Urban Transport Group: Why we are running a #transportskills week

En Avant!

Our members, the Government and transport users alike all have hopes and expectations for improved transport infrastructure both regionally and nationally. However engineering is just one dimension of the skills shortages that face the transport sector exacerbated by a workforce which is ageing and which does not reflect the diversity of wider society. Indeed the Department for Transport is predicting a 55,000 shortfall in skilled workers in transport infrastructure by 2020, which is a major threat to transport infrastructure development. One key reason why we supporting National Women in Engineering Day this Friday.

The Urban Transport Group has long supported initiatives designed to encourage and promote careers in transport and to enhance diversity in recruitment – we strongly believe there’s a need to make a career in the transport sector more appealing to a more diverse range of people not least because sorting out your cities transport challenges in creative…

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Can we reduce the amount of energy we use for transport?

The energy powering transport remains dominated by fossil fuels and so reducing how much we use is fundamental to our commitments to climate change emission reduction.

There are three main approaches to cutting fossil fuel used in transport, often captured in the terms of “Avoid, Shift, Reduce”.

Avoid looks at different ways of reducing how much we travel such as teleworking and telemedicine. Shift examines the potential to encourage people to choose less energy intensive forms of transport such as cycling and walking and mass transit systems. Reduce focusses efforts on improving the efficiency of existing modes of transport through, for example, light weighting materials and more efficient combustion.

The focus of transport policy is overwhelmingly on ‘reduce’ and to a lesser degree ‘shift’ policies. Indeed, the scale of carbon reduction required means a transition to electric or hydrogen powered transport with the fuel sources generated by clean energy is necessary. However, both the end point of a truly zero emission vehicle fleet and the speed of the pathway to that end point are highly uncertain. Other policies in ‘shift’ and ‘avoid’ remain necessary for carbon and wider policy reasons. In addition, achieving zero emissions does not mean zero energy. The energy required to move as much as 400 billion vehicle miles that could be on UK roads by 2040 (55% higher than today) will need to be generated somehow and this is non-trivial in a more decentralised energy system (i).

Whilst shift policies continue to be deployed by cities to some effect, the balance of infrastructure investment is currently focussed on job creation rather than carbon reduction and there has yet to be a step change in mode-shift stimulated by a carbon prerogative. Work at Leeds has explored the reasons stymying more proactive policies and the creation of a more radical approach to urban policy making (ii).

So, we turn to ‘Avoid’ and how we might reduce the amount of travel that is needed to participate in society. Existing approaches have focussed on information gaps (personalised travel marketing), ‘nudge’ type incentives (parking cash out and bike loan schemes) and community based initiatives (walking school buses, cycling competitions). These initiatives are seen to have positive impacts (iii) but are not yet seen by policy makers to be likely to deliver major change (iv).

The Institute for Transport Studies is part of a major five year research centre funded under the Research Council UK’s Energy Programme. The DEMAND Centre (www.demand.ac.uk) takes as its central approach the need to recognise that energy is not used for its own sake but as part of accomplishing social practices at home, at work and in moving around. In order to understand how to intervene in the amount of energy used in travelling therefore it is necessary to understand how and why transport is entwined in the way it is for different activities. The work is looking at this problem in different ways.

First, the work has looked at time use data and the way in which travel relates to in and out of home patterns. For example, this work enabled shopping trips to be broken down into a much more fine grained understanding and for certain types of cargo dependent shopping to be identified which were much more likely to be associated with the car (v). Some kinds of shopping trips will be harder to do by non-car modes unless they can be replaced by home deliveries. However, this only helps if the home delivery replaces the trip to the store rather than adds to it.


Second, we have examined travel as part of work through a case study of global engineering and construction consultancy firms. Virtual technology has allowed for some face to face meetings to be conducted on line, yet has not diminished the need for client-consultant interactions. Instead changes in technology shape and inform part of a reorganisation of the way the firms work. For example, from a very regionally based approach to a thematic approach with teams split across sites and countries. The ways in which business itself is organised creates a set of demands for travel which may be more important to pay attention to than face-to-face meetings which occur for reasons which seem difficult to change (vi).

Third, we are examining broader social change and its interaction with the systems of provision of transport. It has, for example, been suggested that on-line shopping could reduce the demand for shopping trips. This approach looks at the potential for substitution of trips, which presumes that the world remains static and consumers simply switch one behaviour for another. Instead, the approach adopted in DEMAND asks, how is shopping changing? Where and when is it happening? What are the impacts on transport? Our on-going work on on-line shopping points to on-line shopping for groceries being a part of a wider set of shopping choices which are themselves changing. The notion of a ‘weekly shop’ seems to be being replaced with several value shops to stores such as Aldi and Lidl and pass-by shopping in the burgeoning range of express supermarkets. On-line is used more for regular but occasional bulk purchasing. For non-food items there is a fragmentation of shopping patterns with consumers increasingly visiting stores as a ‘shop window’ and purchasing through price comparison at home. Trips to town are becoming more social experiences than essential trips for shopping. Changes in expectations suggest that free deliveries and free returns are important features that support an increasing culture of ‘over purchasing’, trying and sending back. Only by understanding the relationship between changing supply options and changing demand can we understand whether and how to intervene to reduce energy.


