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Mapping the sustainable transport journey

It’s 2035 and there has been a global shift in transport’s contribution to the economic and social opportunities that enhance quality of life. Spatial planning and digital connectivity enable people to more easily connect without always having to travel. Targeted campaigns to raise awareness and encourage change have supported this revolution in behaviour.

The range of options available when people do travel are better for the planet and for air quality, supporting a safer built environment and improved public health. People are fitter, happier and respiratory illnesses are declining.

The popularity of living and working locally has grown. Commuters and families using city-wide walking and cycling networks are a common sight, and people can safely access most local facilities and services within a short walk or bicycle ride from their homes. Low-traffic and traffic-free streets are safer, improving quality of life and wellbeing, and are easier for people with limited mobility to navigate.

Clean public transport that is reliable, affordable and accessible is the most efficient way to travel distances that are too far to walk or cycle. A seamless, end-to-end experience provides an attractive alternative to using cars. Long-haul transport for people and goods is shifting to cleaner fuels at an accelerating pace.

As part of a green industrial revolution and to harness the employment opportunities arising from the electrification of the transport sector, people have been retrained and reskilled, and jobs have been created in the manufacture and operation of new technologies and the expansion of public transport.

It’s an evolving and adaptive future that inspires new hope for shared and sustainable prosperity, enabled by digitalisation and changing behaviour.

This is how.

One direction of travel

One direction of travel

The direction of travel for the global transport sector has been clear for the past decade or more. It’s about access to goods and services and connectivity without motorised transport where appropriate, and ever cleaner, more effective and less environmentally damaging options when journeys do take place.

Leading countries banned the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030, and most of the world has now adopted the same policy. International aviation and shipping bodies are pursuing targets to eliminate CO2 emissions by 2050.

Technology – new traction units and fuels – and societal and individual behaviour change have driven the decarbonisation of transport. Innovations in vehicle manufacturing and the construction of transport infrastructure and the built environment have also supported mitigation efforts, and are growing with rising demand.

Inspiring change: A place-based approach to net-zero

Project delivery: Passenger rail with zero emissions

Inspiring change: Bold visions will help transport planners navigate uncertainty

Route maps to the future

Route maps to the future

In the early 2020s, national and sector-level route maps were published to navigate the journey to a cleaner, cross-modal approach to delivering the transport sector’s contribution to net zero.

These route maps were data driven and flexible to accommodate the uncertain future and focused as much on why and how we travel and how goods and services reach people, as the technical measures, such as the rollout of electric vehicles. To achieve this, the route maps were developed with communities, businesses, trade associations, local authorities, scientists, researchers, innovators, and interest and citizen groups.

The route maps identified where to focus resources – where to invest and test new technology and where to refresh existing assets rather than build new ones at scale – and were accompanied by policies, targeted information and incentives to fast-track change, particularly the removal of tailpipe emissions and promoting changes in travel behaviour.

Transport infrastructure – including a reliable and fast vehicle charging network and the production of alternative and sustainable fuels – was included in the route maps, and they also set annual targets and milestones to guide and deliver the future.

Inspiring change: Setting a net-zero carbon route-map

Transport-energy nexus

Transport-energy nexus

Recognition in the early 2020s that the transport, energy and built environment are interconnected systems led to an integrated approach to change. In many leading countries, the journey to decarbonise transport moved well beyond ‘in use’ emissions from transport. Fuelling the low-carbon transport system has been a key focus over the past decade or so, requiring the transport and energy sectors to collaborate to solve demand, supply and distribution issues.

An ongoing global programme of new low-carbon generation is taking advantage of the falling cost of renewable technology and energy storage to provide everyone with access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services. This is helping energy providers to meet the significant global increase in demand for electricity from mass adoption of electric vehicles.

Public concerns over EV charging have been solved. Charging points are ubiquitous. Fuelling stations on major highways now host rapid charging EV points and wireless charging is available on many residential streets, while dynamic charging is being tested on highways around the world. Global hydrogen production is scaling up – in part to power hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or FCEVs.

Investment has also gone into upgrading distribution networks and power grids. Parked and plugged-in EVs combine in many places to form battery banks to help stabilise local electric networks, compensating for the intermittency of renewable electricity generation – globally, the most common source.

Digital systems enable charging cycles to adapt to the demands of the grid and needs of vehicle users, while smart chargers encourage consumers to charge vehicles outside of peak times, better enabling them to conveniently access the cheapest and cleanest energy. The emergence of digital marketplaces, where energy buyers and sellers can transact, provides an opportunity everyone to benefit.

Inspiring change: Thinking of infrastructure as an interconnected ‘system of systems’ is key to human flourishing

Inspiring change: Energy transformation vision and This is how

Inspiring change: Investment in smart energy company Piclo

Project delivery: Masterplan for Teesside hydrogen transport hub

Project delivery: Europe’s largest hydrogen project

Our tools: Moata Smart energy suite

Inspiring change: The transport-energy nexus

Speed of change

Speed of change

Decarbonising road transport has principally involved electrification with electric motors driven by either a battery (EVs) or hydrogen fuel cell (FCEVs). New cars and light vehicles are now mostly EVs, while heavier vehicles requiring more energy, such as trucks, are EVs, FCEVs or powered by biofuels.

