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Transport key topics

Addressing key topics within the transport sector.

Maglev train in China





Transport Systems and Integration

Transport underpins our daily lives. Modern industrial countries need effective transport networks to ensure that they remain competitive in the global economy. Transport can have a significant environmental impact; accounting for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions across the EU, and 24% of UK emissions (Eurostat 2007). This also has implications for long term economic competitiveness. The key challenge is to develop a policy environment along with technological advances which contribute towards reducing carbon emissions and reducing wider environmental impact, while enhancing our quality of life, and contributing to our economic growth.

The IET believes the UK government should adopt a holistic approach to transport policy, considering individual transport systems in the context of the overall system – a ‘system of systems approach’. Such an approach recognises than transport systems are interconnected and changes to one system will have implications for others. 

Travel Data and analysis

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) refers to the use of data and other information based resources to facilitate effective planning and management of transport systems. ITS solutions can also make transport cleaner, more efficient, safer and more secure. There has been some progress to improve the quality and availability of travel data, for example in the coding of bus stop and timetable information, the Highway Agencies’ Travel Information Highway and Travelline. However there are a number of barriers to further progress and partnership working.

Public Sector agencies who own travel information have demonstrated some reluctance to make this information available to commercial providers, due to concerns about a loss of control about how the data is presented to users. Journey planning systems are not integrated across all transport modes, improvements are needed to enable customers to more effectively plan their journeys when switching from one transport mode to another. Better access to travel data by the public can enable a more integrated transport system and help to support modal shift to the most optimum form of transport.

For further information see:

Consultation on Access to traffic and travel data – Universal Traffic Information - The IET

UK Aviation

The aviation sector is strategically important to the UK economy. Leading industrialists consider the ease of travel to and from the UK to be a key factor in encouraging inward investment into the UK (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2011). There is a direct correlation between the cities in the world which are strategically important for trading by UK companies and direct flight connections to these areas. A sustainable aviation strategy must consider the areas which are likely to be strategically important trading destinations for British businesses.  

Sustainability must be at the heart of a national aviation strategy. There is a challenge to balance the social and economic benefits of a vibrant and well-connected aviation sector, with the environmental costs, such as pollution and noise levels in the vicinity of airports. Technological advances are promising to help to address some of these issues with newer aircrafts designed with low nitrogen oxide combustors and higher bypass ratio engines. 

New technological concepts hold the key to substantially reducing fuel burn and CO2 emissions. The extent to which radical design improvements are adopted across the world fleet will depend on airline business models, and the trade-off between the cost of new equipment and the long term savings and environmental improvements. 

For further information see:

Sustainable framework for UK aviation - Engineering the Future

High Speed Rail

High speed, high capacity rail can help to achieve a modal shift from other transport options through the provision of faster, more frequent and more reliable journeys. However there remain some significant questions about the environmental and economic benefits of High Speed Two (HS2). 

HS2 will be designed with a speed capacity of 400km/h. Decisions on the speed of HS2 will have a significant impact on both its cost and environmental impact. Energy consumption doubles when speed is increased from 200km/h to 300k/h; carbon emissions per journey and electricity costs also increases. The IET considers that line speed should operate below 360km/h in order to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. Analysis suggests that HS2 should adopt a maximum operating speed of just 320km/h until improvements in decarbonised electricity supply mix, aerodynamics and power transmissions are developed. 

Passenger predictions suggest that only a minority of passengers using HS2 will switch from car (7%) and air (6%). We therefore have some concerns about the basis for the claim that HS2 will lead to a significant reduction in carbon emissions.         

Recent analysis of the first phase of High Speed Rail (HS1) from the National Audit Office/ Public Accounts Committee has identified errors in the methodology used to develop the business case for HS1. The original business case was based on journey time savings, and increased rail capacity. However the report(s) found that project costs exceeded the value of journey time saving benefits. The Department for Transport has not yet developed a methodology to effectively evaluate HS1 project costs against benefits; however the same rationale forms part of the justification for HS2.

