Universities collaboration signposts pathways to decarbonisation

August 5th 2020

As part of the evidence base for Draft Transport Strategy, EEH commissioned the universities of Oxford and Southampton to show how net zero transport emissions from transport can be achieved no later than 2050.

Pathways to Decarbonisation maps the EEH road and rail transport network and uses advanced modelling to demonstrate a variety of 'pathways' EEH could take to achieve a net zero carbon transport system by 2050. 

The National Infrastructure Systems Model (NISMOD), developed by the Infrastructure Transitions Research Consortium (ITRC), was used to advise on alternative pathways to decarbonisation. The NISMOD v2 Transport Model is currently the only national-scale road traffic model capable of carrying out such sophisticated calculations and analysis. 

Following this, EEH has chosen to use two main pathways of activity.  These are: 

i) Creating a highly connected transport system that provides better transport information to the user, better management of the transport network, and the rapid deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles, which in combination supports changing work and travel patterns.
ii) Enabling a policy-led behavioural shift where levers are applied to reduce the number of car trips. 

EEH believes this combined pathway is deliverable and viable. It provides an affordable alternative to traditional, large-scale road projects that take many years to plan, fund and deliver.

(For more information on why these pathways were chosen, please see James Golding-Graham's blog)

Martin Tugwell, Programme Director at England's Economic Heartland, said: "EEH is committed to net zero emissions from transport by 2050 – if not sooner. Our partnership with ITRC demonstrates how we are harnessing the world class expertise and innovation which exists in the region in order to achieve this. We know a 'business as usual' approach to our transport system and relying on national interventions alone will not get us where we need to be – we need to go further. 

"By utilising cutting edge modelling techniques, Pathways to Decarbonisation is an incredibly valuable piece of work, exploring the extra measures which could be taken. It shows there is a viable pathway to achieving zero carbon but that this requires a wholesale change to the way we view and plan connectivity: a systems approach that aligns interventions in transport, digital and energy infrastructure to a common objective. Our Draft Transport Strategy reflects this paradigm shift."

Professor Jim Hall, Director of Research in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford and Director of the ITRC, said: "The UK is committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net zero, and every part of the economy needs to contribute. Decarbonising transport is a big challenge, but technology is now giving us a big help because electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and can now drive as far after a full charge as a polluting car does on a tank of petrol. 

"However, this analysis by the Universities of Oxford and Southampton demonstrates that technology is not enough. There needs to be very firm policy leadership, including on the question of road user charging, together with infrastructure investments in electric vehicle charging, public transport, walking and cycling. 

"Our analysis has used the NISMOD infrastructure simulation model to explore possible futures and advise England's Economic Heartland on the choices that need to be made to ensure that the region's Transport Strategy is consistent with our climate commitments."