Today, DfT launched what is being dubbed as the ‘biggest review into transport in a generation’, the Future of mobility: urban strategy. The review seeks to transform the way both people and goods move around cities across the UK. As part of the plans to explore modernising transport in the UK, a competition will run in parallel to the review to test innovative ideas on possible improvements through the Future Mobility Zones Fund, which aims to support local leaders and industry to introduce new mobility services, modes and models.

2019 marks a century since the Ministry of Transport (now Department for Transport) was set up in 1919 at the end of World War One, under the government of Lloyd George. Copper’s Alessia Rosi and Laura Cunliffe-Hall marked the anniversary by attending Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald MP’s keynote speech at the Institute for Government on Wednesday 20 March 2019, to learn more about Labour’s vision and priorities for the future of transport in the UK.

Here are our five key takeaways outlining the priorities of a Department for Transport under a Labour Government:

  • Integration of transport and planning – Andy McDonald emphasised the need to create an affordable, accessible, sustainable transport system for all with closer links between transport planning and land-use planning as well as the need for transport provision, particularly sustainable transport options, to be at the heart of new developments. He also highlighted that transport planning and spending should help drive public health targets, with active travel as a focus.


  • Alignment of Department for Transport priorities with commitments to tackle climate change – According to figures from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, transport is the UK’s single largest source of greenhouse gas and the worst-performing sector when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. The Labour Party would seek to set a carbon budget consistent with the aspirations of the Paris Agreement on climate change, with rail, road, and the aviation and maritime sectors receiving budget-specific carbon reduction targets.


  • Establishment of a New Social Contract for Transport – Transport Academic Phil Goodwin will lead a study focusing on a New Social Contract for Transport, as Labour seek to position the Department for Transport at the heart of this social contract for transport between the public and government.


  • Maximising the role of the Department for Transport to use transport to boost all regions of the UK – In his speech, Andy McDonald mentioned Department for Transport’s major role in rebalancing Britain’s economy across rail, bus services, ports and airports, as well as active travel and freight. He also underlined his view that projects such as HS2 must align with Northern Powerhouse Rail, alongside other major transport schemes across the UK.


  • Improvement of working cultures within the public sector – According to the Institute for Government’s latest Whitehall review, the Department for Transport is losing 1 in 5 key staff every year, partly due to an established employment culture across the Civil Service, which encourages staff to shift rapidly from one government department to another. In response to this, Andy McDonald outlined Labour’s priority to ensure that civil servants see themselves as public servants providing essential services that are key to driving the country’s economic prosperity and improving people’s lives. The party’s priority is to put the principle and culture of public service back at the heart of transport provision and governance.

The Department for Transport’s transformation and ability to successfully deliver investment in transport is dependent on public engagement. By involving the public and key stakeholders, the Department can ensure that people feel like they are playing an important part in contributing to transformation. The Future Mobility Zones Fund is an example of what this kind of engagement can look like. However, there is a need for consistent and long-term commitment to public engagement to show stakeholders the clear benefits that investment in transport will bring to them, as well as the nation.