Transform Scotland - For Sustainable Transport

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8 December 2008

Towards a Healthier Economy

Transform Scotland Trust

New report sets out multi-billion pound health benefits of switch to sustainable transport

A new report published today (Monday 8th) sets out the multi-billion pound health benefits that Scotland would reap if its transport system was set on a more sustainable course. The new report 'Towards a Healthier Economy', published by the Transform Scotland Trust [1], makes the key finding that Scotland's economy could benefit by up to £4 billion annually [2] if the country was to move to continental European levels of cycle use, and meet Scottish Government Ministers' aspirations. [3]

Amongst other things, the report also highlights the costs to the economy from car use, and the annual deficits suffered by Scotland's economy due to the aviation industry. The full report is available at <>.

Professor Stephen Stradling [4], Chair of the Transform Scotland Trust, said:

"This report shows the clear benefits to the Scottish economy and quality of life that would result from setting our transport system on a more sustainable course. Previous research has shown that a majority of Scottish motorists are keen to cut their car use, and many are prepared to try more active modes of travel, especially for short journeys. This research shows the substantial economic benefits that would result from a shift to cycling and walking.

"Given Scotland's frequently dire conditions for walkers and cyclists, especially in urban areas, it is important that the Government switch resources into delivering the sort of high quality public realm that the Dutch and the Danes, for instance,  take for granted. The high rates of cycling - and the concomitant health and well-being benefits - observed in these countries came about because of sustained investment in 'green infrastructure'.

"An early and substantial investment in cycling and walking is essential. Just as road building results in extra 'induced traffic', so if we provide more green infrastructure the 'Theatre of Dreams' argument - 'If you build it they will come' - will apply to active travel, and with much more welcome consequences."

Dr. Helen Zealley [5], President of Scottish Environment LINK & a Board member of NHS Health Scotland, said:

"It is beyond doubt that we need to see major switches to public transport, walking and cycling if we have any hope of heading off climate chaos. This report highlights the range of economic benefits that we can expect if politicians are prepared to take action to deliver sustainable transport.

"But there would be other important benefits. Increased levels of walking and cycling will help to stem Scotland's obesity crisis as well as contributing to mental well-being. It is therefore good news to find that the changes called for in this report will also provide wider economic benefits: a win-win solution. I hope that planners will see that they can contribute to two of the Government's key strategic goals by investing in ‘active travel’ and that colleagues across the health sector will welcome this contribution to the debate on how to deliver a healthier and more sustainable Scotland."

The report makes a series of recommendations, with the top recommendation being that the Scottish Government's transport appraisal system - the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) - include the direct economic benefits resulting from improved health due to increased cycling and walking. [6]


Notes to Editors

[1] The Transform Scotland Trust was established to carry out research and educate the public about transport’s impact on the economy, environment, and society as a whole. The Trust is chaired by Stephen Stradling, Professor of Transport Psychology at Napier University’s Transport Research Institute. See <>.

[2] The calculation was produced using the World Health Organisation's (WHO) 'Health Economic Assessment Tool for Cycling'. This is a new tool, and we believe that this may be its first use in Scotland (and perhaps the UK). The tool considers costs associated only with mortality (death) rather than with morbidity (sickness); as a result of this, the UK Department for Transport has indicated that the Tool is likely to understate the health economic benefits from increased physical activity through cycling.

Using HEAT for Cycling tool, and only considering decreased fatalities, a 13% cycle rate would provide £1 billion per year savings, while a 27% cycle rate would provide £2 billion per year savings. Using Department for Transport estimate that sickness decrease could provide a similar level of additional benefit, a 13% cycle rate would produce £2 billion per year savings, and a 27% cycle rate would produce £4 billion per year  savings.

The calculations are set out in full in the report - see pp. 8-10.

[3] The Scottish Ministers have expressed their strong view that Scottish levels of cycling should rise to meet those seen across Europe, for example:

"With a cycling modal share of just 1% we clearly have to do much more if we are to emulate our European neighbours who enjoy 10%-30% share." Stewart Stevenson MSP, Transport Minister (May 2008)

"Copenhagen already enjoys a [cycling] modal share of 35% and has set itself a target of 50%… To reach our [climate] emissions target we must consider if such a [cycling modal shift] target is attainable here." Stewart Maxwell MSP, Communities Minister (October 2008)

[4] See <> for biography of Prof. Stephen Stradling.

[5] See <> for biography of Dr. Helen Zealley.

[6] The report's recommendations in full are:

(i) Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) should include the direct economic benefits  resulting from improved health due to increased cycling and walking. This could make use of the  HEAT for Cycling tool, but must also incorporate walking and benefits resulting from improved  health. Evidence on increased productivity and reduced absenteeism should also be included.

(ii) STAG should substantially reduce the emphasis given to time savings. The benefits attributed to  these time savings are often unproven, and there are very real economic benefits associated  with the other aspects of transport projects discussed in this report.

(iii) The productivity benefits resulting from working when travelling by train or bus should be  incorporated in STAG. These benefits can outweigh any benefits estimated to arise from time  savings.

(iv) The health and congestion costs of additional car drivers and passengers should be fully considered in transport project appraisal.

(v) Research should be conducted on the displacement effect of car purchases. It is important to understand what people would spend their money on if they didn’t have the desire or need to buy a car, and how these alternative purchases would affect the Scottish economy.

(vi) The Scottish Government should publish annual statistics quantifying the net effect on the Scottish economy of air-based tourism. It is vital to know how much to visitors spend in Scotland compared with the amount Scots spend when they fly abroad.

[7] The 'Towards a Healthier Economy' report was carried out with support from Sustrans Scotland.