As part of the on-going process for its transport agenda, the Department of Transport has just issued its Local Transport Plan (LTP) and Accessibility Planning Guidance notes.

The draft guidance itself, referred to as the LTP2, is the second of its kind and provides a guideline figure for the amount of capital funding that English local authorities may receive to spend on transport. It also identifies the key principles a good LTP should follow, and sets out the 'tools of the trade' by which objectives may be reached. But are the guidelines enough to ensure that the private sector makes a big enough contribution to the implementation process?

Green Travel Plans
With cars and vans used for business purposes accounting for 15% of all road traffic carbon dioxide emissions, local strategies regarding 'Green Travel Plans' form a significant part of LTPs. A Green Travel Plan is a way of managing how employees, pupils or students travel to and from their workplaces, schools or colleges. It may involve a single activity, such as car sharing, or a package of measures to encourage more efficient and greener ways to travel.

In Birmingham, as with many other local authority areas, progress with Green Travel Plans has been steady. Company TravelWise, the local partnership between Birmingham City Council, Centro, the West Midlands Transport Executive and Travel West Midlands (the main bus operator in the region) has an extensive website supplying details of its efforts to promote alternatives to the motorcar for journeys to and from work as well as a hotline telephone service. In addition, 19th -26th September 2004 was 'TravelWise Week', a week of transport-themed events culminating in an awareness and marketing campaign in Centenary Square involving Primary Care Trusts, numerous companies and the touring group 'Company of Cyclists'.

Despite these recent achievements, if local authorities are to successfully deliver 'transport change' in the future then they will need to engage a far wider business interest than they have to date.

Business involvement
Unfortunately, the draft guidance does not require local authorities to seek greater business involvement through marketing and innovative ideas. Although local targets for cycling levels, modal share targets for journeys to school/work, and travel plan coverage have been suggested, they remain only 'possible mandatory targets subject to consultation'. This vague specification simply does not have the necessary impetus to get the private sector to work more closely with local authorities to boost sustainable transport investments, except where companies' participation in Company TravelWise is a condition for planning consent. Furthermore, the draft guidance gives no indication of how local authorities are supposed to determine appropriate levels for these targets.

But all is not doom and gloom; there are reasons to be cheerful about the LTP2. The Department of Transport has put to rest the antiquated notion that capital expenditure is the only viable solution to the transport challenges that lie ahead. Instead, the guidance puts a greater emphasis on general activities within local communities to delivery LTP objectives. LTPs must also be linked to other policy frameworks such as land-use, planning, health and the environment. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the guidance notes stress the importance of local strategic partnerships in delivering community transport plans.