Investing in public transport could give economy £50bn annual boost, says TUC
Ministers have been urged to ramp up spending on public transport in England and Wales to tackle the climate emergency, and to unlock a £50bn a year boost to the economy, in a report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
The report released by the TUC, a federation representing 48 unions, argues for a radical increase in investment – calling for £18bn more a year to be spent on operating trains, trams and buses to help cut car use by 20%, improve quality of life and boost the UK economy.
The TUC said the government’s own net zero strategy had failed to set out how to achieve the “modal shift” from cars that the independent Committee on Climate Change said would be needed – on top of the shift to electric vehicles – if the UK was to reduce carbon emissions by 68% from 1990 levels by the end of the decade, as pledged in the Paris agreement.
The TUC plan, produced by the charity Transport for Quality of Life, recommends trebling annual bus subsidies and more than doubling day-to-day rail spending from 2019 levels – bringing public transport budgets roughly up to Covid emergency funding levels on a long-term basis to help people switch from cars to sustainable transport.
The TUC also argues for £10bn a year to be invested in infrastructure over the decade, including building HS2 in full, electrifying the entire rail network and guaranteeing an hourly bus service for every village.
The report said that investment would boost annual GDP by £52.1bn by 2030 through productivity gains – an estimate based on comparisons with European locations with better public transport provision – and create 140,000 new transport jobs.
The TUC’s general secretary, Paul Nowak, said the body was “doing the work that Conservative ministers should have done with their empty and incompetent net zero strategy”.
He said: “Everyone knows that we have to cut carbon emissions – and that switching to public transport is a big part of how do it.
“Investing in public transport will help us meet net zero targets and reduce the threat of catastrophic climate change. And it creates jobs throughout England and Wales, boosts the economy in every community and improves everyone’s quality of life.
“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.”
The plan will be launched on Wednesday in Manchester by the TUC, alongside Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, and transport union leaders.
It excludes Scotland and London as both have already set out plans to reduce car use and approach net zero targets.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government’s transport decarbonisation plan is an ambitious and credible pathway to reducing transport emissions.
“We’ve electrified 800 miles of rail track in the last six years alone, remain committed to our integrated rail plan and the construction of HS2 will support 29,000 jobs, drive business across the nation and bring transformational benefits to passengers and communities for generations to come.”