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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Sustainable Transport - How can we make the 'right' option the easy one?

Sustainable transport is an indispensable part of a net zero future. As it stands today, there’s a long way to go before sustainable travel becomes the default option. Put simply, people tend to choose the easy and cheap option over the ‘right’ one.

How can we change our behaviour? Unfortunately, we probably can’t. It’s human nature.

Transport Focus conducted research in March 2021 to assess attitudes to sustainable travel. The key findings were that transport isn’t the first thing that comes to people’s minds when we think about sustainability. We’re more likely to think of recycling and renewable energy.

When we do think about sustainable transport we tend to think ‘inconvenient and expensive’, and that’s really the heart of the issue. Experience tells us that even when we understand that sustainability is the ‘right thing to do’, cost and convenience continue to govern how we act.

The basics of encouraging behavioural change aren’t difficult; make it easy for people to do the right thing and more difficult or expensive to continue the behaviours that need to change.

While we could drive change by making short haul flights prohibitively expensive compared to rail, that’s not the whole answer. For widespread change to happen, all aspects of sustainable travel need to be efficient and affordable.

Extending the electrified rail network and making services reliable, convenient and affordable – particularly compared to short haul flights – is, rightly, a priority. Efficient and affordable rail travel also gives us a wider choice of where to live. It helps to reduce congestion in inner cities and to spread prosperity more evenly around the country.

Sustainable Motoring

On the roads, rising fuel prices and improvements in electric vehicle technology will make sustainable motoring more attractive. But we can be put off making long journeys in EVs if we’re unsure of finding somewhere convenient to recharge.

We have to make sure that the availability of public rapid charging facilities keeps pace with demand across the country – something that doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment. For example, Greater Manchester has 17 public EV chargers per 100,000 people, compared with 102 per 100,000 in London, according to data from ZapMap.

To help people make the switch to sustainable transport the industry has to live up to our historic role of being problem solvers. More than ever we need innovation and creativity to deliver new and upgraded rail lines quickly, cost-effectively and with minimal disruption.

We need to make road networks resilient and free-flowing, with ample access to EV rapid charging points (perhaps integrated with convenient parking options such as Osborne Infrastructure’s modular solution).

We also need more alternatives to cars such as safe cycling and walking routes that connect communities with places of work and leisure.

As a recently-independent business with significant investment behind us, Osborne Infrastructure has identified that innovation is a critical success factor. It’s that mindset that we’re bringing to the challenges of making sustainable transport the easy and obvious option.

To learn more about our approach to sustainable transport visit our transport infrastructure resource centre or contact Mike Todd (

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