Local Today Today magazine has now been in existence for 27 years and this week’s issue marks the 700th publication in our fortnightly sequence. We are justly proud of our unrivalled reputation as a sector-defining product, and over the years we have been privileged to have been engaged with all the top people in the sector and helped to shape a number of policy and organisational issues. These have included the definition of the changing local transport agenda, the role of different public and private sector players in the market, identifying professional best practice and new solutions, and facilitating expert discussion about new technological, business, financial and delivery frameworks.
For many professionals LTT has been a core element of their career journey from initial job finding and knowledge acquisition about the local transport challenges they are addressing, to later personal development, and advancement as a platform for expressing their views and missions.
We estimate that more than 10,000 individuals have been regular readers over the three decades we have published. Some of our original readers are still around, and many continue to take the publication in their retirement – or part-retirement – to keep in touch.
Recently we have been delighted to see that a new group of readers is joining our fold, made up of both a new generation of transport graduates and postgraduates emerging from our universities, and other professionals coming from sectors increasingly related to transport seeking to connect with the challenges of delivering sustainable and smart mobility solutions for urban areas.
Some have forecast the demise of print media, but this is not our experience, and whilst other magazines have ceased publication and reduced frequency, we have maintained our fortnightly service of LTT in print and on-line, supported by the TransportXtra website.
Now we want to build a truly multi-dimensional dialogue and network structure that brings those in the field of local transport together in a range of ways that reflect the continuing LTT mission.
During the lifetime of the magazine we have had a number of personal and organisational get-togethers of the ‘LTT club,’ including the celebration of our two major anniversaries of 250 and 500 issues and individual conference discussions and debates on a range of emerging themes and challenges. Most recently we have held major events on Smarter Travel, Cycling, Modeling and Local Highways.
What we have never done is brought together our overall network of readers, writers, regularly reported on personalities, and expert contributors, letter writers, and columnists for a professional and semi-social meeting ground and facilitated the opportunity for exchange and interaction at a significant, dedicated and LTT themed event.
This year, we are going to do just that. This autumn there will be a major gathering where the LTT community can meet, talk, be stimulated by leading thinkers and doers; and create ideas of how we can work together to tackle current and emerging local transport challenges, pooling the unrivaled and incredibly valuable collective individual experience of LTT’s specialist professional audience. Despite the matrix of publications and online resources that LTT’s publishers, Landor Links, now offer, there remains a continuing desire for, and value of, face-to-face connections. This is particularly relevant at times of rapid change, and emergence of new ways of thinking and doing, and the creation of new organisational and delivery structures for the transport and mobility sector. At the moment, there is arguably more change happening than ever before in the UK local transport world and our new event will provide a place to understand, explore and address how professionals and their organisations tackle the new transport landscape.
Now is a very significant time of change, with the redefinition of localism, the creation of new structures at regional and sub-regional level, and the introduction of related decision-making and funding processes. This in turn has triggered the exploration of new relationships between national agencies, new local transport responsible bodies and their intermediaries and service providers. Government has been impatient to see change and barely a week goes by without significant announcements of further remodelling of the local transport landscape.
In October we will take the opportunity to bring together the Local Transport Today network in all its dimensions for a significant but socially rewarding and enjoyable ‘gathering of the clans’. A part-structured, part-informal interaction will allow the exploration of both the longer individual journey that professionals in this sector are following in the current fast-changing landscape, and the influences upon it and consequences arising from it for local transport practice and policy delivery.
To truly define this event as addressing local transport in the best traditions of the magazine, it is appropriate that it should take place somewhere ‘in the field,’ which resonates with the majority of our familiar audience and offers a familiar environment in which local transport challenges and solutions are being seen and addressed.
This year’s inaugural event will be hosted by England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance, and we are working closely with its programme director Martin Tugwell. The Alliance is one of the agencies involved in ground-breaking changes to local transport structure, strategy, governance and delivery in the UK and is a perfect example of the emerging new local transport landscape.
Our partnership will ensure we hold the event in an attractive location accessible from around the country in the South Midlands.
We are now finalizing an excellent meeting venue, with suitable onsite and neighbouring accommodation for overnight stays by those coming to attend from further afield. The event will take place over two days, beginning with a late afternoon introduction and agenda setting session, evening social and exploratory discussion format led by leading experts, thinkers and practitioners, including a sit-down dinner preceded by a drinks reception followed by informal networking. The second day will comprise more intensive and high profile discussion, ranging from wider-ranging plenarysessions to specifically-focused workshops on individual themes running through to late afternoon departure.
Many of the speakers and the discussion leaders will be drawn from the magazine’s regular team including the editor, contributors, and opinion formers, enhanced by others who are acknowledged to be movers, shakers and shapers of the sector.
A set of themes has already been identified for consideration during the event, including both overarching current policy challenges and specialist practical issues providing scope for in-depth conversations and conclusions on each area.
The following are the key topics that we expect to be addressing:
The facilitated workshops included in the programme will provide for outcomes from the dialogue to be presented towards the end of the event, and disseminated after.
