A review of the Transport study published last week reveals technology lies at the heart of many of its findings and suggestions.
The government sponsored report by Sir Rod Eddington on UK transport’s role in sustaining the UK’s productivity and competitiveness rely on new or more widespread technology adoption from remote working technologies to intelligent traffic management systems to fulfil its recommendations.
Eddington said any new transport strategy must respond to new technological advances, both in general purpose technologies, for example the use of the internet and real-time information influencing demand for transport and its provision, and more transport specific technology.
The report pointed to the growing trend that sees 14% of men and 8% of women work from home, which seems likely to rise with technology-driven opportunities for e-working and tele-working as a further influence on road-use reduction and its environmental impact.
In addition, the report points to developments in high-precision positioning systems, new sensor technologies and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems to increase the effective capacity of the transport networks by allowing vehicles to travel closer together.
But according to the report, “many of these technologies are many years away and it is too early to judge whether any of the systems could be delivered in a safe and cost-effective manner”. It calls for more testing such as those pilots underway with the recently announced £7.5 million worth of government grants in urban areas for road toll pricing.
Reading received £700,000 from the innovation fund to trial road pricing schemes. Eddington highlighted, “substantial one-off implementation costs owing to the need for complex signalling and roadside enhancements”, and said that at current rates return on investment would be difficult to realise unless technology prices fell.
Real-time IT systems should also be used to improve public transport attractiveness, traffic flow and management of disruption, by enabling up-to-date personalised journey itineraries, improving smartcard payment systems and reducing the uncertainty associated with bus and train departure and arrival times to facilitate a shift away from car use.
The report also adds a word of caution, saying that there are many development and implementation steps to achieve before such technology-based interventions might be possible.
“Government and business should be aware of the possibilities that technologies can offer and the potential risks associated with using untested new technologies.”
Whatever technologies win out, although the report is short on technical detail, the conclusion is that new technologies “do and will play a much broader role in transport policy and delivery than just supporting better use measures”.