For further information see:

High speed rail

Lessons not yet learned from previous High Speed rail mistakes - The IET 

Low Carbon Vehicles 

Electric vehicles have been extensively trialled and demand is predicted to increase. The environmental impact of electric vehicles is complicated to assess. Electric vehicles will only be as green as the electricity that powers them, and this further highlights the need for investment in renewable or nuclear power sources. The absence of roadside carbon emission is a distinct advantage of electric vehicles. The IET considers that further work is required in the planning and development of electric vehicles.

Cost is a key consideration. The pricing structure is currently unclear with respect to initial battery supply costs, or for the use of publicly provided electricity through charging points. Cost reductions in lithium salt (required for batteries) are needed, if electrified vehicles are to provide a workable alternative to hydrocarbon vehicles.

Much of the work on electric vehicles is concerned with the battery and technology design and recharging requirements. However the widespread use of electric vehicles will have implications for many aspects of road transport and it is necessary to examine these aspects to identify and address potential barriers. 

For example, electric vehicles are usually quieter than internal combustion engines vehicles and there is evidence that pedestrians will be less aware of them. How to compensate for this effect is open to question and options include developing a mechanism or ‘noise source’. Electric vehicles are also generally heavier for a given size than internal combustion vehicles and this could have implications for stopping distances and accident risks.

Public fleet procurement can play a significant role in helping to increase the take-up of plug in vehicles by increasing the visibility of plug in vehicles and therefore challenging public perceptions.

In measuring the cost effectiveness of plug in vehicles, it is necessary to measure the ‘whole life’ emission costs, both in manufacturing and in operation. Without very careful examination of how to measure effectiveness, there is a risk that we can develop plug in vehicles that are manufactured using carbon intensive processes while increasing demand for ‘dirty’ electricity to run the vehicles. It is only through careful examination and measurement of the entire life of plug in vehicles, that we can understand the full environmental impact and potential benefits. ’

There is no consistent mechanism for measuring ‘whole life costs’ across government departments. The IET considers that there is an urgent need for co-ordination between the Department for Transport’s ambitions and the Department for Energy and Climate Change electricity generation predictions.

For further information see:

Consultation on electric vehicles - The IET

The lifestyle implications of electric vehicle adoption

Inquiry on low carbon vehicles - The IET 

Electric vehicles in cities will improve air quality (press release)

Road Safety and Management 

Long term road safety targets can be effective in encouraging agencies to work in partnership and focus resources on achieving these targets. In 2000 the government set an ambitious road safety target to cut the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the roads by 40% before 2010. This target was achieved and the 2010 casualty figures show deaths fell by 48% and KSI fell by 49%. International evidence also supports this finding; countries which set road safety targets performed better over the time period than countries without targets. While supporting the drive towards more localised planning and accountability, the IET is concerned that the government has replaced long-term road safety targets with an outcomes based decentralised approach, which could result in patchy and inconsistent outcomes.

Effective traffic management reduces journey times and saves money. The Eddington Transport Study (2006) shows that a five per cent reduction in travel time for business and freight can lead to £2.5bn in cost savings, as a result of reduced traffic levels and more reliable and predictable journeys.  It is estimated that without effective intervention, the number of road users will continue to increase – with predictions of a 31% increase in road traffic and a 31% per cent increase in congestion.

In order to reduce congestion there needs to be a modal shift towards public transport.  Government must also consider how to use the existing road network to deliver more reliable journeys. The evidence suggests that road-user charging can result in reduced congestion. For example, analysis of the London Congestion Charge scheme found that there was a 21% reduction in traffic and a 6% shift to public transport during the charging hours.

For further information see:

Effective Road and Traffic Management - The IET

DfT Consultation on Making Britain's Roads the Safest in the World - The IET

Rail Safety and Management

The IET supports the existing framework of health and safety law and consider that this is based on substantial experience from industry and takes a common-sense approach. We consider Good Industry Practice (GIP) to be key to safety and would like to see further guidance from the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) on how the enforcement of GIP could benefit front line health and safety managers. There remains a question about the powers available to enforce the GIP following non-compliance.

For further information see

ORR proposed changes to Health and Safety Enforcement Policy - The IET