It was great to have the opportunity to take part in the Future of Roads Event run by New Civil Engineer on Thursday 1st of July 2021. The event provided a platform for sector leaders to explore plans for the future of the industry, keeping in mind the challenges presented by Climate Change, net zero targets, Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. Sessions were presented by individuals from the Department for Transport, CIHT, TfL, Highways England, The Highways Sector Council and more.
Key takeaway points from each presentation are provided below:
“While we must recognise that roads are crucial to leveling up, it is vital that the network helps deliver a green led the economic recovery from the pandemic and minimise its own impact on the environment.” – Baroness Vere of Norbiton, DfT
It is important to keep in mind that the strategic road network carries 10 times as much freight as rail and thus Motorways and A-Roads will always be needed to support the economy. Going forward, a lot more focus will be given to consultations and environmental impact assessments so that Highways England takes into account the thoughts and feelings of future road users. It is essential for communities to be involved in the process so that they feel they are working with Highways England, not just having projects done for them. - Nick Harris, Highways England
During the pandemic, the biggest challenge the road sector has faced is funding certainty. It is hard to invest for the future without understanding streams of income down the line and having confidence in the funding line is critical. A skills shortage going forward is also a concern and we need to focus on what skills we will need in the future as well as today, to ensure we are doing enough upskilling for future requirements. Having a different and diverse set of role models is crucial to attracting individuals for our skills demands. - Anna Delvecchio, Mott Mcdonald, and Sure Percy, CIHT
From the schemes undertaken in RIS 1, Highways England learned that stakeholder buy-in is critical to the success of a scheme, at both strategic and local levels. “Consultation and early engagement, investing time and effort into maintaining relationships with stakeholders and understanding the landscape and environmental impact of schemes are crucial parts of a scheme.” – Nick Aldworth, Highways England Southwest
The A66 scheme provides a good example of successful project acceleration, as it was possible to accelerate the development phase by 3.5 years by finding compromises in the construction phase. The scheme was a success as it responded to government requests at pace and demonstrated good joint working between Highways England and Government departments. “It taught the lesson that unless the right people are involved at the right time, decision-making can be ineffective.” – David Haimes, Highways England
It is predicted that it will take some time for confidence to return to public transport use, so it is essential that we make sure streets are safe enough to sustain the active travel boom. We also need to focus on improving the environment and air quality for future generations. TfL has secured £100 million for active travel, of which a large amount will be spent over the next 6 months on consolidating the temporary measures into more permanent schemes. Money will also be invested into continuing to develop the network of cycle routes and new ones in the pipeline. – Will Norman, TfL
Looking forward, the sector has many big challenges to meet, including decarbonisation, promotion of active travel, pollution and congestion, connected vehicle technologies and data sharing, demand for EV charging infrastructure and the differences in ways public transport operates and how we deliver services.
Covid-19 provoked an urgent need to collate data on what was happening on the local road networks. The Transport Technology Forum started to build a data set that was useful to understand what was happening in cities and localities, how traffic has responded to Covid-19 and looking forward, how policy will change and react to this. TTF also developed a parking data pipeline in order to assess the impact of the pandemic on parking usage, which can be used as an indicator for economic recovery. The data collected during the Covid-19 pandemic highlights how transport data is becoming increasingly important for transport decisions and policy, infrastructure and provision of services, both now and into the future. It also has provided a potential viewpoint for where data gaps exist across the country. – Darren Capes, DfT, and Yousef Majeed, Arup
Rebecca Kingston, Consultant Transport Planner