Memorandum submitted by the Institution
of Mechanical Engineers
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is well
placed to respond to this new inquiry, having some 35,000 of its
professional engineering membership involved or associated with
transport in the UK. This institution considers that reducing
carbon emissions from transport should be very high on the Government
agenda and it is disappointing, that the Environmental Audit Committee
has allowed such a short time to reply to this Inquiry. Whilst
the short time available for a response does not allow us to propose
realistic definitive targets, we consider that it is almost certain
that current revised Government targets for reducing carbon emissions
will not be achieved.
There appears to be no public awareness of a
DTI underpinning strategy for reducing carbon emissions from transport
nor any "Projects Grandes" aimed at facing up to unpopular
choices for the national good. A rail system for a population
pattern a century out of date is one such issue and the expanding
demand for cheap short-haul flights could well be another. Bold
long term Government policies going beyond the life of one Parliament
and that have cross party support are required to effectively
tackle these issues.
There are numerous opportunities to improve
environmental impact of transport, all of which need to be addressed
and radical action taken now if the UK is to achieve maximum net
Whilst it is obvious that action in some areas
will yield significant "step change" gains, an integrated
approach is more likely to achieve the best overall results.
With informed forecasts of a net increase in
carbon emissions from transport if strong early action is not
taken, it is considered that the opportunities outlined in this
response should be exploited as a matter of urgency, irrespective
of the Government's revised targets.
The following response covers strategic issues
and the main modes of transport. This should be read in conjunction
with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers comments on UK Energy
Policy which can be found on www.imeche.org.uk/media/parliament/position_statements.asp
Carbon dioxide emissions targetsit
is considered that the revised Government targets for 2010 and
2020 are not achievable with the current planned levels of public
investment. The setting and structuring of realistic and progressive
targets together with methods of measuring success should match
resources and the technology available. Government should determine
what needs to be done to deliver these targets and provide sufficient
Government (DfT) financial support for what is needed to deliver.
Substantial long term support should be provided for research
to underpin a programme that is achievable.
Cleaner existing fuelsthe
production and use of lower sulphur diesel has had a major effect
on particulate emissions and hence reduced exhaust emissions.
This has been geared to meet gaseous emissions legislation and
the downside of this is that this has been also been an enabler
in the development of larger and more powerful engines that consume
more fuel. More detailed study of the net effects of producing
lower sulphur fuels is urgently required. Existing grants schemes
for relevant R&D in this area should be extended and additional
funding ring fenced. At the same time a more stringent policy
on the production and use of the more pollutant fuels should be
adopted, backed up with legislation if necessary.
blends, fuel cells and other alternatives are all being researched
and these offer great potential for reducing CO2 emissions
as well as reducing our fossil fuel dependency. Government needs
to invest even more in detailed research into these options as
a matter of urgency ensuring that any resulting intellectual property
rights provide a return on this investment.
credits or other similar incentives should be offered to reward
success. Any such structure should not be too prescriptive so
as not to stifle any lateral thinking and should accommodate innovative
approaches. It should be applicable across the whole spectrum
from fuels and engines to materials and infrastructure. It is
expected that the application of Microsystems and Nanotechnology
in many areas will have the greatest potential impact.
Government policya clear
and workable integrated long term Government transport policy
is required together with appropriate and adequate financial incentives.
The policy should aim to encourage a better balance of transport
usage (passenger and freight), favour the most environmentally
friendly solutions and promote increased use of public transport.
Other areas of Government policy such as housing, employment,
leisure and city regeneration should empathise with this to ensure
no department works in isolation.
Public educationthe penalties
and costs incurred in pursuing a policy of reducing carbon emissions
by transport and the implications of not doing so have to be faced
by the whole population. There is an alarming public ignorance
of these issues and Government needs to invest in a simplified
and clearly worded programme that informs people of all ages and
especially in schools. Included in this programme should be Government
strategy, realistic aims, achievements, incentives and the various
funding mechanisms currently available. Most of the solutions
will directly affect the general public and it would be naïve
to expect their support if they are uninformed of the issues.
