Councillor Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, looks at the future of transport in the county
Cllr Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy
Oxford and Oxfordshire weren’t built for motorised transport. Our historic county deserves an excellent travel network that connects us, helps businesses and jobs, gives access to opportunity, while tackling the climate and cost of living crises. That is what we are working to deliver, and we need your help and insight.
Since coming to power in May 2021, we’ve proposed steps to address the climate emergency and create a transport network that works for everyone.
We want residents and visitors to get around easily for work, education, daily living, and to connect families and friends. Our priority is to invest in an inclusive, integrated, and sustainable transport network while moving to zero carbon.
Most of us already contend with congestion and pollution. Cyclists and pedestrians are put at risk by sharing space with vehicles. If we carry on as we are while our population grows, we face gridlock. We must find ways for those who can to choose to travel on foot and bike, and use buses, taxis and trains (and share cars), to help free up our roads while we address the climate emergency and health issues by reducing emissions.
We are also committed to dealing with inequality. Cycling and walking are good ways to live healthily. But parts of the county and city are poorly served by public transport or lack safe connected cycle paths. Alternatives to cars must be affordable and work for everyone. Some people, and not just those with blue badges, need more help getting around, and we must plan for that too.
The County Council can’t do this alone. The city of Oxford, other local authorities and the county need to work together: the county needs access to its beloved city, and the city needs the county not to clog up its roads.
Our approach is to invest and encourage people to change the way they travel with a series of bold measures.
We are putting the interests of people with disabilities and those travelling on foot and bicycle first, providing better bus services, supporting taxis, and working to expand railways. We will amend existing policies, and with public help we are writing a radical Local Transport and Connectivity Plan to support this change.
Our planning strategy will evolve so new housing developments offer alternatives to the car – meaning residents need fewer parking spaces, have more green areas, and many can live on estates where car ownership isn’t necessary.
We must use data to understand where and when people want to travel so we make smarter choices about how to avoid traffic jams and offer smart ticketing on public transport. It will also allow us to provide dashboards on air pollution and local effects of the climate emergency.
We are determined not to build roads which will simply encourage more vehicle movements and reduce the space for living healthy. However, we have inherited some schemes bound up with new housing which need careful and thoughtful design and construction, not least to support new bus routes and cycle lanes. We also need to adapt existing roads to be better, faster routes for buses and bikes.
We want to gradually reduce parking spaces in Oxford and encourage others to do so, for instance through a workplace parking levy (which will be invested to provide quick and easy alternatives for commuters). Large employers like the universities are already working on this basis.
E-scooters, e-bikes and community buses can be used for the last few miles of journeys from out-of-town car parks. Motorcycles also offer an efficient alternative to cars and are part of our planning.
We’ve created a zero emission zone in Oxford, with plans to expand to the whole city centre and beyond, charging polluting vehicles as we move to all-electric transport.
There will be a focus on public transport, including replacing diesel buses with electric ones in Oxford from 2023, and introducing new lanes and bus priority measures to give peak priority in Oxford. There is one of these measures on Oxford High Street already, and another slightly different one on Botley Road. We will support community buses to connect people in our rural towns and villages. To achieve this, we will work in close partnership with the bus companies.
Our roads and urban environment also need to become safer and cleaner for people on foot, bikes, and mobility scooters. We have conducted experiments to cut through-traffic in our residential streets to improve air quality and quality of life and will review what we have learned. Reducing through-traffic in town centre streets can also help businesses operate outdoors and increase the attractiveness of our high streets for shoppers.
‘School Streets’ trials have also worked well in some places. More are planned to encourage children and families to walk or cycle to school.
We want to build dedicated and segregated cycle lanes, connect existing ones into a safer network along longer routes, and plug gaps in our towns and city. We also aim to modify existing and new road layouts to make them safe for cyclists and will look at establishing new links between home and workplaces – particularly for buses and bikes where the science jobs of the future are being created.
Bold changes aren’t easy but doing nothing isn’t an option. The prize is a city and county where we can all get around easily and affordably, in a way that is healthy and clean and does not damage our planet. Please share your ideas as we all travel on this journey to a cleaner, healthier, fairer Oxfordshire.
Cllr Enright is a member of the Fair Deal Alliance. It is made up of Labour & Cooperative, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors, and is the first administration without Conservatives since inception in 1889
Claire Walters, chief executive of Bus Users UK, emphasises the importance of proper planning and infrastructure to prioritise public, shared and active transport to meet sustainability targets.
The electrification of vehicles has become the key focus of government policy as the solution to transport decarbonisation in the war on climate change. The appeal, of course, is that it can be achieved without upsetting car-driving voters. But by focusing on electric vehicles, are we missing an opportunity to transform our roads and transport infrastructure, not just for private car users but for everyone?
It’s broadly accepted that electric vehicles have a lower carbon footprint over the course of their lifetime than traditional cars, but the picture is more nuanced than headlines might suggest. The rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars make them more energy-intensive to manufacture and charging them is largely reliant on the national grid which is still over 40% dependent on fossil fuels. The pollution from tyre and brake wear can be many times greater than exhaust emissions and the current approach to end-of-life battery disposal is less than sustainable.
In the long-term, electric vehicles will offer a more climate-friendly alternative to the internal combustion engine but there remains an elephant in the room – or rather an elephant currently blocking all major roads in our town and city centres: congestion.
Congestion not only increases pollution of both air and noise, it hampers the economic growth so vital to our post-pandemic recovery. Getting people out of private cars and onto public, shared and active travel modes is the only effective and sustainable way to tackle pollution and congestion, improving our roads not just for the people who use them but for those who live and work alongside them. Public Health England attributes up to 36,000 deaths per year in the UK to respiratory disease, lung cancer and cardiovascular illness as a direct result of air pollution. And it’s not just our health that is being compromised. The Global Traffic Scorecard for pre-Covid 2019 showed that, on average, UK road users wasted 115 hours each year in congestion (149 hours in London). That’s over two average working weeks spent sitting in traffic, at a total cost to the economy of £6.9 billion.
According to the Government’s National Bus Strategy, buses are the ‘easiest, cheapest and quickest’ way to improve transport and with one double decker bus able to take up to 75 cars off the road, it’s easy to see why. With the climate crisis so high on the agenda and the personal and economic costs of congestion and pollution growing, we need to change our thinking. Rather than switching people from one form of private transport to another, we need to actively discourage private car use and focus instead on public, shared and active travel. Getting people out of private cars creates a virtuous circle, as reducing the number of cars on our roads improves road safety and speeds up journey times for alternative forms of transport making them more reliable and, given their cost, more attractive to everyone, including private car users.
Public and active travel improves the health and wellbeing of the people who use it. It also reduces the financial burdens on the rest of society associated with poor health and social exclusion. A new report from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) puts the health cost of England’s most deprived communities at nearly £30 billion annually while the Mental Health Foundation, London School of Economics and Political Science estimates the cost of poor mental health in the UK to be nearly £120 billion a year. There is a direct correlation between access to transport, health and deprivation so as well as tackling climate change and congestion, sustainable public and active travel have a vital role to play in the levelling-up agenda. Good public transport reduces isolation and loneliness and improves access to life’s opportunities through education, employment, social and leisure activities and, of course, health services.
The current focus on electric vehicles will not only contribute to congestion, noise pollution and, certainly in the short-term, air pollution, but risks widening the wealth gap between those who can afford a private electric vehicle and those who can’t. Policies like tolls and congestion charges widen the gap still further.
But whether you can afford the expense or not, without proper planning and infrastructure to prioritise public, shared and active transport, you will still be wasting hours of your time sitting in the same gridlocked traffic as the rest of us.
About Bus Users
Bus Users campaigns for inclusive, accessible transport. We are the only approved Alternative Dispute Resolution Body for the bus and coach industry and the designated body for handling complaints under the Passenger Rights in Bus and Coach Legislation. We are also part of a Sustainable Transport Alliance, a group working to promote the benefits of public, shared and active travel.
Alongside our complaints work we investigate and monitor services and work with operators and transport providers to improve services for everyone. We run events, carry out research, respond to consultations, speak at government select committees and take part in industry events to make sure the voice of the passenger is heard.
Bus Users UK Charitable Trust Ltd is a registered charity (1178677 and SC049144) and a Company Limited by Guarantee (04635458).
Claire Walters, Chief Executive of Bus Users UK, will be speaking at Highways UK on 2-3 November at the NEC in Birmingham
Richard Bradley, Head of Strategy at Midlands Connect, outlines how the Midlands is ready to take the lead on the UK’s clean energy revolution when it comes to hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.
Richard Bradley, Head of Strategy, Midlands Connect
Energy prices are sky high right now and I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw pump prices had reached an eye-watering £1.76 a litre. Fortunately, I’ve already moved to a plug-in electric vehicle and with EV prices improving all the time, it’s clear that change is truly on the horizon.
We know that the age of petrol and diesel powered transport is coming to an end and coupled with the current energy crisis, switching our fuel sources feels very timely. Government has committed to fully carbon neutral transport by 2050 and green technology is already moving fast in the car industry, with public transport operators also finding new ways of making their vehicles zero emission. But what are the viable alternative fuels for long-distance HGVs? With heavy goods vehicles accounting for around 21% of the Midlands’ road-based emissions overall, solutions are needed.
