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What will future transport systems look like in the UK?

29 March 2017

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Reported by Anna Fee, NERC-funded CSaP Policy Intern (January-April 2017)

Advances in technology and changing attitudes towards different forms of transport help to shape future transport systems in the UK.
As part of the Government Foresight Project into the Future of Mobility, CSaP organised a Policy Workshop which brought together representatives from the Government Office for Science with experts from academia and industry to discuss potential social and demographic issues which are likely to influence mobility over the next few decades.

Discussions focused on the key social and demographic factors which need to be considered when implementing future transport systems.

The use of technology to personalise travel information and improve travel experience was immediately highlighted as a primary influence on the transport choices we make. People tend to choose convenient transport options for their journey which offer the least chance of disruption.

Social and economic divides are also an important factor influencing different transport choices. While rural area populations are getting older, city dwellers are getting younger and have different attitudes towards transport. Fewer younger people are learning to drive due to uncertain employment and housing prospects, as well as increasing car insurance costs. Ensuring that older people are able to interact with technology, and so maintaining equal access across all areas of society, was flagged as an important issue to consider.

Current trends in consumerism are increasing demand for goods deliveries by road freight vehicles which are responsible for 25% of carbon emissions in the UK, and this is set to increase. A major uncertainty in transport planning is how other areas of policy are going to affect transport policy. Housing, employment, education and environmental policy all influence people’s attitudes and behaviours towards transport.

During discussions, specific population and transport needs were identified and social norms which are developing among transport users such as holding meetings on trains and in airports. The benefits and challenges of multi modal transport were discussed, such as encouraging bus and train companies to accommodate more bicycles and the required infrastructure to make multi modal transport more seamless.

Achievable targets for the Foresight Project were drawn out of the discussion as well as long term factors to be considered. Various future scenarios for consideration were suggested including the possibility of car-free cities and the potential employment and social impacts of autonomous vehicles.

(Banner Image: Les Haines via Flickr. Thumbnail Image: Paul Krueger via Flickr)