Travel Fast or Smart? A Manifesto for an Intelligent Transport Policy

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David Metz

Perspectives are essays on big ideas by leading writers, each given free rein and a modest word limit to reframe an issue of great contemporary interest. – Diane Coyle, Series Editor

Britain does not have a coherent transport policy, and conventional transport economics has reached a dead end. A transport policy should incorporate systematic thinking about the travel needs of society, but in Britain public investment in the transport system has been extraordinarily volatile. We closed underused railways and then experienced a doubling of passenger numbers, prompting huge new investment. We gave up making substantial investments in motorways, but we have now chosen to revive the road construction effort in a big way. We vacillate on road pricing, introducing congestion charging successfully in London but backing off elsewhere because of local opposition. We have delayed the decision about whether and where to build additional airport capacity for decades.

This mess has come about because policy has focused on big construction projects and time savings when it should have been focusing on the part that people and places play in economic development.

This book sets out the principles that could underpin a strategic policy for transport. Instead of focusing piecemeal on getting from place to place ever faster, we need to think about how and where we want the economy to develop, and about how new digital technologies can help us achieve what is needed.

Praise for Travel Fast or Smart?

‘For too long transport analysis has considered the system as a silo in which transport was an end in itself and so speed became the main criterion. David Metz’s long experience in this field makes him ideal to see transport in a wider context. This is also something that the National Infrastructure Commission must do and I therefore find this perspective both timely and challenging to our work.’

Bridget Rosewell, Senior Adviser at Volterra Partners and Commissioner on the National Infrastructure Commission

‘A wonderful step-by-step argument about why the car is not the future for transport and how politicians must adapt to this new reality. Metz argues cogently about why the present methods of assessing transport schemes have led to the wrong outcomes, with far too much emphasis on big projects, especially road schemes.’

Christian Wolmar, Award-winning writer and broadcaster specializing in transport

David Metz is an honorary professor in the Centre for Transport Studies at University College London and was formerly Chief Scientist at the UK Department for Transport. He is the author of Peak Car: The Future of Travel (2014) and The Limits to Travel: How Far Will You Go? (2008).

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