East Anglia needs to encourage 'active transport' after Covid crisis

Cycle route in Ipswich

Transport officials heard that after Covid more should be done to encourage active travel. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Transport networks in the East of England need to emerge from the Covid pandemic with more schemes to attract green and more active travel, the region's leading transport conference has heard.

This year's Transport East conference was held online - and opened by government minister Baroness Vere, who is responsible for roads, buses and taxis at the Department for Transport.

It also heard from Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey, who is now active transport commissioner for the Sheffield region - one of the leading areas in the country in trying to persuade people to switch from driving to other means of transport.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton.

Transport minister Baroness Vere opened the Transport East conference. - Credit: Chris McAndrew

Baroness Vere said it was important that as the country emerged from from lockdown there was considerable work to encourage people to return to rail and buses - to boost confidence in the safety of public transport.

Bur she also said it was important local transport bodies did more work to encourage people to adopt active transport - walking and cycling - as an alternative to driving.

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She said: "As a government we want to build better after this and transport is at the heart of that."

Dame Sarah Storey

Dame Sarah Storey emphasised the need to encourage active travel. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Dame Sarah said encouraging active transport was vital for the future - as well as improving the environment it also helped to create a more healthy society.

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And while she accepted that electric vehicles were better for the environment than petrol or diesel-powered cars and vans, they still took the same amount of space on the road and people needed to be encouraged to use more active ways of travel.

Some delegates were concerned that many of the solutions being discussed were focused on urban areas while much of the East of England was rural - and in those areas people would also feel the need to drive or use public transport.

But Dame Sarah said that in other countries electric cycles were used for longer journeys than standard bikes - in Denmark it was common for people to use electric cycles for journeys of up to nine miles.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter chaired a session with discussions on improvements that needed to made to the region's transport network, and said Transport East had a vital role in pushing projects in the future.

He said: "While many strategic schemes are very important in themselves, they are also absolutely vital to the future prosperity of the whole region so we need to promote them with a clear single voice which is what can be done with Transport East."

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