Transport is the largest source of climate change emissions in the UK. Leicester is one of the five fastest growing cities in the UK. Cutting emissions from transport will be key to the City Council meeting its ambitions of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. The council has invested almost £40 million in walking, cycling and public transport across the city. It aims to double cycling rates and boost bus journeys by 10%. Measures include new ticket technology, an express electric bus network, new bus lanes and walking and cycling routes, and electric bike hire.
The city’s transport policies are part of the Connecting Leicester programme, which is designed to make active travel more attractive to local people while reducing the dominance of roads in the city centre.
Projects launched in 2021 include:
The first assessment of the impact of Leicester’s policies will be made in mid-2022 and will include economic, health and social benefits.
The first phase of eleven electric buses, powered by 100% renewable energy, replaced diesel vehicles on Leicester’s three park and ride routes in May 2021
To increase the impact of the new transport policies, Leicester City Council have designed these measures to create corridors that strategically link the city centre, regeneration areas and business parks with employment hubs.
The council is using money from the government’s Transforming Cities Fund to decarbonise transport in the region. The investment is already delivering rewards.
For example, the council’s integration of contactless payment methods across public transport systems brings the value-for-money benefit of £3.63 for every £1 invested including through journey time savings, increased patronage and reduced operating costs. Prioritising investment here will save 442,549 hours in journey times per year for existing travellers, through faster onboarding processes.
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The council has committed to this project because council leaders recognised of the far-reaching economic opportunities that investment in active travel and public transport offers, through making the city more attractive to visitors, shoppers, businesses and investors.
Anticipated economic benefits include reduced congestion due to a shift from the use of private vehicles to sustainable modes of travel, as well as reduced delays to bus passengers.
Anticipated health benefits are another clear driver of the project. Higher levels of exercise are expected to boost local people’s health and reduce mortality rates, while also reducing absenteeism in the city’s workforce. Overall, the council estimate a benefit-cost ratio, with every £1 invested expected to create £2.84 in wider benefits related to health and wellbeing.
Investment for this project came from two injections of funding from the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund. The first, in 2019, awarded £7.8m for the council to create active travel schemes and to electrify park and ride services.
In 2020, a second injection of £32.5m was awarded – based on a strategic business case outline created by the council to cut carbon, improve health and bring significant economic benefits to the area.
Wide-reaching community engagement is important to making new sustainable travel measures a success. An important lesson from Leicester’s work has been to use pop-up travel measures such as cycle lanes, to win over the public, who can experience first-hand the benefits change can bring.
The authority has also worked with external organisations to create a broader cycling culture across the local area. It has joined forces with partners such as Sustrans, British Cycling and Living Streets to deliver important engagement initiatives.
These include the £300 bike challenge, a fund open to city-based groups to promote a cycling culture more widely. In addition, Open Streets is a monthly event bringing communities together for walks, guided tours, bike try-outs, art and entertainment around the city’s streets. Open Streets has helped to connect local residents and improve cycling safety.
Strong political leadership was essential to Leicester’s approach ensuring that there was a commitment to the significant planning and engagement that was needed.
Political leaders and officers throughout the council must completely buy in to the project, and be unwavering in its implementation, to allow for the significant benefits to be realised.
Find more guidance for local authorities on our Learning Out Loud pages.
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