Public transport is now cleaner and more accessible. The frequency of services has increased, and planners are working to ensure most people in towns and cities are now just a short walk from their nearest bus, tram, metro or rail service. Rural areas also now enjoy more reliable public transport services.

Hydrogen-powered trams are becoming a common feature in more cities around the world and bus fleets in many countries have switched entirely to zero-emission vehicles – electric and hydrogen. Many parts of the world are running continuous route electrification programmes, and on non-electrified lines FCEV trains and battery-electric trains are replacing diesel locomotives.

Investment in the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) and liquid biofuels coupled with regulatory approval has brought down their cost, and major airlines are switching to reduce whole-life carbon emissions from medium- and long-haul flights. Major shipping lines are transitioning to ammonia made using green hydrogen (electrolysers powered by renewables) or methanol made from biomass and captured CO2.

Both the aviation and maritime industries have combined the introduction of alternative fuels with improved energy efficiency of new aircraft and watercraft, and operational improvements to reduce emissions.

Project delivery: Mott MacDonald colleague joins FlyZero team

Project delivery: Eclipse rapid bus transit, UK

The four Rs

The four Rs

Lowering emissions from transport has relied as much on changing how and when people travel, and the frequency of journeys, as repowering.

Reduce, remode, retime and reroute – the four Rs – have been championed by public authorities to change travel behaviour.

Cities and towns are being reimagined and redesigned to create streets for people, reducing the primacy of the automobile and providing alternatives to journeys by car. Safe active travel corridors encourage walking and cycling. Vital services, such as places of learning, shops, restaurants, health hubs and leisure facilities, are increasingly within easy walking distance.

Flexible working arrangements – both place and time – have built on the changed practices during the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic, with many ‘office’ workers in countries with good digital connectivity commuting less. When they do commute, the greater flexibility enables them to travel at quieter times.

Multimodal transport hubs link to public transport networks to enable residents to travel easily outside their area to access employment, education and training, essential services such as health- and social care, and recreation.

Targeted subsidies ensure fares are affordable for those on low incomes, while the quality of the travel experience and the ability to get end-to-end for people with mobility or navigational challenges has been enhanced by modern vehicles improved routes, frequencies and connections.

In many urban areas, ride-hailing and other new transportation options have replaced car ownership, with excellent digital connectivity ensuring access to on-demand mobility services as and when required. Improvements to the digital infrastructure has also supported the roll-out of connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs), with this new generation of vehicles greatly improving road safety and efficiency.

Inspiring change: Can a better understanding of supply and demand dynamics help reduce transport emissions?

Inspiring change: Steering the course – guiding a transport project from inception to completion

Inspiring change: Let’s use urban design to tackle the UK’s greatest challenges

Project delivery: Carlisle Station gateway scheme

Project delivery: Shenzhen intermodal transport hub

Inspiring change: A mixed future for transport as society becomes more connected

Better tools, better planning

Better tools, better planning

Planners and transport authorities use travel demand management (TDM) and Triple Access Planning (TAP) – combining transport, land use and telecommunications systems – to inform day-to-day transport management and operation, decisions on infrastructure investment and asset management. TAP regards transport as derived demand with access delivered and consumer demand fulfilled without the necessity to travel (every time) any major distance.

Transport policy is driven by ‘decide and provide’ future decision making – a vision-led process that focuses on achieving better societal outcomes and providing a development path best suited to achieving it.

Transport forecasting and modelling has moved away from using historic data to using predictive tools based on avatars or agent-based modelling, with predictors sourced from data analytics.

Data is used to map journeys, manage unexpected events and provide passengers with personalised travel information. It enables transport authorities to influence individual travel decision-making through timely, targeted messaging about travel, while real-time travel information makes travelling safer, easier and faster.

Inspiring change: Vision-led decision making for an uncertain world using the FUTURES methodology

Inspiring change: Transporting you to a low-carbon future

Inspiring change: The future of modelling – evolution, not revolution

Inspiring change: Raising the game in event transport

Our tools: Smart infrastructure index

Project delivery: UK Department for Transport TDM toolkit

Project delivery: Enabling data for Transport for New South Wales

Project delivery: Birmingham development plan – PRISM transport model

Inspiring change: Planning for the unknowable

Better connected, happier and healthier communities

Better connected, happier and healthier communities

Cleaner vehicles and less traffic have greatly improved air quality in the world’s largest and most densely populated cities – significantly reducing the number of people each year suffering from respiratory ill health.

Car-free streets and public spaces encourage walking, cycling and outdoor exercise, improving physical fitness and mental wellbeing. Road fatalities in urban areas have fallen dramatically around the world.

Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are giving greater freedom to people who experience restrictions to their personal mobility, such as younger and older people, and those with a disability and or who live in areas that are not well connected to transport networks – improving their quality of life. Access to CAVs has been accompanied by health campaigns to ensure their use does not lead to increased physical inactivity.

Thousands of new jobs have been created to support the decarbonisation of transport – from the production of alternative fuels and batteries for EVs to installing charging networks and upgrading energy grids – as well as investment in improved and integrated public transport systems.

Our tools: Moata People and Planet – our solution for measuring the environmental, social and governance impacts of infrastructure assets

Inspiring change: Above and beyond – oversite development brochure

Inspiring change: The road to lasting change

Inspiring change: Driving forward the UK’s 10-point plan

Inspiring change: Making the future accessible to all

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