Electric vehicles dominate the green vehicle market today but we urgently need to diversify our power sources for moving freight, in order to maintain a strong and resilient transport network into the future. Midlands Connect is planning infrastructure which ensures hydrogen power can find its home in our region and help provide a route-map to clean energy alternatives across the country.
One option is hydrogen fuelled vehicles generating their own electricity through a chemical reaction inside the vehicle’s internal fuel cell. At Midlands Connect, we think hydrogen presents a promising offer for several reasons; it feels similar to petrol refuelling, can be easily stored at key locations, has minimal safety issues and fast refuelling without drawing electricity straight from the grid.
You may recall the popular book ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, which many of the Midlands Connect team love to read to their children at bedtime, where we’re reminded that:
‘We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!’
Just like in this famous book, you can’t go over us, under us or through us, so it’s hardly surprising that the Midlands has become the UK’s premier location for warehousing, freight and logistics and is therefore a fantastic candidate for trialling hydrogen HGVs and refuelling.
40% of the Midlands’ economic activity comes from the manufacturing and distribution industries and we are home to around a third of the UK’s warehouse space. Combining this with a long history in the automotive industry, the region has also become a hotbed for academic research in transport.
Now of course we’re a little bit biased, but we’re not the only people who recognise why the Midlands is an ideal location for developing alternative fuels. The Department for Transport agrees and Baroness Vere has asked us to become the lead sub-national transport body for alternative fuels.
We link the north and south, connecting key routes and UK gateways at air, sea and free ports and our planned improvements will increase their resilience. Our development of a network of hydrogen refuelling, recharging and modal interchange hubs at central locations between the region’s two airports will connect key centres for the production of sand and gravel, food and many other heavy goods vital to the UK’s economy.
The Midlands is already leading on hydrogen technology in the UK, with great research centres such as MIRA and Tyseley Energy Park, as well as JCB, who are developing hydrogen internal combustion engines and have recently signed a large deal to build hydrogen construction vehicles right here in the Midlands.
Hydrogen fuel technology for heavy goods vehicles is still relatively new and Government is now seeking suitable locations to test hydrogen trucks through their zero-emission road freight trial funding competition, as outlined in 2021’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan.
The Midlands was a successful bidder with the ‘H2GVMids’ entry, developed in collaboration with Midlands Engine and led by EDF and the Energy Research Accelerator. The H2GVMids partnership includes businesses from the green hydrogen and hydrogen truck supply chain, as well as numerous hauliers, all highly motivated to kickstart this new technology. If successful, H2GVMids could receive some £30 million funding to run truck trials over the next 5 years and build on the Midlands’ proud history in the automotive, freight and logistics industries.
Today, the world of hydrogen technology is filled with questions, variables and possibilities, from how hydrogen is produced and where it comes from, to switching trucks, buses and trains to this fuel. In the Midlands, we stand united and ready to take the lead on the UK’s clean energy revolution. We can’t wait to harness the power of hydrogen.
Transport is one of the main contributors to carbon emissions in London and to meet the Mayor’s ambitious target to make the capital a net zero city by 2030 we will need to dramatically increase smart and electric transport alternatives – and not just electric cars!And to achieve this, there is a pressing need to consider the role of highways and streets within the emerging digital ecosystem, says Nathan Pierce, Head of Smart London and Sharing Cities at the Greater London Authority.
Our highways are connectors; to, from and within our cities. Today, cities are under increasing pressure to develop more effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and smart infrastructure is essential for this modernisation. A good example is smart mobility. The demand for intelligent mobility solutions that make it easier for people and goods to be transported to, from and through cities is growing. And so many cities have stepped up to the challenge, working across sectors to find solutions that work for their citizens.
Our major international smart cities venture – Sharing Cities – is addressing some of the most pressing urban challenges facing urban areas today. Three lighthouse cities (London, Lisbon, Milan) have implemented a range of green tech and data services in close collaboration with three fellow cities (Bordeaux, Burgas, Warsaw) to test out the latest thinking and to scale up what works.
After drawing on nearly €25 million in EU funding, the project has triggered nearly €270 million in investment in an effort to expand a smart strategy that involves energy use, low carbon transport and data management. 34 partners in Sharing Cities from the private sector – both large and small – public sector and academic institutions have collaborated to develop workable business models for smart technologies that can be scaled up and replicated across other UK and European cities. In doing so they have supported the growth of the green tech market.
All six cities have demonstrated the benefits that using green tech and working together can have on carbon reduction and service delivery. In the first phase we implemented building retrofits, e-mobility, sustainable energy management systems, smart street infrastructure (such as smart lampposts), urban sharing platforms and digital incentivisation applications. Using the learnings from lighthouse cities, fellow cities co-designed, validated and implemented similar solutions and models within their own city contexts.
In the world of mobility, we have managed to shift the dial on how our cities approach mobility as a service and shared transport solutions. We have deployed over ten mobility islands across our cities and demonstrated the contribution they make. We have deployed 1,000s of publicly owned shared bikes which have led to improvements in cycling infrastructure, especially in Lisbon. We have converted entire municipal fleets to electric vehicles with very positive results. And we have tested a whole range of parking sensors and traffic management technologies that can help us to reach our climate targets.
We know that this technology can have a real impact, now we want to reach out to various sectors and boroughs across London to understand how we can scale up what works and link in with existing transit plans.
Nathan Pierce is Head of Smart London and Sharing Cities, Greater London Authority. Nathan is speaking on the Big Thinking Stage at Highways UK (12.50, 3 November). He will further explore how highways and transport fit within the smart city context and London’s 2030 net-zero ambitions, while providing latest insights from the international Sharing Cities programme.
Road use charging is back on the agenda. While the economic and environmental arguments stack up, public acceptability will be a significant challenge. Getting this right is important and the infrastructure sector, says Stantec’s Dougie McDonald, must actively engage with Government to influence policy development
Over the past 50 years there has been extensive research and assessment of the benefits and challenges of different approaches to directly charging for road use in the UK. Until relatively recently, the London Congestion Charge and M6toll provided the only two examples of implementation of large-scale schemes, other than estuarial crossings.
Now road user charging (RUC) is back on the agenda, this time due to the emergence of a roads policy ‘trilemma’ for the Government to solve. This consists of the need to decarbonise our roads network to meet climate change commitments, a potential £40billion blackhole in Government finances from the associated mass adoption of electric vehicles and fuel tax loss, and the ongoing necessity of supporting economic growth through free-flowing road-network connectivity—particularly as we seek to close the lost economic performance from the pandemic.
Current policy proposals can comfortably address particular aspects of the trilemma; however, it is likely that all three issues will need to be addressed over time. As a result, there is renewed interest in RUC in the UK and its role on our future road systems.
Applying RUC anywhere comes with significant known challenges. We have to consider the best technology, which parts of the network it will be applied to, and different approaches between cars and heavy goods. We must assess the impact on different social groups, particularly low-income, marginalised groups, and those with few options other than a car and travel at certain times of the day. RUC schemes collect a large amount of data on the travel habits of millions of people—meaning privacy is a challenge. And finally timing and transition are key as the Government has set ambitious targets for a net zero UK.
Taken together, these challenges all lead towards the issue of acceptability whereby the public feel confident and willing to use toll systems.
Trials in the United States have shown the importance of equity and privacy arrangements, and that rural, low income groups and certain ethnicities may be more difficult to convince of the merits of RUC. Lessons from schemes in Europe and Asia/Pacific show the importance of demonstrating how funds raised can support public transport improvements or environmental gains. These schemes show that the technology is ready for RUC implementation and that “back office” account management arrangements are important.
In the UK, an upgrade programme has begun to improve the tolling system on the M6toll, introducing new digital systems and enabling broader interactions with the user base who complete 18 million journeys annually, or around 50,000 every day.
Public acceptability of a new RUC system will be a significant challenge, so the infrastructure sector must actively engage with Government to influence policy development.
Dougie McDonald is Stantec’s UK Regional Director for Transport. He is speaking with Andy Cliffe, CEO of Midlands Expressway, in a session at Highways UK at 9.30am on 4 November which will further explore current trends in road user charging and lessons learned. Highways UK takes place at the NEC, Birmingham on 3/4 November. It is free to attend, register now!
Setting net zero targets is the easy bit. The difficult bit is all about the practical measures to get from here to there, says Sir Dieter Helm, Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford. And when it comes to electric vehicle charging the lack of an overarching framework risks turning a competitive opportunity into the wild west
Setting net zero targets, especially when they are 30 years away, is the easy bit. The difficult bit is all about the practical measures to get from here to there. That is all the more challenging when it means tackling the long-neglected sources of emissions—notably transport, heating and agriculture. By setting an intermediary target to stop selling diesel and petrol cars, the government has willed the end; now it has to will the means, and especially when the target is less than ten years away.
Putting aside both the environmental problems that electric cars bring and alternatives like hydrogen, the urgent immediate step is to have a nationwide efficient car-charging system. We probably need much of this to be in place within the next five years.
You might think that with such an imperative over such a short timescale, there would be a national car charging infrastructure plan; that it would be designed around the electricity grid and the regional distribution networks; and that there would be a core utility, backed by a regulatory asset base, with a capital expenditure programme to deliver the necessary infrastructure by a specified date.
