About itsleeds


Motor fuel price increases in the UK: who will lose the most?

Transport and energy affordability in the uk

Fuel prices at the pump, which had been declining since 2014, have recently started to increase again, as a result of changes in the oil price market and sterling devaluation since Brexit. They are expected to increase even further in 2017 as part of a general trend towards higher inflation in the UK.

If prices were to increase significantly, many British households would find it hard to cope. Household budgets are already under strain and, for many, a car is necessary to reach work, shops and other basic activities of daily life. For some, it will be possible to ‘shift’ to alternative modes of travel, but this is by no means always the case.

In our work for the (t)ERES research project, we have developed an indicator to map vulnerability to fuel price increases in England. Details about the method and findings can be read in a conference paper available on this website and in the…

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EMPOWER ‘Living Lab’ Competition

Competition to find the final EMPOWER Living Lab

In order to deliver ambitious roll-out plans for international ‘Living Labs’, the EU EMPOWER project has launched a competition to find a final UK-based Living Lab (large scale real-life implementation of positive incentives to reduce the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles).

EMPOWER is now inviting proposals from any City authority, community authority or Corporate organisation to provide a Living Lab Demonstration, with a deadline of 3rd March 2017 for applications.


EMPOWER is about the use of positive incentives such as information, points, discounts, rewards, community support and games, rather than charging, pricing, rationing, restrictions and regulation. Smart devices (phones and tablets) will allow two-way information flow between the travelling public and transport authorities, including the ability to offer tailored incentives relevant to the individuals travel patterns.

The UK Living Lab stakeholders will develop and deliver the actual implementation with the help of funding from the EMPOWER budget of up to £80k, and support from the EMPOWER consortium in areas such as evaluation methods, business models and design of incentives schemes.  The EMPOWER ICT tools will also be available for use in the Living Lab (see http://mobility-apps.eu).

We expect the UK Living Lab to be ambitious in scale and in line with a real-life implementation rather than a research study, involving circa 40,000 participants each. The Living Lab should take place from 1st May 2017 and end with final delivery on 31st January 2018.  Contact Professor Susan Grant-Muller for further information about the competition and the EMPOWER project.

Read more about the applications process: http://empowerproject.eu/articles/competition-living-lab

About the EMPOWER concept
EMPOWER  is about rewarding change. We are driving research and innovation on how positive incentives can encourage citizens to reconsider their travel choices and reduce the extent to which they travel using conventionally fuelled vehicles (CFV). Rewarding change also means rewarding a shift to travelling in off-peak hours, sharing, and schemes to help people avoid travelling altogether.

The EMPOWER ICT services are being developed using a variety of app-based solutions from Mobidot and Pocketweb, such as Move Smarter, Commute Greener, and more to operate on Smart devices.

The EMPOWER concept and mobility services are being trialled in large scale ‘Living Labs’ involving members of the public in the cities of Enschede (Netherlands), Gothenburg (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland) and in the UK. In addition, Take-Up Cities are rolling out the Living Lab concepts in Milan, Odense, Budapest, Reading, Newcastle, Antwerp and Bologna. The Living Labs have already started work and the EMPOWER ICT services are mature.


“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”


In this second post about the work of the Commission on Travel Demand I will explore the challenges posed by the quote from the scientist Nils Bohr that headlines this article.

Lets start by looking at the state of practice in the UK. All major infrastructure schemes are subject to an economic appraisal with an appraisal period of 60 years (which is 30 years longer than it used to be a decade ago). We produce long term estimates of demand using the National Trip End Model and a suite of other tools such as the National Transport Model and the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook. However, the demand futures upon which decisions are based are largely determined by what are deemed to be ‘reasonable assumptions’. The case for HS2 for example includes the following acknowledgment: “Despite the economic downturn there is little evidence to suggest the recent strong growth in long…

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Freedom of movement and fairness

Transforming transport planning for social and environmental justice

A new think-piece by Dr Caroline Mullen is one of two outputs on energy and mobility justice, written by members of the DEMAND Centre for Friends of the Earth’s Big Ideas Project.


Mobility and movement of resources is life sustaining and enhancing. Yet transport and mobility systems in countries across the world present a complex tangle of freedoms, benefits, health problems, physical dangers and restrictions. This think-piece argues that we should reframe thinking about transport so that equality – recognition that each and every person matters – becomes the starting point. Transport planning would then aim to ensure that each person can obtain the benefits of mobility, and to minimise social and health inequalities caused by transport. These premises would help us reconcile what can seem to be conflicting social and environmental goals. Practically this would mean treating transport as a matter of social and environmental justice, and thus making it a priority to ensure that people can move freely on foot, bicycle, and wheelchair, coupled with comprehensive, accessible public transport operated as a public good. This approach contrasts starkly with existing mobility systems that prioritise motor traffic and aviation. These existing systems create huge problems for human wellbeing, ironically restricting freedom for many people to move around safely and to participate in society, while damaging economic welfare, and causing serious harm to other species and the natural environment. Reframing transport as a justice issue also challenges existing political discourses and assessment tools, which have tended to encourage systems with heavy reliance on motorised transport and aviation, and which act as a barrier to a just transport system. The think-piece explores how a move to a just mobility system can draw broad political and public support by promoting multiple social, economic and individual interests. It outlines new methods of assessment and public participation in decision-making which could support a transition toward a more just transport system.

Read the full document here.

Why we should worry about travel demand


Today marks the launch of a new Commission on Travel Demand which I am chairing. This is the first in a series of blog posts where I will explore the thinking behind the Commission and share insights from events, evidence and public meetings the Commission hosts during 2017.