Cleaner production of electricitythis
is a major part of the wider energy debate and the policies adopted
here will play a crucial and integral part of the strategy to
reduce carbon emissions in transport, particularly in rail. Authentic
and realistic estimates of the net emissions benefits for transport
should be commissioned for each option under consideration for
national power generation. These figures should be made public
as soon as possible. Government should press for early introduction
of sustainable and economically balanced electricity generation
with no source discounted for political expedience.
This mode of transport has the
most favourable passenger/pollutant ratio even when the environmental
cost of producing the base power is taken into account. Increasing
the capacity of the rail system appears therefore to be highly
Significant investment is already
being made by Government and private sectors to improve infrastructure,
signalling and rolling stock and this should be continued.
However, in the long term the
real limitation will be lack of track and bold long term policies
backed by legislative support are needed to solve this issue.
This may be politically unpopular but the consequences of not
doing this are more unpalatable.
Other areas that need to be
encouraged as a matter of urgency are efficiencies in regeneration
of power, the use of hybrid engine technology and materials research
aimed at weight reduction.
Road transport is almost entirely
fuelled by oil and therefore any advances in "cleaner"
or alternative fuels will have a significant impact. However,
with the whole of road transport being responsible for only 5%
of the total of carbon emissions, even a major reduction would
have minimal net effect. That said, this is one clear area that
has potential for sustainable and environmental benefit.
Any improvements in the quality
of fuels will have a direct effect as will developments in alternative
Considerable research is being
undertaken by engine manufacturers into reducing emissions, alternative
sources of power and increasing efficiency.
However, this high level investment in R&D
by the private sector despite pressures of a very competitive
market is not matched by similar levels of Public support. It
is considered that current levels of public investment will yield
insufficient environmental returns to meet realistic targets.
Government should stimulate
research through financial investment and encourage success through
matching environmental legislation.
Government should mandate for
priority schemes for public transport, providing a financial,
regulatory or incentivised structure to encourage a shift to electric
traction. Priority should also be given to schemes that demonstrate
a net environmental advantage (eg CrossRail in London and trams
in Leeds). Other areas that should be addressed are intelligent
highway systems, a school bus service that makes domestic "school
runs" unnecessary and reform the road taxation system to
be more cost/unitdistance focussed.
Air transport currently produces
12.5% of carbon the total emissions by transport (Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Control and www.greenerbydesign.org.uk hosted
by RAeS) and is therefore an area of considerable potential gain
for advances in improving fuels.
There are opportunities in materials
and design, including engines and in the associated support infrastructure,
but these generally involve long term research and benefits will
take a long time to impact. Much valuable research has been carried
out in these areas by the Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team
(AeIGT) and "Greener by Design", both of which are supported
by Government and this is encouraging.
The modus operandi of
aircraft should be a target for detailed research that can be
used as a firm basis for formulating policies, in conjunction
with the European Union. Policies should favour the most environmentally
friendly methods of transport and discourage the most pollutant.
Much is often made of research into overall journey times between
city centres using different modes of transport (rail/air in particular)
but there has been no independent comparative research on the
net emissions effect on the environment. This is required urgently
bearing in mind the rapid growth of cheap short-haul flights.
1. Strategic actions
(a) Carbon dioxide emissions targets:
Fund urgent research and use results
as base for targets;
Set realistic progressive targets;
Determine what needs to be done to
Provide necessary assistance to deliver.
Commission study to determine net
effects of producing lower sulphur fuels;
Extend and ring fence existing R&D
Legislate to discourage production
and use of the more pollutant fuels.
Government to increase investment
in research as priority.
(d) Government incentives:
More tax credits or similar incentives
to reward success.
Government to set bold, clear, integrated
and long term transport policy with financial incentives.
Invest in extensive public information
programme to get public support.
(g) Production of electricity:
Commission major study on net emission
effects on each option under consideration and publicise results.
2. Specific actions
Adopt bold long term policies and
the necessary legislation to introduce more track; and
Encourage research into efficiencies
in regeneration of power, the use of hybrid technologies and weight
reduction for existing rolling stock.
Increase Government support for R&D
of reducing emissions, alternative power sources and increasing
Legislate or provide incentives to
encourage priority schemes for public transport and a shift to
electric traction and other schemes that reduce pollutant emissions.
Commission detailed research to use
as basis for new policies favouring the more environmentally friendly
modes of transport and legislate accordingly.