Not a bit of it. It’s being driven bottom up, by competing companies trying to grab the best bits of the market without an overarching framework. It is a wild west, driven by the conflicting commercial interests and, in the case of the oil companies, the protection and enhancements of their existing fossil-fuel charging stations. Electricity supply companies are in on the act, and, again, this reflects the same sort of commercial incentives that brought us the shambles of the smart meter rollout. Meanwhile the car companies have no interest in standardising the batteries, and are unwilling to contemplate the obvious answer—to switch batteries when charging is necessary.
Given the sheer scale of the challenges and the urgency, it would be quite hard to make this up. My hunch is that when we get to 2030, the target will be pushed back. Nor is this unique to electric vehicle charging. The same sort of shambolic bottom-up approach is being pushed in home heating, somehow imagining that banning gas boilers is going to magic up an alternative heating system. When it comes to agriculture, government is not really trying at all.
It could all be so much better. There could have a much better chance of meeting the deadlines, and because it could be much more efficient, it could be a lot cheaper. The way to start is with the end game: a universal service obligation that provides all the citizens with access to electric charging. With the end in mind, the next step is to sketch out what a national charging system, as a core utility, might look like. It does not have to fill in all the details. These will need to be flexible. But it does need to sort out the main bits: the charging backbone and how this sits with the electric networks. This needs a system operator, and it needs a utility structure and a regulatory framework to ensure that investment costs are recovered. It does not need a single company to actually do the works; that can be competitive. But it does need a plan to work to.
The most likely outcome is that the government will keep on trying to make competition deliver a natural monopoly, until it is obvious that it is failing. Even then it may not give up. But, in the end, we will have a national charging infrastructure—just too late, and too costly.
Professor Sir Dieter Helm will expand on these ideas in his contribution to this year’s Highways UK, taking place at the NEC on 3/4 November. Free to attend, book your place now
And for further insight check out Dieter’s latest book
Steve Birdsall, CEO of Gaist, provider of roadscape insight and intelligence services, explains the very real possibility of a revolution in road safety
In the past decade, the role of data within the built environment has changed dramatically. An explosion in the information available to infrastructure asset owners and operators, the emergence of technologies and digital processes such as BIM and digital twins and advances in analytics, have transformed how we understand the world around us.
For those managing and interacting with our roads, this data revolution is starting to unlock benefits including optimising network performance, driving efficiencies and – critically – improving safety.
The richer the level of information and insights available to roads decision-makers, the greater the depth of analysis, the better informed they are and the better positioned they are to respond to defects and challenges on the network.
This data is not just becoming available to the decision maker. Road users will soon be able to access real-time information about the condition of roads.
Advancing road safety Today, a new development is set to further deepen our understanding of the network and facilitate a huge step forward in road safety.
Data captured from sensors within regular passenger vehicles can now be used to provide on-the-ground ‘live’ detail about road friction, road roughness, temperature, and surface defects.
As an example of how this data could be used, the implications for the winter-market particularly are huge. Decision making by Winter Duty Managers over when and how to treat the network has traditionally been based on Road Weather Information Systems, which though time tested, have well documented limitations.
But armed with this next-level of dynamic data – combined with other reliable data sources such as radar and satellite images – those responsible for managing our roads networks and keeping them open and safe during the winter period will be far better informed and empowered to predict and plan their interventions.
Take gritting routes. With this rich data, our knowledgeable and experienced winter service managers will have at their disposal far greater detail of how gritting routes are responding to treatment and how drivers are experiencing travelling on those gritted routes.
Fed into a winter service strategy and used to combine with and complement other winter specific features, this information can be deployed not just in one season but to drive continual improvement for future years.
This will provide evidence to quickly respond to key questions such as what parts of the network should we treat? when should we treat them? and what treatments should be carried out?
So how does it work? The real time datasets consist of a combination of tyre-road friction readings, ambient temperature and windscreen wiper speeds from passenger vehicles traversing the road network. This is then used to create a set of map layers to give winter maintenance professionals access to a level of detailed information with which to inform their decisions.
The readings are all mapped using GPS and timestamped and are never the result of data from one vehicle – there is an established minimum threshold of vehicles from which data is drawn.
The real-time dynamic datasets will be accessible for the first time to local authorities and networks from Safecote, a Gaist partner, through its BM Roads System.
Advancing our mission At Gaist, we have always been laser-focused on our mission to provide the deepest and richest possible intelligence about our roads to support critical areas including the safety of the network. With this latest development, we are proud to continue to honour that commitment.
Steve Birdsall will further explore how vehicle sensor technology is transforming asset managers’ approach to road safety at Highways UK, which is running at the NEC on 3/4 November. Other contributors to the session include Björn Zachrisson from Nira Dynamics in Sweden and Paul Boss, Chief Executive of Road Surface Treatments Association. For more information on Highways UK, including how to book your free exhibition and conference pass, go to https://www.terrapinn.com/exhibition/highways-uk/index.stm
Products that can help to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of laying a road surface are available now, but too many highway authorities are still hesitant to try new technologies, says Tarmac’s national technical director, Brian Kent
Warm mix asphalts which are manufactured and laid at around 40 degrees less than traditional hot material have been performing well for many years, but still only represent around 5% of market share in the UK.
Two years ago, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Highways concluded that the use of warm mix asphalt can reduce CO2 emissions associated with asphalt production by as much as 15%.
The case for warm mix was strengthened in 2019 after the introduction of guidance for warm mix into the specification for highway works, which many local authorities follow.
But still, the quantities of lower temperature asphalts specified remain low.
It now needs senior industry and political support to champion materials such as warm mix asphalt if the UK’s transportation sector is to meet its 2050 carbon reduction target.
If warm mix became the default for asphalt specified across the country, then overnight, we could see around 70 or 80% of asphalt installed in this country being mixed and laid warm.
There is also a need for more collaboration between local authorities to allow a product deemed suitable in one area to be readily accepted in another. At the moment, some local authorities are happy to specify new materials, whereas others will only agree if they carry out trials and monitor its performance over five years or more.
Another highway development that is not being exploited as much as it could is for binder and surface courses to be replaced as one homogeneous material, rather than in separate passes. By laying single-layer materials, you make a considerable sustainability saving by reducing time on site and the associated operations.
A more recent introduction to our sustainable products portfolio is rubber modified asphalt, which incorporates recycled worn vehicle tyres into the carriageway.
The sector’s apparent reluctance to embrace innovative thinking is at odds with that of the public. Technology has always quickly been embraced by consumers, over a wide range of industries, including mobile phones and cars. But when it comes to our industry people can be reluctant to take on what they perceive as a risk. Historical or procurement barriers restrict innovation uptake in terms of what has been specified, with a lack of flexibility to change and embrace innovation.
While environmental awareness is growing in the sector, cost still appears to be the main driving factor behind product specification. However, just because a product is greener and can be slightly more expensive per tonne it does not mean that the whole life cost is more expensive – by reducing site operations and extending pavement life, costs can be reduced.
Brian Kent is National Technical Director at Tarmac. Tarmac is sponsoring the Civils and Materials Theatre at Highways UK at the NEC on 3/4 November 2021
Subsidising low emission vehicles is creating an increasingly large hole in HM Treasury’s coffers. And with the expected rapid transition to electric vehicles we’ll be talking serious money within a few years. RAC Foundation Director Steve Gooding asks whether now is the time to consider a new system of taxing motorists, but from a rather different perspective to that traditionally associated with road pricing.
If you were to ask the Chancellor whether he is a spender or a saver – that question so favoured by the money sections of weekend newspapers – he would, whatever his natural inclination, have to admit that on the evidence of the past twelve months and this week’s Budget, he is much more the former than the latter. The record shows that Rishi Sunak has, faced with the covid crisis, been in ‘spend-spend-spend’ mode in an attempt to prevent the total collapse of the UK economy.
But there is another generous policy being pursued by Mr Sunak which whilst not yet on the scale of the viral bailout is set to cause him an additional financial headache in the not too distant future. And that is the subsidising of ‘green’ vehicles.
Analysis by the RAC Foundation shows that when a pure electric car is purchased instead of a petrol car then HM Treasury loses, on average, around £897 of revenue in the first 12 months after registration. If the purchase of an electric vehicle was in place of a diesel car then the amount would be £1,139.
The missing money comprises forgone fuel duty (currently 57.95p for every litre of petrol and diesel sold), VAT on both the duty and the underlying product price of the fuel, and the initial Vehicle Excise Duty payment – or showroom tax as it is colloquially called – which is emissions-based and is generally higher in the first year.
With the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders forecasting pure plug-in electric vehicle sales in the region of 175,000 in the coming twelve months the switch to green vehicles this year is set to cost the Exchequer another £175 million.
And don’t forget the purchase subsidy the government currently makes available for most new electric vehicles via the plug-in car and van grants, and the money it provides to help individuals and businesses install electric charge points.
Despite all that you could argue that the resulting figures are still relatively small fry compared to the £27 billion that would (if we weren’t all ‘locked-down’) be collected annually via fuel duty from the more than 30 million internal combustion engined cars that are on the UK’s roads. Even though sales have been picking up for electric vehicles compared with petrol and diesel models they still make up only a small fraction of the total vehicle parc.
