Smarter Travel 2015, which is taking place at the ICC Birmingham on 5-6 February, is the essential meeting place for those working in the sustainable transport sector.
The sustainable travel field has suffered from a stop-start approach. There is no doubt that the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) ‘rebooted’ the discipline and represented the biggest investment in sustainable transport in the UK in the short history of the sector. Some great work has been delivered in the last three years of the LSTF programme, and many of the best projects will be showcased at the ICC Birmingham, with the best receiving awards in the inaugural Smarter Travel Awards.
Perhaps the biggest change has been the development of new technology. According to Ofcom, smartphone penetration in the UK has gone from just over 25% of adults in 2011 to 62% in 2013, among the highest in the world. This has had a tremendous impact on how people find information about their journey, with a plethora of mapping and public transport apps now available.
What is less well understood are the possible implications for how transport planners secure new investment, manage traffic in towns and cities and help influence modal choice. With the support of Transport Systems Catapult, Smarter Travel 2015 will explore the impact of new technology.
LSTF funding is in place for 2015-16, but there is a fear that smarter travel may not receive as much funding after the General Election in May, marking a return to the dreaded stop-start approach.
Nonetheless, there is growing confidence that, with the application of the latest technology, the sector can offer low cost transport solutions with a very high benefit-cost ratio.
The LSTF has also shown that smarter travel interventions not only address issues such as congestion, CO2, air pollution and healthy lifestyles, but also have considerable impact on unemployment, through reducing transport issues to help get people back to work.
With this in mind, it seems likely that whatever the shape of the next government, there will continue to be significant investment in smarter travel.
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