Sustainable Transport Across The EU and UK

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1969 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Jun 6, 2019

Words: 1969|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Jun 6, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Sustainable transport proposals
  3. Sustainable transport in the EU
  4. Sustainable Transport in UK
  5. Conclusion


Sustainability is one of the few ideas in society that has support across political and ideological aisles, at least it appears as so. How to go about it is another topic that is often is the point of debate among scholars, advocates and conservatives who argue sustainability can be achieved without hurting business growth (Gunther, 2015).

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There are quite several definitions of sustainability depending on where the literature stems from, but the definition considered to be the most universal is the one from the United Nations 1987 report, ‘Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future’ or commonly known as the Brundtland Report. The UN report cemented the definition of sustainability as the “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations” (Cassen, 1987).

Sustainable transport, the main topic of this report, can also be defined in parallel to the normal definition of sustainability, a source of transport that does not rely on diminishing natural resources such as oil and gas (Low, 2003). Sustainability transport unlike sustainability in general is narrower and it being narrows mean it is often the visible and debated. The European Commission published its white paper on sustainable transport with aims to reduce congestion and the risk for pollution (EU, 2012). Many countries in the EU including have set out to implement sustainable transport in different. Some countries in the EU have been applauded for their implementation of sound sustainable transport friendly policies.

The report aims to discuss sustainable transport as a policy and its implementation across the EU specifically the UK. Some of these discussions shall include innovations and country specific programmes that promote sustainable transport in one form or the other. The focus on the UK is narrowed to its progress in implementing these policies and what it lacks compared to other European country. It shall also dedicate time to discussing cycling as it is one of the most promoted forms of sustainable transport across the EU member states.

Sustainable transport proposals

This is section to discuss of the more popular proposals that have promoted to be plausible, efficient and yet sustainable. Some of these proposals include discouraging the use of public transport, investing in public transport, promoting the use of bicycles and car sharing schemes for areas that lack access to public transport per study (BBC, 2006).

Aside from cycling, a form of transport that is heavily promoted now, there are other energy sources that can be used as some opponents of cycling argue that it is only viable for short distance as long-distance travel is still achieved through traditional means of transports such as cars and trucks. Some of the alternatives to oil and gas include hydrogen, electric, biofuel, solar power and nuclear power (Evans, 2011).

Out of the list, solar and electric stand out as they have proven to be commercially viable. This can be seen in explosion and adoption of electric cars in recent years. Though their adoption is not comparable to fossil burning vehicle their growth has been increasing every single year. It has also been projected that electric cars will grow to the tune of 125 million cars sold by 2030 per (DiChristopher, 2018).

Sustainable transport in the EU

Europe as a continent or the European Union as a block as lead the world in implementing environmentally sound policies to better meet the needs of today without compromising the well-being of the future generations. The European commission outlined in a recent report (European Commission, 2018), some of the major challenges it faces in transport and it includes congestion, oil dependency, greenhouse emissions thought it has set forth to cut emissions 60% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Not only has EU put forth these goals but it has also invested heavily for example, it has funded the Connected Europe Facility with over 26 billion euros (European Commission, 2018).

Another bold move by the EU was the its initiative titled the “EU Cycling Strategy. Recommendations for Delivering Green Growth and an Effective Mobility in 2030”, a document finalised in 2017 by the EU with objectives such as:

  1. Cycling should be a co-equal form on transport
  2. Increase cycling by 50% across all member states by 2030
  3. Reduce rates in incidents that results in the deaths or injuries across member by half by 2030
  4. Increase investments in “cycling to €3bn in 2021-27 period; and €6bn from 2028-34” (European Cyclist Federation, 2017).

Despite the bold ambitions of EU found several white papers and reports to improve transportation and improve of the environment, some of its member states have been more progressive in their implementation than the goals set forth by the EU. Some of these progressive states include Germany, Holland, Spain, France and Denmark.

Germany happens to be the largest countries in the EU when it comes to population but is roughly 83 million (Oliphant, 2017) but has been one of the biggest proponents of sustainable transport and it has been pretty aggressive with it aims. It is their objective to reduce gas emissions by 40% by 2020 and 95% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. This goal though aggressive and ambitious it has implemented policies to ensure the goals are accomplished in the timeframe (Sünder, 2017).

Germany has managed to build a robust network of highly trains that is currently used by more than 30 million people daily, a figure projected to grow. Per Sünder (2018) “Successes in Germany are based on solid knowledge, strategies and innovations such as software experts on piloting trains; planners for bike-sharing models; and developers of concrete that is resilient to climate change.”

Just like other European countries, France is also working towards improving its transport system and setting ambitious goals along way. A good demonstration of this is the introduction of the individual mass transit system called the Vélib which is also known as the freedom bikes (Feng, Affonso, & Zolghadri, 2017). These bikes allow for people to pay low fees to use them and after usage they can be park at any station (Tironi, 2014). Aside from the city of Paris has built more 195 miles of bike lanes, prioritised pedestrians by renovations public spaces, build new crosswalks and added more sidewalk space; these policies have increased cycling by 48% by 2007 according to (Sustainable Transport Award, 2007).