So for the next year or two the Chancellor might be down only a few hundred million pounds of fuel duty income. But the Chancellor’s headache of how to fund the government’s spending commitments will get markedly worse as a consequence of last year’s decision to announce a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, just under a decade from now. £27 billion of income evaporating before their eyes is surely enough to make even the calmest of Chancellors sit up and take notice. As the saying goes, a billion here and a billion there and suddenly you’re talking real money.
Yet if the Chancellor is to retain his income from drivers – which is a choice, but one that, not being much of a gambler, I would confidently bet on, then long term he needs to consider a whether a new system of taxation might do the trick.
Step forward the proponents of road pricing. Now there’s a term to conjur with.
It pays to be very, very clear what exactly we mean when we say ‘road pricing’. At its simplest we might be referring to a tolled road. Or, next up, a scheme to charge motorists a set amount for each road-mile travelled over a variety of roads. But for economists, the object of desire is the far more sophisticated, and complicated, version that adjusts the amount payable in relation to when and where the mileage is done, reflecting, it says here, the external social marginal cost that trip imposes (i.e. by causing congestion and polluting the environment).
The Foundation previously nailed its colours to the mast of creating a distance charge, supporting, as we did, Gary Raccuja’s winning entry in the 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize. The proposition, developed in answer to the question of whether there might be a better way to pay for roads, advocated a system where per-mile fees would be applied, with the option of their being collected via drivers’ insurance premiums, allied to the earmarking of a set proportion of income to be reserved for spending on roads. But that is probably not the question foremost in the current Chancellor’s mind. Spending on roads is just one of a mighty long list of things pleading for his largesse.
Of course, the Chancellor does have the option of deciding that the growing hole in his finances is actually a price worth paying when set against the vast benefits of saving the planet with the help of green vehicles. He could set a long-term policy that taxes low-emission vehicles significantly less than more polluting legacy vehicles we’ve been used to driving, to give the growth of the electric car market a major boost.
But if, as seems likely, the question the Chancellor is asking is how best to ensure motorists continue to cough up money to pay for roads, and schools, and hospitals, then we would counsel making simplicity the watchword . The scale of the task involved in introducing a new tax payable by tens of millions of people on a variable basis set so as to raise billions of income, replacing a system in fuel duty that has the lowest cost of collection of any tax, ever, should not be underestimated. Not impossible. After all, scientists have just put a vehicle onto the surface of Mars. But, like Mars, the risk register for such an initiative would, we think, be a vibrant, glowing bright red.
If driving is to continue to come at a fiscal cost to the motorist then we’d advise the Chancellor to focus on those vehicles that would otherwise be getting a free pass – a subset of the parc not the whole fleet. Not easy when for environmental reasons the imperative is to encourage their take-up. The risk of sending mixed messages is high. But so is the risk of encouraging electric vehicle take-up on a false prospectus.
If a road user charge is on the horizon for zero emission vehicles then working through the detail of how and by whom that charge would be set and collected should surely start right now.
Steve Gooding is Director of the RAC Foundation and a confirmed speaker at Highways UK running at the NEC, Birmingham on 3/4 November 2021
Author: Alistair Hunter – Director for Infrastructure Advisory, Arup
Five years from now, low emission vehicles – predominantly electric vehicles (EVs) – will be transforming the streets of our cities… but only if these new vehicles have somewhere to charge. How can cities, infrastructure owners and transport authorities make joined-up decisions around EV charging infrastructure to reap the benefits of low emission vehicles?
The right location
Cities are densely populated. Owners of EVs won’t have driveways in which to charge their cars, and will need lots of public charge points – whether during the journey or at the destination. Applying our modelling and analysis to one UK city, we’ve estimated it needs to expand its existing charging network by 500% in the next five years to help it meet its aspirations for a cleaner, lower-carbon future. Across the world, from LA to New Delhi, every city faces this problem. So, where should these charge points be located?
Let the data speak
If everyone is to benefit from the coming EV revolution, city authorities urgently need to lead a collaborative effort to install the right number of charging points in the right places. A data-driven collaboration between different city bodies and stakeholders – transport authorities, regeneration teams and energy distribution network operators – will enable municipalities and local authorities to implement an EV charging network that works for everyone.
City authorities already have access to data on socio-economic factors such as the types of housing in different areas, and to transport data that plots the origins and destinations of people’s journeys. Combining this data in a detailed model can provide a picture of how many charging points are needed, the types required for the likely mix of vehicles, the benefits that could be derived from charge points in different locations and the likely demands on the energy network.
We’ve created a detailed model that combines socio-economic, housing, transport data, with EV adoption rates and vehicle performance data. These data points are brought together in a proprietary demand model to provide a detailed picture of EV charging demand through the day, across an entire city. This allows us to test different scenarios and create masterplans integrating EV charging demand, with charge point placement and grid capacity.
Don’t leave it to the market
Taking a network-wide approach is vital. Municipalities and city authorities could leave installing chargers entirely up to commercial charging companies. This is too important to leave to the market alone, or indeed to any single body. It’s not clear that the market will ensure a cross section of society has access to charging – firms could potentially cherry pick the most profitable locations. It’s also doubtful the market would investigate how electric buses (which Arup is studying for a city in the UK), could share their charging infrastructure with private cars.
Charging infrastructure has implications for issues like air quality, decarbonisation and more broadly a city’s reputation, everyone needs to be involved. Ideally, this means local government creating an EV masterplan focused on achieving the widest-ranging benefits and supported by the whole community.
Preparing for plug in
* Charging infrastructure is key to EV take-up and needs to support different road users with different behaviours.
* On-street charging in residential areas will not happen at pace or scale. People without off-street parking need destination and en-route charging to convince them to use EVs.
* City authorities need to take a leading role in creating a joined-up plan for installing EV charge points, otherwise coverage will be patchy. And they urgently need a lot more charge points.
* Modelling combines city data to help define the optimum number, type and location of charge points.
Alistair Hunter is a Director for Infrastructure Advisory at Arup. Alistair will be exploring these themes further as part of the Cities session in the Main Theatre on 7 November
Author: John Batten – Global Cities Director, Arcadis
By 2050, more than two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities, and this rapid rise in urbanisation will dramatically reshape how we live our lives. From climate change to mobility, the impact of population growth means we will need to rethink many of the ways in which we, as citizens, interact with our environment, says John Batten, Global Cities Director at Arcadis
Cities everywhere are grappling with congestion, overcrowding, poor air quality and the need to drive greater prosperity and competitiveness. Our experience of a city often comes down to how easy it is to move around, yet with transport contributing to 20% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and 7 million people dying from air pollution every year, the challenges are clear.
Is there a solution?
Seamless, Connected and Sustainable Mobility
The answer to a seamless transport experience lies in the smart application of technology. New innovations and low carbon solutions that can be integrated with and complement the existing transport network offer the best opportunity for progress. However, this can only be effective if the needs of the citizen are put at the heart of future transport plans.
Numerous emerging trends will have an impact. From Artificial Intelligence and drone technology disrupting first and last mile delivery, to the reduction in car ownership and the rise of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) and Mobility as a Service (Maas), success ultimately depends on how a city aligns its vision with the citizen experience.
Postcards from around the world
We are already seeing some exciting interventions happening in cities all around the world.
We are working with the city of Amsterdam to design and procure a MaaS solution for their Zuidas business district. A MaaS service makes it easier for people to plan, book, pay for and access a range of different transport modes with a single App. Our work included business engagement to achieve agreement from 15 of the largest employers in the region to combine their ‘buying power’ for the MaaS solution; creating a demonstration service (an “experiment”) to challenge employees to give up their car for a month to experience MaaS, generate early adopter advocates and to capture essential user feedback to input to the procurement approach; and consultancy support for the MaaS procurement.
As people start making smarter choices about how they move, we hope to see a reduction in the pressure on the crowded road network in Amsterdam’s business district, improving air quality, and helping citizens to be happier, healthier and more connected.
New York is also a city feeling the strain of population growth and an overburdened transport network. With people living in increasingly close proximity, buildings often don’t have the space to store or recycle waste. The result is that, in one day alone, up to 34 waste trucks are traversing four boroughs to service businesses in a neighbourhood where the infrastructure is already straining under the weight of demand.
In response, we used our digital knowledge to develop a waste collection strategy that made better use of existing resources. Based on a simulation model, we found that a zoned approach would reduce truck traffic by a staggering 18 million miles a day. A simple approach, with a significant outcome.
Putting future mobility into practice
There are some huge opportunities for UK cities to benefit. Turning our attention closer to home, Cardiff’s new electric vehicle strategy demonstrates how an ambitious city is upping its mobility game.
Government policy dictates that all new cars and vans will need to be Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) by 2040, yet Cardiff has significantly fewer charge points compared to other core cities. The council needed to develop an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging network across the while city, leading by example by cleaning up its own fleet. This is a large, wholescale change that can only be achieved through collaboration with key partners, ensuring the EV agenda sits alongside a much wider sustainable transport strategy.
The step-by-step guide we used to help Cardiff Council offers a blueprint that can help any city review its future mobility strategy.
A 6-Step Guide
1. Using the City’s vision as a starting point, define detailed objectives.
2. Review the current market.
3. Develop an appropriate stakeholder engagement strategy. Who needs to be part of the decision-making process?
4. Establish business and operating models that will work long-term.
5. Enable rollout. Is the plan seamless, does it meet required standards, and does it provide the best user experience?
6. Manage & maintain. Reliability is key to user confidence.
With just a few practical measures, future mobility – designed around the needs of the citizen – can become a reality.