Reducing the amount of energy required to move around is a critical part of our future transport policies. The social adaptations which are on-going may, in part, explain why the anticipated gains from technological change do not materialise to the degree anticipated. It is only by taking a more detailed consideration of what demand is made up of and how it is changing that we will be in a position to determine whether and, if so how, we might effectively intervene to reduce demand and avoid the potential for it to ratchet up as the costs of mobility fall.

Professor Greg Marsden
Institute for Transport Studies

Much of the research described here forms part of the RCUK Energy Programme DEMAND Centre (EP/K011723/1).
Demand 220x162px

(i) Electric Vehicles and Renewable Energy: What are the Key Issues? Mobility and Energy Futures Series, Energy Leeds.
(ii) Bache I; Bartle I; Marsden G; Flinders M (2015) Multi-level Governance and Climate Change Insights from Transport Policy. Rowman & Littlefield International.
(iii) Cairns S; Sloman L; Newson C; Anable J; Kirkbride A; Goodwin P (2008) Smarter choices: Assessing the potential to achieve traffic reduction using ‘Soft measures’. Transport Reviews, 28, pp.593-618
(iv) Marsden G; Mullen C; Bache I; Bartle I; Flinders M (2014) Carbon reduction and travel behaviour: Discourses, disputes and contradictions in governance. Transport Policy, 35, pp.71-78
(v) Mattioli G; Anable J; Vrotsou K (2016) Car dependent practices: findings from a sequence pattern mining study of UK time use data. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 89. pp. 56-72
(vi) Anable J; Faulconbridge J; Jones I; Marsden G (in press) Demanding business travel: time, space and practice. In: Allison H; Rosie D; Gordon W (eds) Demanding energy: spaces, temporalities and change. Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire.
(vii) Images all have a creative commons license (free delivery).

What does the smart mobility transition mean for modelling?


The opening plenary session at Modelling World asks whether rapid change means new models? In advance of my talk there I reflect on this question drawing on the work of the Commission on Travel Demand and the DEMAND Centre.

The first part of the question implies that we are in a world of rapid change. The rise of Uber, increasing autonomy of vehicles, electrification, on-line shopping… the list goes on. Change is happening for sure – but how rapid it is and how much of it is defined by changes to transport technologies seems much more open to question. I argue here that there are a number of trends, many of which our traditional approaches to understanding demand did not anticipate, that have been on-going slowly but for a period of time. Even when we see significant technological change coming to transport this will take some time to happen…

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HumanDrive: human-like attributes of autonomous vehicles

ITS to lead human-centred design and evaluation of automated vehicle behaviour in a new Innovate UK project: HumanDrive

The Institute has been chosen to investigate how an automated vehicle should behave in order to provide its occupants with the right feel and experience, enhancing safe human-like driving strategies, and improving user adoption of these vehicles.

The HumanDrive consortium has recently won a grant, awarded by Innovate UK, under the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV2) programme. The objective of this innovative project is to build an autonomous vehicle with human-like, natural control and path planning, by 2020. It will be fully autonomous and capable of completing a lengthy end-to-end journey in a variety of settings, including country roads, A-roads and motorways. It will also be designed to mimic the style of a proficient human driver, to provide an enhanced experience for the occupants. ITS has been chosen to use its world-leading human-in-the-loop driving simulator facilities to develop the correct models for achieving this goal.

Professor Natasha Merat, Chair in Human Factors of Transport Systems, explains:

“This is an exciting project for members of the human factors and safety group at ITS, who have been working in this area for the past 10 years, building an understanding of the challenges and opportunities offered by automated vehicles.  By enhancing the current vehicle automated controllers, and ensuring that users’ expectations and preferences are considered, we hope to improve the uptake of these vehicles by a larger cross-section of the public, whilst also helping to improve road safety”.

Read more about Government support for driverless vehicle projects and about ITS research on connected and automated vehicles.


Call for paper for the special issue: Concepts and methods on informality in urban transport across world regions

International Network for Transport and Accessibility in Low Income Communities (INTALInC) – read more at https://intalinc.wordpress.com


Building on a set of original papers, this special issue seeks to establish an account of the state-of-the-art of which concepts and methods are applied for what topics/aspects of informality in urban transport, an in-depth review of selected specific methods and their application in the field and the identification of their strengths and limitations, and the identification of lessons and directions for future research on the subject.