I start by looking at why we should be interested in travel demand. There are certainly greater short run policy priorities out there such as job creation and promoting productivity and competitiveness in a post-Brexit world. In fact, talking about demand can be politically quite challenging as the idea of limiting growth in demand or managing demand in particular places or times of day can be contentious.

However, I would argue that we are in a period of significant change and uncertainty where there are numerous opportunities to shape the course of the future growth in travel demand. Many of these influences…

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NORTHMOST – mathematical modelling in transport

NORTHMOST is a new biannual series of meetings on the topic of mathematical modelling in transport.

Held in December 2016, NORTHMOST 01 focussed on academic research, to encourage networking and collaboration between academics interested in the methodological development of mathematical modelling applied to transport.  The presentations are provided below.

The focus of the meetings will alternate; NORTHMOST 02 – planned for Spring 2017 – will be led by practitioners who are modelling experts. Practitioners will give presentations, with academic researchers in the audience. In addition to giving a forum for expert practitioners to meet and share best practice, a key aim of the series is to close the gap between research and practice, establishing a feedback loop to communicate the needs of practitioners to those working in university research.

For further details please contact Dr Richard Connors

VirtuoCITY – a centre for city simulation


Cities are entering a new age where new technologies could dramatically change the way people move. New insight is required to understand how we will react to these new mobility options. The University of Leeds is developing a new centre, focused on engaging with the public to co-design and demonstrate new mobility options, and to gather feedback and build interest and user-acceptance.

Virtuocity will be a proving ground and accelerator in which emerging technologies are harnessed to develop innovative solutions to challenges facing cities.

Computational transport modelling has been around since the first general purpose computers were developed over 50 years ago. Early models focused on steady-state conditions. With the evolution of processing power, the models have become more detailed and accurate. Modern agent-based transport models capture each pedestrian and each vehicle and validate with data collected in existing cities.


Virtuocity will use these advanced models along with models of future technology to answer questions like: What should mobility in the city of the future look like? What does technology provide? What will users choose, accept and pay for? What does the resulting city look like? Local authorities wish to design their city to encourage healthy lifestyles, have a vibrant downtown and reasonable transit times. Automotive companies and mobility-as-a-service providers are seeking to understand how to design their products to maximise revenues and profits. The only way to answer these questions is with impactful end-user focused co-production and public engagement.

The University has an extensive set of research experience: experiments, data, models and simulations of cities from across the disciplines of social sciences, engineering and medicine. Virtuocity will combine these, so that any researcher can use them in their investigations. Corporate and public partners can also integrate their software, simulations, data and models thereby maximising the research capability of Virtuocity.

Virtuocity will:

  • Work collaboratively with end-users, industry partners and decision makers to answer pressing questions and co-produce new solutions;
  • Bring together a commanding set of shared data and models;
  • Encourage and support safe, efficient and sustainable mobility;
  • Explain and demonstrate new and emerging mobility options
  • Focus on the end-users and gather feedback on user acceptance, interest and choices.

Virtuocity will provide partners with a competitive edge through access to a unique combination of facilities, world leading research and key academic experts.

Corporate Partners
Virtuocity will provide corporate partners with a powerful company resource with members able to enjoy varying degrees of access, benefits and involvement dependent on their needs.

As a manufacturer or technology developer, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate and test your latest systems. Virtuocity will engage your end user in technology/system development by collecting critical feedback on preferences, usability, demand and safety.

As a consultancy or software developer, you will have the opportunity to leverage your own capabilities and software with those of Virtuocity. Bring your clients and customers in to experience Virtuocity technology integrated with your own software and assist them in making the right decisions about future cities.

  • Use of software, data, models, simulations, virtual reality hardware and simulators;
  • Priority access to University researchers, with expertise in a wide variety of fields;
  • The opportunity to place a researcher within the Centre;
  • Preferential access to reports, papers and research outputs;
  • Influence over the Centre’s future research roadmap through a seat on the Advisory Board;
  • The opportunity to contribute and formally link to active projects;
  • Access to joint research funding via collaborative bids;
  • Training opportunities.



Public Partners
As a local, regional, or national Government partner, you will appreciate the opportunity for positive change to be realised from modern mobility technologies. With Virtuocity, you can find out how to encourage your citizens to make healthy choices for mobility, what will make citizens spend more time in the city centres to stimulate vibrant economic centres, and how to reduce traffic jams, congestion, and parking demands. Virtuocity will help you to design cities that are more resilient to floods while reducing air and noise pollution. Citizens and decision-makers will be able to experience and provide feedback on alternative city project designs, before they are built through the use of virtual and augmented reality evaluations from various points of view – ranging from the city planner through service providers to the most vulnerable road users. Designs can be assessed with respect to safety, throughput, efficiency and cost.


Virtuocity will bring together industry expertise, public sector decision makers and academic excellence in a shared collaborative research centre to design the cities of the future. It will offer:

  • A world leading combination of facilities and researchers in a complex, dynamic and multi-disciplinary environment;
  • A coordinated and integrated approach to research to provide insight into the future of cities;
  • Vast experience in using technology to generate reliable and robust outcomes;
  • Interactive research and demonstrations and a proving ground for the co-production of data vital for an evidence based approach to innovation;
  • Collaboration opportunities to achieve better, more cost effective mobility solutions.

To find out more about how your organisation can take advantage of a membership please contact:

Dr Erik Thomasson
Research and Innovation Manager
Email: e.n.thomasson@leeds.ac.uk