)

Tighter EC emission limits for all types of new vehicle (2)

Vary excise duty on heavy vehicles according to emissions (8)

Ban unleaded super premium petrol (10)

Reduce the permitted benzene content of petrol to 1% (11)

Incentives to operators of heavy vehicles in urban areas to use natural gas as fuel (14)

Government, vehicle manufacturers and dismantlers to develop a cradle-to-grave strategy for recycling (26)

Reduce vehicle excise duty for fuel-efficient cars, but increase it for less efficient cars (30)

New tax rules for company cars, including abolition of mileage thresholds (31)

Increased enforcement of speed limits (35)

Grants for new port facilities for coastal shipping (77/78)

An immediate start on increasing the loading gauge on the Channel Tunnel to Scotland route, so that lorries or trailers can be carried on rail wagons (80)

More bus lanes, and priority for buses at junctions in urban areas (84)

More resources for new light-rail systems (87)

Comprehensive networks of safe pedestrian routes and cycleways (97/98/99)

Discourage air travel for domestic and near-European journeys for which rail is competitive (109)

Restructure responsibilities within Department of Transport, from Ministerial level downwards, to reflect a fundamentally different approach (53)

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