If you would like further information, please click here or contact the guest editor below.

Time Line:

End of June 2017: deadline for submission of draft papers to the guest editors

Submission Method:

Please submit your papers to the guest editors for the first round of review.

1) Prof. Dr. Dirk Heinrichs : dirk.heinrichs@dlr.de
2) Prof. Dr. Barbara Lenz: barbara.lenz@dlr.de

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Recognising uncertainty is not the same as accepting it


This week saw the first evidence session of the Commission on Travel Demand bringing together stakeholders from local and national government, academia and industry to discuss approaches to understanding demand in the sector. It ended with a debate on whether forecasting as had its day. The motion was defeated but that is not the same as saying we don’t need to re-examine the practice of thinking about travel demand in the future.
Robin Hickman shared the following image on uncertainty, time and techniques that match to the space you are operating in.


In the transport sector we largely deploy forecasting and, even where we use scenarios to think about different policy options, we return to making our decisions based on estimates of demand derived from a forecasting approach. Such an approach seems likely to risk biasing prioritisation of options towards those that are most compatible with the trends which underpin…

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Cutting-edge research showcased to Secretary of State

The Secretary of State for Transport visited the Institute today to hear about our cutting-edge research, which is helping the sector become more accessible, efficient and productive.

“I’m confident that Leeds University students will play  
a huge part in shaping a modern transport system for the future” Chris Grayling, Secretary of State

In a two hour visit Chris Grayling opened the new £4m ITS building, which provides a new modern research and teaching space. Enhanced spaces have been created for PhD and post-doctoral researchers, to ensure that the University is supporting emerging talent alongside its world-class professors.


The investment is part of the University’s wider £520m development plan, to create a world-class campus for research and teaching.  The new building also marks 50 years since the discipline of transport studies was first established at Leeds.

During his visit to the University, Mr Grayling met with leading researchers and was told about how among other successes ITS research has informed efficiency targets for Network Rail and the safety ratings of cars used by Euro NCAP.

Professor Richard Batley, Director of ITS said:  “The latest generation of ITS professors cover topics reflective of the highly complex nature of our modern transport system, and we consistently strive to create new knowledge which benefits the public and private sectors. It was important to be able to explain our work to the Secretary of State, and to show how it can have a real impact on society.”

Mr Grayling was able to see first-hand how ITS research is addressing society’s transport needs in the face of rapid changes in environment, economics and demographics.

ITS researchers had the opportunity to showcase ongoing research projects such as DISRUPTION; a project aiming to reduce the energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by looking at people’s mobility, including their travel and use of computers and mobile phones.

Other projects included research into safer cycling, climate change, energy security, technology and human factors in transport. Mr Grayling also watched a demonstration of a pedestrian simulator, which allows researchers to gather real time data on people interacting with their environment while walking.

Mr Grayling said: “We want to encourage young people to take up the many exciting and cutting-edge careers in transport, and I’m very grateful to have the chance to open the Institute for Transport Studies. 

“What I’ve seen today of the research being done – there is something for everyone in this department. There is work that will influence local authority and national government, and can get businesses thinking about how to improve efficiency and safety.

“I’m confident that Leeds University students will play a huge part in shaping a modern transport system for the future, and I wish them the best of luck with their important work.”

Mr Grayling also heard about the University’s recently announced major investment in a new Institute for High Speed Rail Engineering. He met Peter Woodward, professor of high speed rail engineering, and Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, to discuss its likely impact.




Professor Roberts said: “These are exciting times for transport policy and planning in the UK, and our world class Institute for Transport Studies is ideally placed to help shape this agenda and deliver innovative solutions. The investment in a new Institute for High Speed Rail Engineering at Leeds comes at a time when the UK and other countries are investing heavily in revolutionising their rail networks; in the UK alone the HS2 plans are ambitious and transformational. 

“Our new institute will bring together several of our leading research groups in ITS, our Faculty of Engineering, Leeds Institute for Data Analytics and other external partners to develop the engineering, economic and broader inter-disciplinary research programmes that will support the development of a modern railway system in the UK and around the world.”

Professor Batley added: “The Institute for Transport Studies is the UK’s largest single academic group providing transport courses and training.

“Our new building will enable enhanced interactions between the Institute’s students, staff and industry partners; furthering our mission to advance the understanding of transport activity, operations and use, and to develop skills and best practice among transport professionals and decision-makers.” 

The event was also attended by key industry representatives from HS2, Department for Transport, Transport Systems Catapult, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, all of whom work closely with ITS staff and students.