Understanding the barriers to NET-ZERO transport for rural roads: a Northern Ireland case study

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Climate-related disasters have cost the world over £450 billion over the last 3 years. In the race to mitigate these effects, the UK government has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. Transport provides the largest single sector contribution to CO2 emissions, the road network accounts for up to 91%. As the only UK country without a formal climate change bill Northern Ireland could compromise the overall effort.

Case description
In this research a survey of road asset owners, managers, academics, consultants, public transport providers was undertaken to seek to understand the current barriers to adapting a dispersed rural road network in Northern Ireland for net-zero transport. The survey data was collected though an online form with a combination of multiple choice and open ended questions. Thematic analysis was used to code and analyse the data collected which enabled a discussion around the key expert opinions gathered.

Discussion and evaluation
The paper presents details of the current road network in Northern Ireland and highlights some of the issues faced by asset owners. The survey questions were developed though engagement with transport professionals in Northern Ireland and focus predominantly on road use rather than the impact of current land management practices or environmental conditions such as flood risk. The response highlights a clear enthusiasm for change in the operation of the public road network which is hindered by a lack of government strategy and limited public consultation.

The high response rate (41%) for the survey highlights the interest of those in the transport sector to engage in activities which can support a better understanding of how road networks contribute to CO2 emissions. Within the survey data a requirement for behavioural change was highlighted as a key step to reduce transport related emissions, the enthusiasm for change demonstrates this is the optimum time to engage with the public and develop clear transport strategies. More accurate findings and empirical evidence could have been established had the study considered specific, transport planning, environmental and land use conditions for Northern Ireland. This will be the focus of further research in this area to enable clear translation of the research to other countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24
JournalJournal of Infrastructure Preservation and Resilience
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2021


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