John Batten is Global Cities Director at Arcadis. He is speaking on the Burges Salmon stage at Highways UK offering further observations on Big thinking from big cities, radical ideas on mobility from around the world. His colleague Tom Morgan is also presenting on Cardiff’s EV transition with Andrew Gregory, Director of Environment, Planning and Transport at Cardiff City Council, in the main theatre.
Author: Adam Crossley – Adam Crossley, head of environment and strategy, Skanska UK
Even if you are not a big advocate of fighting climate change you can’t help but notice how it is increasingly on the agenda everywhere – whether it’s protests in Parliament, the Prime Minister committing the UK to net-zero emissions by 2050, or the latest David Attenborough documentary.
This is a serious challenge. And it is not going away. What does it mean for the highways sector? If done right, it could make the sector more attractive to road users and future talent while making it more efficient.
Let’s start with understanding how the sector contributes to climate change, which it does significantly, and how each emission source can be de-carbonised to zero.
Firstly, there is the traffic. Everything from family cars to heavy haulage, and all those petrol and diesel emissions. This is going to be de-carbonised by wholesale take-up of electric and hydrogen transport over the next two decades. Throw in the advance of autonomous vehicle technology along with the need for new electric and hydrogen charging infrastructure and we could have an entirely new network, along with entirely new safety and customer service challenges. At Skanska, we just installed 67 charging points at our UK head office, enabling more new electric vehicles on the network, and that is just what we are doing. But everyone in the sector has a part to play in how the network will change.
Secondly, there is road building and maintenance, and everything that goes with it. Construction stuff. At Skanska that is what we do. Making roads, building bridges, maintaining the network. That’s a lot of material and a lot of plant and equipment. There are three primary sources of emissions from doing that. There are emissions from electricity we use for fabricating steel, producing cement, using power tools, powering a depot, and so on. There are chemical emissions from the cement binding process itself. And then there are all the construction and maintenance vehicles we use, generating petrol and diesel emissions.
So how do we tackle all that?
Some of it will be tackled at source. Over time, the UK will de-carbonise electricity production, so whatever we use will be carbon free. The steel and cement industry will develop commercially viable carbon capture solutions, like one in development at Drax power station, which suck carbon out of the air before it gets into the atmosphere. And eventually there won’t be diesel dumpers and petrol vans, vehicles will all be electric and hydrogen.
But for the highways sector to adapt to the challenge of climate change we cannot wait for other industries to do the job for us. We need to set a vision for a sector net-zero target which the entire highways supply chain can support. And we need to map out how we can drive carbon reductions at a faster rate and use carbon as a different way to reduce costs while increasing innovation.
How can we use fewer materials by designing more efficiently? How can we accelerate bringing electric and hydrogen vehicles into our own fleets? How can we collaborate with innovators to speed up the uptake of zero carbon transport technology? How can we use new construction techniques, like off-site manufacture? How can we understand carbon with better data, and target opportunities where we can reduce carbon and cost at the same time?
It all starts with a target that the sector can invest in achieving. At Skanska we have committed to operating with net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, and that includes all emissions from the materials we use and the supply chain working with us. We have mapped out the detail of how we think that will happen, so we know where to invest and what to focus on. And, crucially, our supply chain know they are part of it and need to collaborate with us.
Imagine if there were a highways net-zero target and the major players used it to incentivise collaboration and innovation across the supply chain. How many more talented people would want to join our sector to help? How many more innovations would be uncovered to transform the way we work? How much more efficient and productive could we be?
And, how much quicker could the UK’s highways be world-leading examples of a digitally enabled zero carbon network?
Adam Crossley, head of environment and strategy at Skanska UK
Skanska is Highways UK’s sustainability partner and sponsor of the Sustainability Theatre at Highways UK on 6/7 November. It is also collaborating with Highways UK to help us make the event more sustainable. We understand that this is not an immediate ‘fix’ and we will have to progressively change not only our own, but importantly also the behaviours of our supply chain, clients and visitors. We’ll be telling you more on that later, but in the meantime, you’ll find more information on our approach including our sustainability policy and strategy here
At a recent transport event I was part of a panel addressing the issues associated with developing the infrastructure to facilitate the transition to electric vehicles. Burges Salmon’s two largest sectors are Transport and Energy so electric vehicles, and indeed Connected Autonomous Vehicles are an area where we are seeing considerable developments. Some of the observations I made are presented below.
There is no doubt that there has been somewhat of a rush to catch up on the charging infrastructure needed to support the existing electric vehicles and those predicted to be purchased. It is absolutely essential that this charging point infrastructure is harmonised, the charge points need to talk to each other and hopefully the Automated Electric Vehicles Act will help that.
What we have tended to see so far is a rush to grab suitable charging sites by developer and infrastructure providers. Parallels can be drawn with the UK solar boom some years ago. The concerns of many in the sector are that with that land grab and quick roll out of charging infrastructure often pursuant to grants, there is the potential for a high degree of redundancy in the medium term. Whether that’s because the charging point infrastructure is inadequate, is not suitable for purpose as the electric vehicles develop, or in the wrong place, will remain to be seen.
As we are rolling out charging points, it is essential that smart charging is part of it. As one speaker has put it, it is just wholly irresponsible if we are not employing smart charging alongside the rollout of charge point infrastructure. The UK’s record of rolling out smart systems is fairly dismal, but if, as predicted, the majority of electric vehicle charging is at home, it will be essential for those homes to have a smart charging solution, if nothing else to help the local distribution network cope with a multitude of new charging points all plugging in at the same time.
The fleet market must embrace electric vehicles
Our view is that it is essential for the fleet market to embrace electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are not the complete solution for all, but they will play a big role. Most companies have embraced the move to low carbon with many signing up to pledges to use 100% renewable energy. The use of electric vehicles in fleets will be the next stage and one can foresee a situation where politically, companies have to be seen to be using low carbon vehicles. Fleets drive a huge amount of second hand cars, which will then come onto the market and facilitate the further development of electric vehicles.
Talking to many, there is a real concern that the vehicle supply of electric vehicles is not out there and electric vehicles are not being produced to the speed and the pace that is quick enough to satisfy demand. Within companies it is going to be important that both the fleet managers procuring vehicles and the energy managers of corporates get together and talk. The roll out of electric vehicles is as much, if not more, about the energy needs, requirements and supplies for the company and organisation, as it is about mobility. With those two divisions/people talking there is a real opportunity to put in place a sustainable solution for both the transport and energy needs of the company. Looking at the energy that electric vehicle fleets need ought to involve a holistic approach to the energy requirements of the organisation. Are grid upgrades needed, would some form of onsite renewable energy to provide the electricity be prudent? What about some form of energy storage? Can the electric vehicles while they are charging provide that storage and resilience?
The rollout is unstoppable
Electric vehicles will happen and the rollout of them is largely unstoppable. The issue posed to the UK is how do we capture the industrial opportunities from the rollout of electric vehicles and how do we ensure that any hindering factors, particularly around energy, do not stunt that growth and those opportunities.
At Burges Salmon we are incredibly positive about the growth of sustainable transport in the UK. We have been working for some years on electric vehicles/transport, but also the next phase in terms of Connected Autonomous Vehicles and we must all remember that the move to sustainable transport will be a huge and revolutionary shift for the UK. The way we are looking at transport is changing dramatically and will continue to do so in a short space of time.
Our thinking on car ownership, on transport and how we get from A to B could be blown apart over the course of the next decade. The UK needs to ensure that it is nimble enough to adapt. As an energy lawyer perhaps the most exciting opportunity which sustainable transport presents is the ability to provide a bridge to those people who don’t traditionally consider where their electricity comes from, how it is used and how it can be optimised. What an opportunity!
Ross Fairley, partner and Head of Renewable Energy, Burges Salmon. He is speaking in the Main Theatre electric vehicle session at 11.45 on 8 November
Ross Fairley – Head of the Burges Salmon Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicle teams
Freight and logistics is a highly reactive industry which operates on tight profit margins, and as such is highly risk averse and resistant to change. However, the rising clean air agenda, with its revised focus on heavy goods vehicles as defined in the Government’s recent Road to Zero strategy, and the increasingly demanding consumer, are driving the industry towards rapid change.
Recent TRL research on ‘The Future of Freight’, and our ongoing industry engagement within the sector through both ECOStars (a fleet recognition scheme) and the Government’s Low Emissions Freight and Logistics Trial (LEFT), suggests that market forces will be highly formative in the sector. This could lead to changes in operational practices and the vehicles used to provide services.
The most dominant force likely to shape the industry over the coming years is the clean air agenda which is being imposed at the local level in the form of Clean Air Zones (CAZ).
The tight margins on which the freight and logistics industry operates makes it highly sensitive to economic change, therefore the charges introduced as part of CAZ being implemented within the UK’s most polluted cities will force operators to consider new cost-effective solutions.
In a similar fashion to the larger nation-wide bus operators, larger multi-national and national freight and logistics operators will likely redistribute vehicle fleets compliant with CAZ emissions standards (Euro VI and ultra-low emissions vehicle technologies) within CAZ cities; resulting in lesser performing vehicles being deployed to non-CAZ cities and the countryside.
