Strategic context

This section summarises the current priorities of international, national, regional and local policymakers, which have influenced this strategy.  It identifies the key strategies which support, or which are supported by, this document.

2.1 International priorities

There are a number of international agreements which are relevant to this strategy.

Tackling climate change

In 2015, the UK joined 196 other parties in signing the Paris Agreement on climate change.  This was a major international commitment to a goal of keeping global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius (compared to pre-industrial levels) and to pursue efforts to limit this even further to 1.5 degrees. To deliver on this commitment, in 2019 the Government set itself a legally binding target to achieve ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Ensuring sustainable development

Also in 2015, the United Nations published its Sustainable Development Goals, described as 17 goals to transform our world.  These aim to address major global challenges, including poverty and inequality, health and education and climate change, and should be a consideration in all nations’ plans for the future.

The 17 goals are:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

2.2 National priorities

The UK Government has also identified its own strategic priorities, several of which are directly relevant to this strategy.

Tackling climate change

As noted above, the UK Government is legally committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  As transport is currently the largest source of emissions, Government is targeting a major shift in the way that people and goods travel in order to achieve this.

In July 2021 the Department for Transport (DfT) published Decarbonising Transport: A Better, Greener Great Britain, its strategy to achieve this.  The strategy’s priorities include encouraging a shift in travel behaviour away from car travel and towards both public and active transport, replacing existing passenger and freight vehicles with zero emission alternatives and establishing the UK as a hub for green transport technology and innovation.

More detailed plans are set out in various further strategy documents focused on specific modes, including:

  • the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail – a White Paper which proposes substantial reforms of the rail industry.  This will see major changes, including the creation of a new organisation, Great British Rail, and the publishing of a new 30-year strategy covering the rail industry as a whole
  • Bus Back Better – a new National Bus Strategy aimed at reversing a long-term decline in levels of bus patronage (outside of London).  It includes plans to make services more frequent and more reliable, to better integrate services that are operated by different bus companies and to accelerate the rollout of electric buses
  • Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Walking and Cycling­ – a further strategy focused on bringing about a long-term shift towards active travel.  Gear Change includes a specific commitment to ensure that by 2030 50 per cent of all journeys in towns and cities will be made by walking and cycling. 

As well as enabling the UK to achieve its goal of being Net Zero by 2050, these changes also form a key part of the Government’s economic strategy.  In November 2020 the Government published The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which sets out plans to invest in order to both boost to country’s economic recovery, following the Covid-19 pandemic, and to tackle climate change.  The key transport priorities included in that plan are:

  • accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
  • green public transport, walking and cycling.

‘Levelling up’ across the UK

Government has also expressed a desire to address economic inequalities between different parts of the country.  This includes reducing deprivation in parts of the Midlands and the North of England, which are perceived to have been ‘left behind’ economically over recent decades.  Investment in transport infrastructure to improve connectivity across the Midlands and the North is a key component of this.

In the West Midlands, major planned investments include:

  • HS2, a new high-speed rail line connecting London to the North of England.  Two stations are being built in the West Midlands, in Solihull and central Birmingham
  • the Midlands Rail Hub, a £2 billion package of further rail improvements
  • improvements to the region’s Strategic Road Network, via Highways England’s current and future Road Investment Strategies, including the grade separation of the Binley and Walsgrave junctions on the A46 Coventry Eastern Bypass.

These investments are intended to support the region’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and to secure future economic growth.

Building more homes

The Government has set a target to significantly increase the number of new homes being built to 300,000 per year.  One of the policy measures being introduced to achieve this is substantial reform of the planning system.  This is expected to result in many Councils being set more challenging targets for the number of new homes that need to be built in their area in the future, creating further travel demand which will need to be met in a sustainable way.

2.3 Regional priorities

The picture with regards to regional priorities is more complex.  There are several different bodies with an interest in improving transport across the Midlands, each of which has a different remit and, in many cases, covers a slightly different geographic area.  Each of these organisations has its own strategic priorities.

