Delivered on Tuesday 7th November 2023 in the Palace of Westminster, more than 70 years after the most recent previous King’s Speech, His Majesty King Charles III’s announcement of the UK Government’s legislative agenda for the parliamentary session made mention of several initiatives that will be of interest to transport consultants and their clients. 

The speech included references to bills addressing London pedicabs, automated vehicles, and rail reform. So, what are some of the essential details of these measures that those involved in transport planning and infrastructure design ought to know about? 

The Automated Vehicles Bill 

The King stated that his ministers would “introduce new legal frameworks to support the safe commercial development of emerging industries, such as self-driving vehicles”. 

A recent report issued by the Transport Select Committee described the present legislation in place for self-driving vehicles as “archaic and limiting, especially concerning testing and legal liability.” The committee recommended that the UK Government devise a new legal framework to address this. 

It would seem that the new Automated Vehicles Bill is a response to this recommendation. It is aimed at delivering one of the world’s most comprehensive legal frameworks in relation to self-driving vehicles, with a major focus on safety. 

The proposed legislation seeks to ensure this through a range of measures. Those include, but are not limited to, setting out on which terms a vehicle can be classed as “self-driving”, and requiring companies to meet safety requirements from the point a vehicle is introduced onto the road. 

The Rail Reform Bill 

The King also stated in his speech, in the wake of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cancellation of the remaining yet-to-be-built phases of the HS2 project, that “my Government will invest in Network North to deliver faster and more reliable journeys between, and within, the cities and towns of the North and Midlands, prioritising improving the journeys that people make most often.” 

The draft Rail Reform Bill is aimed at building on this, as part of a “bold vision for future rail customers” for the whole of the UK. It seeks to achieve this in part by establishing Great British Railways (GBR) to create a simpler industry structure, with the organisation set to work in close cooperation with the private sector. 

This proposed legislation – if it becomes law – will also see the Secretary of State’s franchising authority functions transferred to GBR, to allow for operational and infrastructure decisions to be made in a coordinated way. 

Pedicabs (London) Bill 

Reference was also made by His Majesty in his speech to “the scourge of unlicensed pedicabs in London”, which he said would be tackled with the introduction of new legislation. 

Although, as things stand, local authorities across the UK are able to regulate pedicabs (also sometimes referred to as “cycle rickshaws”), Transport for London (TfL) presently lacks such powers. This means that pedicabs are presently the only form of unregulated public transport on the roads of the capital. 

The Pedicabs (London) Bill is meant to address this. The proposed legislation seeks to put in place regulation that will help to protect passengers. It will do this by enabling TfL to bring forward a pedicab licensing regime in London, and will also give the same body the ability to introduce fare control, as well as to set standards for operators, drivers, and their vehicles. 

Although certain measures outlined in the King’s Speech will be of greater interest to some transport consultants – and their clients – than they are to others, all of them will doubtless play their own important roles in shaping the future of UK transport. 

Would you like to learn more about the services and advice that our own transport consultants can provide, and that could profoundly benefit your transport planning and infrastructure design project? If so, you are very welcome to enquire to your nearest Transport Planning Associates (TPA) office