Three minute insights:
There is uncertainty about the make-up and operation of zero carbon transport. With owners, operators, city authorities, investors, NGOs and the public, we’ve developed visions for the future of transport and pathways for realising them.
Chris Dulake, global lead for transport
Who’s affected and how?
In 2022 the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact transport passenger numbers and operators’ revenues across all forms of transport, putting owners and operators under financial strain. For many, the effects will be long term as the pandemic has resulted in lasting changes to working and therefore travelling patterns.
Meanwhile, transport must decarbonise, to play its role in halting climate change – ideally at 1.5°C, and no more than 2°C.
What are the risks of not acting?
Affordable, low carbon public transport for longer journeys and urban planning that encourages active transport for local journeys are essential both as a response to climate change and to facilitate improved social inclusion. At the same time, expenditure must be brought into balance with reduced fare revenue. Failing on any of these counts will ultimately force operators out of service.
What are the benefits of acting?
The reverse is also true: owners are pursuing social inclusion, decarbonisation, spending control and new revenue to build stronger businesses.
In the UK capital, Transport for London (TfL) recognises that the best way of generating additional revenue is to provide better service. Completed in 2022, the Elizabeth Line has linked areas of social deprivation with London’s commercial centres, improving access to employment. In its opening year, the line has been used substantially more than TfL forecast. Read about our role on the project.
In the USA, we led design of Boston Green Line from project inception in 2017 to testing in 2022 and opening in February 2023. It adds capacity for 50,000 passenger trips per day and will cut car use by the equivalent of 40,000km daily.
A major modal shift from car to train will also be achieved in California by the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority: In 2022 it launched a hydrogen-powered train service that we guided from inception to operation. It is a model that California’s overarching transport authority, Caltrans, aims to replicate across three other lines by 2035.
Creating clean transportation solutions employing new technologies will create new business and economic opportunities. Examples include the UK Vertiports and Open Skies Cornwall advanced air mobility programmes, employing electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft. In 2022 with partners Ferrovial and Grimshaw we developed plans for a network of 25 UK Vertiport terminals. As part of an integrated transport system, they will be connection points for rapid, low carbon urban and inter-city journeys via ‘flying taxis’. Open Skies Cornwall is using drones to deliver mail and medicines to remote communities in southwest England.
What did 2022 tell us about the challenges of decarbonisation?
There is still considerable uncertainty about the make-up and operation of zero carbon transport, with many technical and commercial unknowns. When the future is not clearly definable, it can create political inertia and uncertainty. In the last two years we have run a series of consultative workshops in cities around the world. Diverse participants including owners, operators, city authorities, investors, NGOs and the public, have used our FUTURES methodology to develop local visions for the future of transport and map pathways for realising them.
FUTURES stands for Future Uncertainty Toolkit for Understanding and Responding to an Evolving Society. It is designed to empower clients and their stakeholders agree a shared outcomes-based vision, make transparent decisions to achieve it, and adapt to social, economic and environmental changes on the way.
How can we help?
Commercial balance, decarbonisation and social inclusion are part of a far bigger range of challenges including climate and pandemic resilience. Evolving current systems and delivering future projects that are fully fit for purpose requires wide-ranging skills, combining core planning, design and delivery expertise with specialist knowledge. Future fuels, decarbonisation, climate finance and adaptation, place-making and social inclusion are fundamental to our transport solutions.
First, seek to improve the performance and lifespan of existing assets and networks: This is how you will achieve the greatest improvement in value for your customers and your organisation at least cost and with greatest positive social and environmental impact.
If construction of new infrastructure is needed, check that you are building ‘the right thing in the right way’. Upstream transport planning, potentially employing the FUTURES methodology, can significantly influence design, delivery and performance on opening and far into the future.
Embrace innovation – but select effective ways of managing the potential cost and schedule risks. Make sure that selected risk management approaches are backed by the right organisational capability.
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