While transport hasn’t traditionally been the sexiest of sectors, it does touch just about every corner of our lives. The UK transport network moves an extraordinary number of people and vast quantities of goods to the places they need to be every day, with clear impacts on the economy, environment, health, wellbeing and housing.
A few facts to illustrate its importance:
- Transport is the number one area of household spending in the UK and many other countries.
- For the first time, transport is now the highest emitting sector of the economy, responsible for around 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gases.
- Every extra minute of commuting reduces job satisfaction, increases strain and reduces mental health.
And transport must evolve to meet the changing needs of the society it serves. By 2046 almost 1 in 4 people in the UK will be 65 years and over; increasing numbers of older drivers and more people with dementia using public transport will pose new challenges for the network. (Based on ONS (2017) Population estimates. 2016-based population projections).
The revolution is here
Rapid developments in technology and innovation present huge opportunities to address some of these challenges. I’d like to pick out a few trends that are already having a big impact:
- The shift from conventional to cleaner vehicles has started and is set to accelerate rapidly as we work towards our mission for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040. Innovation programmes such as the Faraday Battery Challenge will help deliver this mission, which will bring huge benefits for air quality, energy security and tackling climate change.
- Digital infrastructure is increasingly important for enabling better journeys and network management. People are using smartphones to plan, book and pay for their journeys, and in future vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications could increase the effective capacity of the road network without significant reshaping of existing physical infrastructure.
- In line with other sectors of the economy we’re witnessing the start of a shift from ownership to access. Car manufacturers are investing heavily in mobility services or partnering with ride-hailing firms in anticipation of a growth in shared economy models and advances in automation.
A Grand Challenge to reimagine mobility
In recognition of the new opportunities and markets presented by these shifts, the Future of Mobility is one of four Grand Challenges established in the Industrial Strategy to make the UK a world leader in the industries of the future.
Today we’re launching a call for evidence to inform our work on the Grand Challenge, including a Future of Urban Mobility Strategy, to be published by the end of 2018, and a thorough regulatory review.
The scale of the challenge and the opportunity is huge and it’s critical we get this right. Government cannot tackle this alone; businesses, local authorities and transport users all have a part to play. Please do submit your views so that together, we can shape a transport system that is fit for the future.
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