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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

New transport technology can clean up London’s air- but only if Mayor Khan seizes opportunity

Think tank IPPR argues that London transport is at a tipping point due to new digital technology

In a new report, IPPR, the progressive policy think tank, argues that the city is at a crossroads between two futures. One where the transport network is increasingly gridlocked, the air grows ever dirtier and the cost of accessing good transport increases. Or one where all can harness the best of digital technology, reducing journeys and air pollution, and opening up new opportunities to make London a more attractive place to live.

The report investigates how new technology could help or hinder efforts to effect more sustainable forms of travel behaviour and are already having a tangible impact on the way that Londoner’s move around the city. New private hire technology like Uber and new delivery patterns driven by companies like Amazon are just a first glimpse of the size of the revolution that digital technologies will unleash on London’s transport system. Future technologies, like autonomous vehicles and Mobility as Service platforms, promise even bigger and more rapid change.

There are potentially many positive effects of including these services into London’s integrated transport network, therefore Mayor of London Sadiq Khan needs to seize the opportunity:

  • Car clubs, like DriveNow and Zipcar, should be a key part of the Mayor’s vision for London’s transport system and so the Mayor’s Transport Strategy should include measures for how car clubs can help achieve key transport objectives;
  • Developing an explicit framework for new travel markets, in collaboration with operators of new transport services such as flexible car clubs and demand-responsive taxi services;
  • TfL and boroughs should work with operators to develop borough-by-borough agreements to enable car club development;
  • Setting out a set of positive outcomes for the transport system, and how each new service and mode can contribute to support the uptake of more sustainable travel;
  • Making TfL the central hub for travel data in London to help target areas in need of more efficient means of transport and create a more equal transport system as a whole;
  • Appointing a chief digital officer for London who anticipates the potential impacts of digital technologies and ensures the London government takes action on these to modernise the city’s transport system.

Laurie Laybourn-Langton, IPPR Research Fellow said:

“London is on the cusp of major changes to the way people move around the city. Shared transport and digital technology have the potential to drive positive transport outcomes and overcome London’s transport difficulties, thereby improving the city’s spaces and Londoner’s lives.

“Public intervention is required to realise these ends, and a window of opportunity currently exists in which action can and must be taken by London’s government. When this window closes, it will significantly increase the chances of a negative path dependence upon which technology will worsen existing problems, such as air pollution and congestion, and create new ones.

“Therefore, the mayor should incorporate a vision for new transport technologies into the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. If defined by a clear set of objectives for London’s overall transport network and a framework through which it can be achieved, this vision can deliver a more sustainable, accessible and active London transport system.”



Becky Malone 07585 772633 [email protected]

Editor’s Notes:

  1. Copies of the report, Crossroads – choosing a future for London’s transport in the digital age, can be found here.
  2. This report has been supported by BMW Group, DriveNow, and Zipcar.
  3. The report will be launched at an event at London’s Living Room, City Hall, London from 1245 Hrs Friday 24 March 2017. For further details including accreditation information for members of the media please email [email protected]
  4. This event has been supported by the BMW Group, BVRLA, DriveNow, and Zipcar.
  5. IPPR aims to influence policy in the present and reinvent progressive politics in the future, and is dedicated to the better country that Britain can be through progressive policy and politics. With nearly 60 staff across four offices throughout the UK, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.

    Our independent research is wide ranging, it covers the economy, work, skills, transport, democracy, the environment, education, energy, migration and healthcare among many other areas.