Some innovative and imaginative techniques to facilitate and enhance the discussions and exchange process are being developed to make the event even more stimulating and rewarding.
A significant element to the proceedings will be the first evening’s dinner, which will provide a high profile opportunity for attendees to catch up with old and new colleagues, and for our partners and sponsors to identify with the event and entertain key guests. A keynote speaker will act as an important focus.
Arrangements for the event are being led by a steering group of long-standing LTT partners and friends, who will provide a high level of insight and ability to help shape the relevance of the content. Those approached have given a very warm and positive response and our steering group will be chaired by Martin Tugwell.
In the run-up to the event over the next few months there will be regular pre-event editorial material in LTT exploring the issues that will be raised. Suggestions for contributions on these themes will be very welcome.
Post-event coverage of the discussion and follow-up of the issues raised will of course be prominent in LTT and online.
The attendance fee for the event is being set at a modest and ‘affordable’ level, with a generous discount and priority booking for those who are LTT subscribers, although all those from the local transport community are welcome. It is envisaged some 200 people will attend the event, to keep it friendly and focused.
There will be opportunities for sponsorship by organisations involved in the local transport sector, and for general endorsement and partnership with the event.
This is an innovative and important step for LTT and I am excited at the prospect of the magazine’s incredibly knowledgeable and passionate community coming together to share their expertise and enthusiasm in tackling current and emerging challenges for the sector.
Martin Tugwell has played a number of key roles in the local transport field. Now combining the role of director of growth and strategy at Buckinghamshire County Council with that of programme director for England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance, he is helping lead the Alliance’s work on strategic transport planning.
The Strategic Alliance, which also involves Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes, Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, Luton Borough, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough City Councils, as well as the Local Enterprise Partnerships, will be hosting the inaugural LTT Local Transport Summit.
Martin is chairing the event’s advisory panel.
“I think the idea behind the summit is an excellent one – there’s an agenda here that will continue to evolve over time – both in light of experience and as current and emerging proposals become developed and then implemented – it is a very appropriate time to be talking in terms of this being the first annual Local Transport Summit.”
The Strategic Alliance is delighted to be its first host. “There is plenty to discuss! As a profession we need to move from talking about the concept of mobility as a service to understanding how to make it real: as a theme it strikes right at the heart of the opportunity that changes in governance give us to challenge the traditional approach to transport planning.
“In the past we used to worry about ‘predict and provide’: these days our approach is more ‘project and prioritise’ – but now is the time for us to think about transport’s role in facilitating place-shaping, how it can support and help realise better places in which to live, work and make our lives better.
“A third key challenge is that of needing to truly reflect the needs of the user: whether it be as a company for whom transport is an integral part of their business model, a prospective developer or economic agency looking to make a new investment, or each of us going about our everyday routine, making use of the transport system.
“I am excited that this new LTT event will create the space for debate and challenge as we strive to reflect what it is that the customers of the transport system look for, and begin to realise how new governance and business models might help us deliver that.
“There are important discussions to be had here about the governance models that are likely to emerge across the emerging sub-national transport bodies. Our business communities are looking for simplicity and clarity of approach. That means we need a business model that provides the strategic leadership that encourages them to invest in the future.
“LTT is creating an ideal event to explore these and many other emerging challenges facing local transport. Change is an ever constant. Many of the new initiatives are interconnected: the emergence of new governance and business models will have implications for statutory processes such as those associated with Highways England/RIS2 or in the rail sector. As bodies responsible for the preparation of statutory sub-national transport strategies the emergent sub-national transport bodies will be looking for a strong relationship with the National Infrastructure Commission. With the potential for STBs to have a greater say on rail infrastructure priorities as well as a role on the letting of future franchises, and with the Bus Services Bill offering the prospect of using enhanced partnerships to improve integration of public transport, it feels as if the transport sector is truly living in interesting times!
“There is still some way to go on the journey, but we could be on the cusp of enabling a genuine integrated transport system, and this event offers the opportunity for the sector to look to the future with confidence and a genuine excitement of what is possible.
“As the Strategic Alliance moves forward with its own initiatives, it is pleased to act as host for this inaugural summit.”
Peter Stonham was the founder and inaugural editor of Local Transport Today in 1989 with colleagues Rod Fletcher and Peter Huntley. Together they defined an emerging new professional territory, bringing together discussion of all forms of mobility at the local and regional level in Britain and their relationship with wider planning, economic and social issues. He has continued in the role of chairman and editorial director of parent company Landor Links, with Rod Fletcher as the managing director. Peter Huntley stood down as a director after the first couple of years, but remained a connected and supportive partner as he developed his own business, The Transport Advisory Service (TAS.) He sadly died in 2012.
Andrew Forster has edited LTT since 2001, bringing readers comprehensive news of both overarching issues and local initiatives and practice every fortnight whilst spotting and analysing significant developments and trends. Andrew says he is proud of the tradition that the magazine has established and pleased that this new step is being taken to provide an interactive and sharing conversation amongst all the passionate and dedicated people in the local transport community.
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