However, of particular importance is Transport for West Midlands’ (TfWM) regional transport strategy, Movement for Growth.  This strategy is intended to align closely with Movement for Growth and to set out Coventry’s local contribution to achieving the region’s wider vision and objectives.

Movement for Growth is currently under review.  A Green Paper published by TfWM in June 2021 makes clear that the refreshed strategy is expected focus on addressing five ‘motivations for change’.  These are tackling the climate emergency, reducing transport inequality, reducing physical inactivity, enhancing local communities & places and building a strong inclusive economy.

Also of particular significance is the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA’s) Climate Change Strategy, #WM2041.  This sets a target for the region to achieve net zero status by 2041, nine years earlier than the current national target.  In 2016 transport accounted for 39 per cent of the region’s emissions.

Other key regional strategies, which are also supported by this document include:

  • The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy
  • WMCA’s Strategic Economic Plan, Making our Mark
  • Coventry & Warwickshire Local Economic Partnership’s (CWLEP) Updated Strategic Economic Plan
  • CWLEP’s Strategic Reset Framework
  • Midlands Connect’s Powering the Midlands Engine
  • The Coventry & Warwickshire Health Protection Strategy.

As with the Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution at a national level, several of these documents set out the benefits of investing in green industries in order to create jobs and tackle climate change.  There is a clear aspiration to make the West Midlands a focal point for research into, and for the manufacturing of, zero emission transport options, such as electric vehicles and Very Light Rail (a new form of battery powered mass transit, similar to existing tram systems but suitable for smaller cities).

2.4 Local priorities

At a local level, there are also several relevant plans and strategies.  However, of particular importance is the Council’s current Local Plan, which covers the period 2011-31 and which sets out plans to stimulate economic growth and to meet a growing housing need.

Coventry is a rapidly growing city, with a need for a large number of new homes.  The current Local Plan makes provision for 25,000 new homes to be built.  In addition, further commercial development is also planned.  This includes, for example, the establishment of a new business district at Friargate, in the city centre, and the regeneration of City Centre South.  These developments, which are described in more detail in section 4, will create a significant increase in travel demand, which will need to be met in sustainable way, without worsening existing levels of congestion or the city’s carbon footprint.

The Council is also currently working with various partners on establishing an Independent Commission for a Sustainable Coventry.  Once established, the Commission will develop a new Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.  This will set out detailed plans to reduce Coventry’s annual CO2 emissions to net zero by 2041, or earlier if possible.

Other key local strategies, which are also supported by this document include:

  • The Coventry Health and Wellbeing Strategy, MARMOT Strategy and the Director of Public Health’s Annual Report
  • Coventry City Council’s Local Air Quality Action Plan
  • Coventry City Council’s Economic Growth and Prosperity Strategy
  • Coventry City Council’s Electric Vehicle and Charging Infrastructure Strategy
  • Coventry City Council’s City Centre Area Action Plan
  • The Coventry Partnership’s Sustainable Community Strategy
  • Coventry City Council’s Highways Infrastructure Asset Management Strategy
  • Coventry City Council’s Flood Risk Management Strategy.

Several of these local strategies place a strong emphasis on ensuring that economic growth is inclusive and that it benefits those who are currently economically disadvantaged, as well as the need to rapidly reduce the city’s carbon footprint and to improve health outcomes for local residents. 

2.5 Summary

Considering all these national, regional and local strategies together, a clear set of priorities emerge.  These suggest a need for this strategy to:

  • reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, ultimately to net zero
  • support the city’s economy to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and secure future economic growth, including by investing in green industries such as zero emission transport
  • ensure that future growth is inclusive and delivers benefits for those who are on lower incomes or who are currently excluded from the labour market
  • capitalise on the potential benefits of HS2 and other planned improvements to regional, national and international connectivity
  • deliver improved public health outcomes for residents
  • enable new homes to be built to meet a growing housing need, and to meet the increased travel demand arising from this in a sustainable way.

These issues are explored in more detail in section 4.

Transport Strategy