Operators who are unable to stomach the costs of fleet upgrades and who are more risk averse to the purchase of new vehicle propulsion technologies will likely seek solutions such as urban consolidation centres whereby the final journey is made by the consolidation centre operator using electric vehicles which are well-suited to short-range deliveries within urban areas, thereby avoiding charges and maintaining business-as-usual. This model will probably result in a larger embedded delivery cost for consumers in CAZ cities, and shift the risks of cleaner vehicle investments onto other operators.
Whilst some operators will adapt to the new legislation there will be some for which the impact of the CAZ agenda will be too much; independent operators are likely to be the casualties of the clean air agenda. We have already witnessed a number of small operators electing to go out of business in anticipation of CAZ.
If this trend were to continue nationwide it is likely that the industry will take the form of fewer, large logistics operators providing a larger range of services over wider areas. Although controversial and anti-competitive, this may result in a more sustainable sector since the provision of greater and broader services by fewer companies would allow operators to consolidate shipping volumes into fewer (potentially cleaner) vehicles. This would have the combined effect of delivering emissions reductions and importantly reductions in traffic volumes which are threatening the capacity of urban networks, which in turn are hampering the economic development of urban areas.
The second most influential force shaping the freight and logistics industry is the notion of on-demand freight driven by customer demand. Such attitudes have forced the industry to adopt otherwise unsustainable operations which result in poor utilisation of lorries, and a growth in freight vehicles on the roads. Under-utilisation of the available load space within lorries is not a new issue and has been one which operators have sought to address, but have been unable to resolve effectively due to poor knowledge of where and when empty running miles will occur between operators.
New vehicle technologies such as connected and autonomous systems, provide a means to overcome this issue. In a world where all vehicles are tracked and monitored by networked devices it becomes possible to identify exactly where and when freight vehicles are going, along with the prospective space which will become available as its delivery round is completed.
Such visibility of space would enable an automated/autonomous system to dynamically reschedule a freight vehicle to make additional collections and deliveries along its route as and when new customer demand occurs. Such technological applications could reduce the number of vehicles required on the roads whilst also reducing the number of vehicle miles generated as a result of diverting vehicles within the vicinity of customer demand to make collections.
The combination of new vehicle propulsion technologies, and connected and autonomous technology applications, are enabling the freight and logistics industry to adapt and change to the increasingly demanding and environmentally conscious society of the future.
TRL is currently involved in research that includes HelmUK, the UK’s first HGV platooning trial which will see three articulated lorries equipped with automated following technology on the UK roads within the next two years; the Low Emissions Freight and Logistics Trial, which is trialling 19 low and zero emissions vehicle technologies nationwide including biomethane fuels, hydrogen-dual fuel and electric vehicle technologies; and a study of autonomous urban freight vehicles.
While the widescale adoption of such solutions may be somewhat distant, our work at TRL clearly demonstrates a strong willingness for the industry to adapt and evolve for the future into an industry potentially very different from the one we see today.
Gavin Bailey is Technical Lead and Business Development Manager for Transportation Sustainability & Operations at TRL. He is speaking on the future of freight from the Burges Salmon stage at 16.30 on 7 November
Adopting the maxim “what gets measured gets managed” implies by association that what hasn’t been tracked or measured properly is missed and consequently doesn’t get managed effectively.
In the transport sector, listening to the views of passengers and other road users is essential if operators are to find out – and deliver – what their customers need or want. It follows from this that measuring satisfaction forms a crucial element of understanding what the issues that really matter. It also helps those providing transport infrastructure and services to manage and to plan real, positive changes for the user.
Consequently, user satisfaction research has become a core activity for Transport Focus over the many years it has worked to bring the voice of the user to those who provide rail, bus and tram services. Since 2015, the organisation has also represented the interests of those using the A roads and the Strategic Road Network managed by Highways England. Since being given this expanded remit we have undertaken many research studies focusing on a range of issues relevant to road users, all of which are available on our website.
These include topics such as users’ experiences and needs when caught up in delays; disruption caused by incidents or roadworks; their views on using smart motorways; and even the perennial road surface quality.
Earlier this year we published the second edition of our annual Motorway Services User Survey (MSUS), which enabled the industry to see how motorway users rate the facilities they are offered at service areas up and down the country. Results have already informed some major improvements for users and will help to drive up satisfaction further over time.
Transport Focus also knows that our motorways and A roads are used by many different people, with varying needs and expectations. That is why we will be publishing more research in the coming months looking at the experience of disabled road users, as well as that examining how to measure the satisfaction of cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians who use, travel alongside or cross over these roads.
At this year’s Highways UK, we will launch the Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) – our most significant survey of road user opinion since we became engaged with the sector in 2015. It is an entirely new national survey, with results available on the new Transport Focus data hub, that will provide useful information to Highways England and others in the sector, helping them focus on improving the things that matter to road users. Meanwhile, the current National Road Users’ Satisfaction Survey(NRUSS) will continue until March 2020.
SRUS is far more than just a replacement for NRUSS, however. It has been built differently, gathers data from interviews with far more road users from across the country, and will support more detailed analysis. SRUS will allow data to be interrogated or ‘sliced’ in many different ways, depending on individual needs – for example by road, region, time of travel and category of road user. This ensures that anyone, from a fleet manager to a maintenance contractor or member of the public, can go in via the online data hub to examine information from a range of perspectives. Overall satisfaction, journey time, management of roadworks, road surface quality, feelings about safety and driver information at both a national, regional or even specific road level will all be available at the touch of a button.
By providing a more sophisticated means to access a wealth of data about road user satisfaction, we believe that Highways England and others will have a much clearer understanding of where they need to concentrate their efforts to meet the expectations and the needs of road users.
Anthony Smith and Roads Minister Jesse Norman MP will launch the new Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) on 7 November at 11.10 on the Burges Salmon stage at Highways UK 2018.
It is widely acknowledged that the UK will face mounting economic, environmental, and social problems if the nation’s infrastructure fails to meet present and future demands. Government estimates propose that almost £500 billion is required to bridge the infrastructure funding gap.
As part of the response to this challenge, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was established to provide expert advice to the government on the pressing infrastructure issues including ways to close the funding gap. The findings of its first National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), issued in July, are being debated within the context of both London and at a national level.
The report gives a snapshot of some of our most important infrastructure needs. Its seven recommendations set out a pathway for the UK’s economic infrastructure;
· Nationwide full fibre broadband by 2033
· Half of the UK’s power provided by renewables by 2030
· Three-quarters of plastic packaging recycled by 2030
· Allocating £43 billion of stable, long-term transport funding for regional cities
· Preparing for 100% electric vehicle sales by 2030
· Ensuring resilience to extreme drought
· A national standard of flood resilience for all communities by 2050
These goals are ambitious, but they reflect the infrastructure challenges that are already evident every day. During this summer alone, there was a proliferation of headlines related to infrastructure strain and failures. Media stories included ‘recycling fraud’, where plastics recycled by citizens are sent to landfill. Extensive road congestion and unreliable rail networks frequently filled commuter bulletins. And the hottest period in the UK for decades, was accompanied by water restrictions imposed across the country.
Private capital is an essential part of the solution
The NIA recommendations to improve delivery are ambitious, and they’re expensive. But the report stresses that these things are not “an unaffordable wish list”. The goals are designed to fit within the government’s long-term funding guidelines for public investment in infrastructure. Last month (August) new figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed the UK government spent £18.9bn on infrastructure projects in 2016, and more than 85% of that was on transport infrastructure.
That said, the state simply can’t finance all these changes and advancements alone. Developers are calling for greater access to private funding, and the government wants this, too. In the next few years, the government’s own National Infrastructure Plan states private capital should fund at least half of the cost of a £483 billion infrastructure pipeline to 2021.
At the same time, there are trillions of dollars of private capital, both foreign and domestic, searching for a home. There is $120 trillion under management in global pension funds alone. Yet despite infrastructure being critical to the growth and economic health of any country, the OECD estimates that only a tiny percentage of this cash, just 1.6%, is invested in global infrastructure.
The NIC agrees that “financing itself is not in short supply. However, state financing institutions can help to encourage private investment and catalyse activity.”
It seems that everybody wants the same thing. The government needs to drive more private cash into infrastructure projects and private investors wish to invest. So why isn’t it happening?
Plans, commissions, reviews and assessments are all critical to working out what needs to be done. But if the government is to attract private investment, it now needs to turn these visions into action.
Meanwhile, as we wait for the government to respond to the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), here are some ideas for moving forward.
Six steps to bridging the UK infrastructure investment gap
1. Don’t just say you want private capital: vigorously promote UK infrastructure
Private investors are not necessarily infrastructure experts, nor connected and well-versed in the unique features of the UK infrastructure sector. For investors new to the UK, there is scant information available on the country’s infrastructure project pipeline: just 220 words on the government’s capital investment page.
New types of projects are emerging which will need financing in the near future. For example, one NIA recommendation is that government should encourage commercial investors to finance a nationwide electric vehicle charge point network. It’s an exciting investment opportunity which didn’t exist a few years ago.
