RCEP's new study on transport

Transport and the environment is to be the subject of the next major study by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP). The inquiry is likely to take the RCEP further from its original concern with pollution issues than ever before.

Full terms of reference for the new inquiry are still to be determined. However, it is almost certain to cover possible technical fixes to the pollution problems caused by road vehicles and other forms of transport, such as improved engine designs, add-on abatement devices and alternative fuels. The RCEP will also look at the best mix of policy instruments to tackle transport pollution, including fiscal and other market mechanisms as well as direct regulation.

But the inquiry is also likely to look beyond these measures to more strategic solutions. These include the role of land use planning in helping to reduce pollution and other forms of environmental detriment associated with road transport in particular, as well as the general policy framework which determines the provision of transport infrastructure.

A danger that the RCEP will be keen to avoid is a repetition of its study on water. The RCEP is due to report on this in June, almost six years after the study was launched. Its inquiry on transport has the potential to snowball into something just as big. Whether it does is likely to depend on how effectively it is managed by the RCEP's new Chairman, Sir John Houghton, the former Director of the Meteorological Office.

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