The Netherlands has been lauded as being one of the more eco-friendly countries for its pro-environmental stance it has adopted for a while (Balch, 2013). This is understandable if one looks at its achievements compared to other EU member states. Some of these achievements include its goal to switch public transport buses to 100% emission-free by 2025 (Dutch Ministry of General Affairs, 2016) or the fact it is closer to achieving its sustainability goals (Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, 2018).

Cycling also plays a big part for the eco-friendly image the Netherland has cultivated. This is not without evidence as 70% of residents in cities like Amsterdam and the Hague bike (BBC, 2013). This has been possible due to the investments the Dutch government made in infrastructure across the country which has resulted in the biking being the favourable mean of transport in the UK. A great example of this can be visible in the city of Groningen, the central train station has an underground parking space for over 10,000 bikes (BBC, 2013).

Denmark is also another country that has a similar reputation to the Netherlands. These two countries are often mentioned in the same breadth when one is talking about sustainability as some of their green policies are analogous to each other especially in their largest cities (Krag, 2002). Some of the statistics about cycling in Denmark can help explain why it is considered a haven for green transport. Some of these statistics provided by (Cycling Embassy of Denmark, 2010) include:

  • 24% of all trips under 5km in Denmark are via cycling
  • 45% of Danish children bike to school
  • 44% of Danes do not possess a car

Finally, Spain, Frances’ neighbour to the south is also another country that has done a lot to adhere to eco-transport friendly policies. This is evident by some of its policies that will be discussed shortly. First of which is the Urban Mobility Plan that was approved by the Madrid city council in 2014 aims to reduce kilometres travelled on public roads by 3.2 million, reduce road traffic by 2020 and a reduction of 135 000 tons of CO2 per Eltis (2014). Around the same period, the EU invested 5.5 billion euros into the Spanish economy with the money destined for investments in green transport and sustainability across the board (European Commission, 2015). This is also the case for Valencia, which promoting sustainability as part of its smart city strategy (Match Up Project EU, 2018).

Barcelona has also put in place a plan called the “SUSTAINABLE URBAN MOBILITY PLAN OF BARCELONA (2013-2018)” that has set aside goals such adding 210 kilometres of cycling paths (Blanchar, 2015), new orthogonal bus lanes and its key goal is called the Superblocks (Agencia de Ecología Urbana de Barcelona, 2012). It is an audacious plan that involves restricting traffic from Barcelona’s squares and directing them to certain bigger roads in order to attain a 21% traffic reduction and 60% less traffic in the Eixample district per (Vives, 2018).

Sustainable Transport in UK

The story of sustainable transport in the UK is quite different from that of other European capitals. There are some initiatives that has been either presented or pushed but there doesn’t seem to be a nationwide plan to improve transport across the whole UK.

London though has been a protagonist in the push for sustainable transport in the UK. In 2003 the city introduced the 2003 congestion pricing plan that increased fees for motor bikes and implemented city wide emission-based tolls (Sustainable Transport Award Committee, n.d.). Before the plan drivers spent 50% of their time in traffic, a negative that cost the city 2-3 million per week but after its implementation by 2007 the congesting had dropped 21%. According to Sustainable Transport Award Committee, n.d.), “bus ridership has increased 45 percent as people are switching to bus transportation in London because their travel time has decreased due to congestion pricing. Bike use had increased by 43 percent by 2007”.

The government in 2017 announced the $64 million Access Fund that aims to “encourage more cycling and walking to work” (Department for Transport, 2017). The city of Manchester was also injected with 20 million from the Access Fund to improve its transportation (GMCA, 2016).

In constrast to the London or the leading EU countries, the rest of the UK is lagging in implementing smart sustainable transport across the country. This pattern is not just unique to transport, as the majority of UK lacks in comparison to London when it comes to issues of housing and infrastructure (Bradbury, 2008).


The EU unlike many parts of this world has done an impressive job by promoting and implemented sustainable transport policies that have also proven to be effective and wise. These policies have not only increased the number on people walking and cycling but it has also improved the lives of many citizens living in the respective member states. Alternatives to sustainable transport such as oil and gas have long term effects on the health and living standards of its citizens.

The UK, the main focus of this report, has done a considerable amount to ensure its biggest cities improve their transportation systems and make them sustainable but they are still lacking. Most of the focus has gone towards improving London and the south whilst several cities get left over or are payed little attention in comparison.

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It has been concluded that for the UK to improve sustainability across its cities copying the Spanish model. Spanish model entails focusing on several parts of the country as they are equally important. A more national approach towards sustainable should be path forward for the UK.

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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Sustainable transport across the EU and UK. (2019, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
“Sustainable transport across the EU and UK.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2019,
Sustainable transport across the EU and UK. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 12 Jun. 2024].
Sustainable transport across the EU and UK [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 May 14 [cited 2024 Jun 12]. Available from:
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