What’s on : Lectures

Decarbonising Transport

15 Feb 2023
Start time
7:00 PM
Dave Atkinson, Head of Highways and Transport, City of York Council
Decarbonising Transport

Event Information

Dave Atkinson, Head of Highways and Transport, City of York Council

Transport contributes around 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in York and as part of the City’s climate change strategy it is projected that a significant reduction in these emissions is required to deliver on the City’s climate change ambitions. The challenge in delivery is balancing needs around private and public transport and reducing emissions and improving health and wellbeing. Projects in York looking to address these challenges include the electrification of the bus fleet, smart transport systems and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), City wide shared mobility schemes (including e-bikes and e-scooters) and studies into freight movement in the City and small parcel delivery.

Joint Lecture with IET (The Institution of Engineering and Technology) North Yorkshire

Lecture to be held in the Tempest Anderson Lecture Theatre, Yorkshire Museum,
YO1 7DR at 7pm


Image credit: Creative Commons

Member’s report:

Dave started his talk by contrasting his own role in trying to reduce carbon with that of his grandparents who were employed in the coal and shipping industries – both huge producers of carbon.  He described himself as ‘multi-modal man’, in that he uses all forms of transport and therefore understands their operation.

The City Council’s climate change strategy requires a significant reduction of 71% of overall carbon emissions by 2030. Transport contributes around 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in York. This is a huge challenge both practically and in political terms. For example, reaching this target implies reducing the number of journeys made by private cars by about 20%, accompanied by a 50% increase in journeys made by public transport, and a doubling of journeys made on foot or by bicycle. Clearly, we will require an urgent package of ‘sticks and carrots’ to bring about changes on this scale and to such a tight timescale.

Dave described the main delivery challenge as balancing the need for private and public transport whilst reducing emissions and improving health and wellbeing. He used some statistics from the Council’s 2021 Big Conversation to suggest that there was generally a high level of support from the people of York to move transport in a more sustainable direction.

Dave made clear that, with local elections looming, he was unable to discuss in detail the proposals in the Council’s draft Local Transport Strategy. However, he illustrated what the Council was doing with four examples of contributions of de-carbonising transport: the use of mass transit, asset sharing, last mile zero emissions and the application of technology

He went on to show how York is addressing the challenge through a number of related initiatives. The introduction of a voluntary Clean Air Zone for buses has supported the rapid  electrification of the bus fleet, underpinned by Government funding through the ZEBRA scheme. A pilot micro-mobility scheme, based on e-bikes and e-scooters, is in operation managed by TIER and funded through the Department for Transport. An investigation is under way into zero carbon freight movement in the City Centre using hand portering and cargo bikes. It is the Council’s ambition in the medium term to achieve zero carbon delivery of small parcels throughout its area and to encourage freight transhipment from HGVs to smaller zero carbon forms of transport.

Dave then discussed how new technologies should help to reduce the carbon footprint of transport. This was not simply a matter of introducing electric vehicles, and later semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles. Smart transport systems can provide information to vehicles and their drivers, controlling traffic flows and routes. The latter had already been trialled on the A59 corridor.

The talk was followed by a lively discussion, which largely focused on whether the impact York’s initiatives in terms of carbon reduction could be measured, and whether they were adequate given the scale of the overall challenge. There were some difficult decisions ahead, especially in getting people to change their behaviour. In response to one question Dave accepted that ‘carrots’ alone would not be sufficient to achieve the 20% reduction in car use, and that some controls on the use of private and commercial vehicles would also be needed. Possible ‘sticks’ might include workplace parking levies, congestion charging and traffic filters.

John Stevens