Such infrastructure projects die, however, without government support and attention. Vocal government endorsement of infrastructure as a sector full of investment opportunities is vital. There are exceptions of course, the proposed Heathrow Southern Rail link for example, is an opportunity identified by the private sector that will be privately financed, including, investment in part from AECOM. This will be one of the first projects under government plans to invite third parties – such as local authorities and private-sector companies – to invest in the rail network, alongside the £47 billion the government is planning to spend over the next five years.
2. Provide the data the private sector needs to invest with confidence
A common criticism of infrastructure investment is that it is risky and unpredictable. Toll roads don’t always perform as expected; construction timelines overrun; project costs can run far higher than forecast. Collecting and making readily available accurate, up-to-date data on the costs and performance of UK infrastructure projects makes for better decision making and builds trust in the sector as a place to house capital.
Providing private investors with data matters because they need to be presented with fully-formed, fleshed-out investment opportunities. Investors want to know that they’re committing to projects, programmes and assets with characteristics that are already well understood. ROI is king.
Investors will not be prepared to rely on estimates and old information when assessing the costs and benefits of projects. Providing data on the financial performance and costs of UK infrastructure assets gives private investors the ability to predict and project long-term revenue streams.
The government needs to improve communication between the public and private sector and ramp up data collection to access capital providers that previously wouldn’t have been knowledgeable and confident enough to invest.
This is about taking a pragmatic, data-and-results-led approach to offering investment opportunities to the private sector. The opportunity is for government and the private sector to engage at the design stage, so that investors have the opportunity for early input into a project and that both parties can share data.
3. Be open to creating and attracting new financing structures and institutions
The government can further attract private investment by establishing programmes and institutions dedicated to infrastructure finance. One such example is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank established to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. Another vehicle is value capture. Often used around new transportation hubs, this is where infrastructure investment enhances land values so that transportation and city landowners can draw benefit from their investment for future spending including on schools, housing and public space.
The need for new ways to mobilise private capital is even more pressing as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. The EU’s European Investment Bank has worked for decades to bring private capital into infrastructure projects – but the UK’s membership of the bank could end post-Brexit. The NIA suggests a dedicated UK infrastructure finance institution needs to be created if this happens.
We already have evidence that government is capable of this kind of work. In the renewable energy sector, the Green Investment Group was originated by the state in 2012. It is now owned by private bank Macquarie, the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, and has invested £3.4 billion into UK clean energy projects. It’s an example of how the government has the ability to create infrastructure-supporting schemes and institutions which can ultimately be handed over to and financed by the private sector.
The private sector can also provide the ideas. Indeed, it is well placed to innovate and leverage lessons from elsewhere as we have indicated with the Heathrow Southern Rail link mentioned in point 1 above. One recent positive step in encouraging private sector ideas is the UK Government’s introduction of a ‘market-led proposals’ (MLPs) initiative. Essentially, this is a mechanism that provides a route for the private sector to propose infrastructure enhancement projects. The first submissions for rail projects were made this summer. Industry needs those ideas to be rapidly appraised by government, and shortlisted for suitability to proceed. The MLP process is a first test of how attractive the government can make investment in the railways, making it clear that it is open for business and collaboration with the private sector.
4. Matchmake investors with the most suitable stage of an infrastructure project for them
When developing projects, the government needs to investigate which private investors could potentially lend to a project, and crucially, at what stage.
From banks to funds, pension providers to individual businesses, private sources of capital come in many forms. Each will have a different risk appetite and investment timeline. Market appropriate projects to private investors at the right time and at the right stage for their requirements, and the chances of them deciding to invest should increase. This requires the government and private sector to agree on a common aim that will satisfy governmental need and private sector aspiration on return from investments.
For example, the risk appetite of an international pension fund new to investing in UK infrastructure will be very different from that of a dedicated infrastructure fund listed on the London Stock Exchange. A pension fund will want steady, predictable, long-dated returns to match its liabilities – the kind of returns that can be generated by infrastructure which is already operational and performing well. Meanwhile, a listed fund, already familiar with the market, will likely have a far higher tolerance for uncertainty – they may be willing to invest at the riskier construction phase of a project, in exchange for higher returns.
5. Uncouple infrastructure from party politics
Political bias is an issue which has stunted the growth of the sector for decades. The National Infrastructure Commission was set up, in its own words, ‘to address the lack of a long-term infrastructure strategy, soiled decision making in infrastructure sectors, fragile political consensus and short terms.’
There is clearly a need to foster communication between the public and private sectors, beyond party politics. Each has something to offer the other: the government can present state-backed infrastructure projects in which to invest, and the private sector can find a home for the capital it needs to deploy. A win-win situation where much-needed infrastructure gets delivered free from huge expense to the tax payer.
If the private investment community is being asked to make long-term, multi-billion dollar or pound investments, the government needs to offer long-term guarantees and protection to these potential investors in return.
Positive change is underway: the government is already attempting to move rail enhancement investment out of its standard five-year cycle, and similar approaches can be applied to other types of infrastructure too. The process for assessing rail enhancement investment is the same whether publicly or privately funded: the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP). This is a strong statement that both forms of funding will be assessed equally.
6. Speak louder about the public benefits of infrastructure investment
We’ve already touched on the lack of information available to the private investment community on the benefits of infrastructure spending, and the same issue exists for the public. Getting citizens to support infrastructure investment is essential to getting projects off the ground, particularly in the UK, where projects are frequently blocked or slowed by local opposition. Public consultation on infrastructure schemes is complex and detailed. It takes time for members of the public to assess a project. That tends to mean retired people look more closely. A typical project timeline means they see no benefit – only impact. That generates opposition. The real beneficiaries of infrastructure – the young generation – are often less engaged in the consultations. There is a challenge to improve the engagement of the citizens who will see little impact, and yet will realise all the benefits.
The government could do more to promote the positives of new and improved infrastructure as a path to economic growth, community cohesion and a better standard of living for large numbers of people. Time and again we have seen that infrastructure investment unlocks other investment, particularly housing. Developers cannot deliver large-scale community projects (whole new towns for example) without strategic investment in transport, utilities and community infrastructure.
The government should also include and recognise citizens as vital contributors to the solutions. One of the NIA’s key recommendations is to ramp up materials and food waste recycling: it will be essential for the public as well as industry to drive this.
Essentially, any major public and private spending on infrastructure needs to be explained in terms of the way it will help people live better, and drive economic and social growth.
While there’s plenty of private money seeking investment opportunities, the infrastructure sector will need to step up to make projects more attractive, help build project certainty and promote the benefits of new networks and services to investors and the public. For further information visit AECOM.com
David Barwell is AECOM’s CEO for UK and Ireland. David is speaking in the Finding Funding session at Highways UK on 7 November which will address how to get more private sector finance into the UK’s roads
David Barwell – Chief Executive, UK and Ireland, AECOM
Embedded into the government’s industrial strategy and key to its implementation are four ‘grand challenges’ – artificial intelligence and data, ageing society, clean growth and the future of mobility. These reflect seismic global trends and meeting these challenges is crucial to putting the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future.
In each case, the government has developed specific missions aimed at addressing aspects of these challenges but, across the board, they will require a true partnership between public and private sectors to tackle effectively.
This strong partnership approach is already being demonstrated in particular in the area of emerging transport technology and intelligent mobility. Here the private sector is working closely with academia and the public sector on innovative research projects under schemes established under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund or Innovate UK.
Developments in these areas are promising to deliver cleaner, safer, more integrated and more efficient transport. In doing so, transport and intelligent mobility can deliver the innovation, efficiency and productivity increases needed to drive the industrial strategy and cement the UK’s reputation for technology innovation.
They also promise to contribute much overall and individually to meeting the ‘grand challenges’. Ground-breaking work is being done on artificial intelligence and data on connected and automated vehicles and intelligent transport systems. Driverless cars, more responsive and integrated micro-transit services and better and faster connectivity will contribute to meeting the social and economic needs of an ageing society (both in work and out of work).
Electric vehicle deployment and research is accelerating developments in battery technology, smart grid management and hydrogen fuel cells promising cleaner air and reduced reliance on fossil fuels. And together they reflect a transformative vision of future mobility with new modes of travel, more intelligent transport systems, new ways of paying for and ‘consuming’ transport and a ‘mobility-as-a-service’ mindset.
With a strong background in the transport sector as well as complementary sectors such as energy, data and telecommunications, infrastructure and planning, Burges Salmon is proud to play an active and leading role in bringing new transport technology and intelligent mobility to market. Legislation and regulation has a key enabling role supporting public acceptance and bringing new technologies and models to fruition.
Our involvement includes our active partnership in four driverless vehicle projects (VENTURER, FLOURISH, Capri and Robopilot) as well as leading electric vehicle and battery solutions projects. Seeing these technologies in action and up close only reinforces the view of their central role in meeting the grand challenges of the future.
Brian Wong is a director in the transport sector group at independent UK law firm Burges Salmon.
Burges Salmon’s new report, Perspectives on infrastructure: Delivering the Industrial Strategy, explores further how the public and private sectors need to collaborate effectively to deliver the government’s industrial strategy. Further information is available here.
A version of this article was previously published in Infrastructure Intelligence
Burges Salmon is a gold partner at Highways UK, which takes place at the NEC, Birmingham, 7/8 November. Book your free place by clicking here
I doubt that I will encounter a time without roads in my lifetime. Some view it as a goal, some that it is a fantasy and some that it just will not happen. Whatever the future there is one constant and that is change.
Consider what has happened in your lifetime in terms of telephone, computers and cars, even the kitchen tap can provide boiling water at a turn. All these “developments” have come about through innovation and somebody or groups of bodies having an idea, a concept, something that just might work even though it is different. On a daily basis we are bombarded with information on the latest regarding smart technology in the world of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles together with the application of “big data” to inform and assist.
As yet, and I would venture to suggest for the foreseeable future, we are not travelling everywhere off the ground on hover boards and vehicles so we need transport corridors and these we know as roads. We have seen developments over the years around materials, components and processes used during the construction and maintenance of roads. The part we all drive on is but one part, albeit an important and key part, of the whole.
The highway industry must emulate other industries and continually evolve through innovation and change for the better. When did Google or Dyson stop innovating and developing the next generation of their products? Our industry must do the same and have that look forward as the future is demanding; the only thing we can do with the past is enjoy the memories and learn from it.
The highway construction and maintenance business in the UK is wide ranging and large given that the national asset is worth around some £700-800 billion. We must ensure it has a future and continually develop ways to protect the investment for the generations to come. What legacy will any of us leave our grandchildren and great-grandchildren regarding the highway infrastructure?
It is absolutely essential that we take the opportunity through the use of innovative materials, components and processes to reap many benefits in the construction and maintenance of the UK highway infrastructure ranging from improved durability, efficiency and sustainability to enhanced safety, comfort and reliability for all users. Industry has a long track record of delivering innovative solutions to both current and anticipated needs through the actions of individual organisations and in collaboration with clients.
That is exactly why the Mineral Products Association is working with Highways UK on the Materials Innovation Hub, which will form a major new component to the 2018 Highways UK at the NEC on 7/8 November. This is an opportunity for all concerned with the highway industry to showcase their innovation whatever it may be. The Materials Innovation Hub is looking to unravel, learn and encourage from the industry those innovations that are able to offer solutions to real world highway client challenges in the here and now together with the future.
I chair the Materials Innovation Hub steering committee and we are now looking for innovative ideas in the materials, components and processes used during the construction and maintenance of UK highways projects. The MIH is competition based and organised in categories covering efficiency of pavement materials; infrastructure and structures around the pavement; on the pavement; safety; and future highways. Short-listed entries invited to present at Highways UK in front of a panel of expert judges using a “dragon’s den” style format.
Stephen Child is Chair of ADEPT’s Soils & Materials Design & Specification Group, ADEPT and also Chair of the Materials Innovations Hub steering committee
As the Government develops the next Road Investment Strategy, there’s a lot of talk about technology and growth, with smart motorways and ‘mile a minute’ expressways connecting new homes and jobs and growing the economy.
But what kind of strategic road network do we need for a sustainable future? That’s the question Campaign for Better Transport’s new report Rising to the Challengeseeks to answer.
Our report sets out a shared green vision for the nation’s major roads, developed in partnership with sixteen other NGOs. It shows how the network can be enhanced not expanded, to be better for people and the environment, with examples of best practice from the UK and around the world.
We set out three priorities for RIS2.
Firstly, we advocate a ‘Fix it first’ approach, to focus on the roads we have rather than building new ones. We want to see investment in the bread and butter issues of road maintenance, safety and signage and in upgrading the network to meet the latest design standards from cycling provision to energy efficient lighting.
Fixing roads is not just about pothole repair. Continuing the programme of ‘green retrofit’ that has started in RIS1, mitigating the impact of major roads on the natural environment and public health is also a priority. Thanks in part to the designated funds we helped secure, RIS1 has begun to deliver some improvements, but there’s much more to be done.
Highways England projects like the improvements to the Droitwich Pools under the M5, and the plans for a green bridge over the A38 at Haldon Hill are inspiring. Using natural drainage systems and protecting wild flower verges may grab fewer headlines, but will pay dividends in terms of future resilience.
Secondly, we want to see a more integrated approach, redesigning roads to join up better with local transport, walking and cycling, and not forgetting equestrians. Too many communities find major roads are more of a barrier than a bridge: refocusing on ending severance and reconnecting communities with accessible routes along desire lines makes sense. So does ensuring that new or upgraded roads work for public transport users, with safe locations for bus stops, better connections to Park & Ride sites, and bus priority at key junctions.
Thirdly, we believe RIS2 is a great opportunity for demonstrating environmental leadership. National targets on cutting CO2 emissions, improving air quality and securing no net loss of biodiversity are for all sectors, not just highways. But getting roads policy right will be critical to delivering them.
We are calling for RIS2 to contribute proactively by rolling out electric vehicle charging points, working in partnership with local authorities to deliver Clean Air Zones and implementing environmental management systems across the family of Highways England contractors.
Alongside these policy ideas, we are proposing a comprehensive set of performance metrics which progress from measuring activity to measuring impact: such as assessing the ecological status of waterways not just how many culverts have been upgraded. We’re proposing new ways of measuring the impact of roads on landscape and heritage assets and calling for HE’s Design Panel to review schemes in sensitive locations. And we want to see environmental problems tackled at source: noise-reducing surfaces bring much wider benefit than double-glazing.
Highways England has faced some challenges over the deliverability of a construction-heavy RIS1 which includes controversial new road building through protected landscapes. Following our approach in RIS2 would bring innovation and opportunity for the highways sector, reduced conflict with communities and a better outcome for the environment we share.
Roads have a huge impact on our surroundings and our quality of life. RIS2 will shape that impact for years to come. By taking on board the expertise that green NGOs have to offer, the strategy can live up to the Government’s pledge to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.
Rising to the Challenge: a shared green vision for RIS2 is published by Campaign for Better Transport, with support from British Horse Society, Campaign for National Parks, ClientEarth, CPRE, Cycling UK, Friends of the Earth, Living Streets, Noise Abatement Society, Plantlife, Ramblers, Sustrans, The Heritage Alliance, The Wildlife Trusts, UK Noise Association, Woodland Trust and WWF.
Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport will talk further on raising the bar on environmental ambitions within the main conference at the Highways UK during the afternoon of 8 November.
Bridget Fox – Sustainable Transport Campaigner, CBT
Last year drivers clocked up more than 300 billion vehicle miles on UK roads. That’s a lot of driving, especially when you remember that there are less than 246,000 miles of road to drive on. It’s not surprising that a large number of those miles were driven at something less than an optimal pace: congestion has become an everyday nightmare for millions of Britons.
A disproportionate amount of the UK’s traffic – more than 30 percent – is carried by less than three percent of the total road network: the motorways and major A roads that constitute the Strategic Road Network. And projections to 2040 show a potential growth in traffic on the Strategic Road Network of between 30 and 60 percent. The top figure there would mean something like 110 billion vehicle miles being carried by 2.4 percent of the nations’ roads. It is a prospect that hardly looks sustainable.
So, are we destined for a future of congestion carnage, even gridlock? The current five-year Road Investment Strategy is injecting over £15 billion in new road infrastructure and improvements, but it isn’t exactly clear if it’s anything like enough to counter balance the strain that the system is under. Building roads is slow, expensive, disruptive and often controversial. Is there a better way? Well, we think there is: working smarter instead of (just) harder.
Already, rail schemes throughout the UK have demonstrated how digital technologies can increase capacity on existing infrastructure safely and at minimal cost compared to building new lines. In recent work with Transport for London, we project managed the improvements to signalling and track-to-train technologies that dramatically increased the number of trains going through one of London’s busiest stations, with minimal impact on customers. The significant increase in capacity meant that more trains could safely pass through every hour. Similar approaches to roads have the potential to transform how the strategic road network performs. I have directly seen just how effective this approach can be, through my work with the then Highways Agency in developing the first smart motorway schemes, where we managed traffic speeds and flows accordingly. But we had only begun to scratch the surface.
From the perspective of Project Manager, what’s clear is that road and rail schemes taking a ‘one team’ approach – whereby all of the contractural parties work together to a shared goal – are far more successful. The question then… can we do this across modes?
Rapidly developing technology in cars and smartphones offer a potential level of connectivity that is staggering. We cannot continue to think of road, rail and other transport networks as self-contained, albeit interlocking systems, but will have to consider them as parts of a single system, because that is what the hyper-connected consumer will expect. It will mean knocking down silos between the road and the rail networks. Inter-organisational multi-industry working will have to reach a level that some are not, perhaps, naturally comfortable with.
According to recently announced Government plans the UK’s roads will be dominated by electric vehicles by 2040 and a digital ‘train to track’ rail network in a similar period.
Like future trains, a good proportion of electric cars will presumably be autonomous, in constant contact with and feeding back to digital communications networks. The rest will have as standard level of digital connectivity that is a step change from the already impressive levels we see today. These vehicles and their owners will be able to communicate with road and rail, adjust and respond in real time, all of the time! If we develop the digital infrastructure capable of providing real solutions for A to B journeys, regardless of the mode, then we need have no fear of the projected rise in car use in the next 30 years.
Giles Henday is Partner at CPC – Project Management specialists for the transport and property sectors. He has over 30 years experience of delivering high profile, complex transport projects, Giles has led Programme Management Offices on behalf of clients across rail and highways. He believes that project management tools and techniques can be shared across all transport modes. Giles is a strong advocate of improving collaborative working to get the job done.