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31 January 2006

Mott MacDonald helps to beat the transport planning brain drain

The Midlands branch of engineering and transport consultants Mott MacDonald is working with local authorities to make an MSc in transport planning available in the Midlands.

The movement of people and goods from A to B is a huge challenge in our changing society and busy cities – yet there is a serious lack of trained specialists to deliver workable transport solutions for the future.

So now Mott MacDonald, in collaboration with the seven West Midlands authorities and the private sector, is helping to provide an innovative two-year, day release course, based at the Birmingham and Midland Institute. Classes begin next month (February). The programme will follow that of the successful transport planning course currently offered at Napier University in Edinburgh, which will also award the Masters degree to students in the West Midlands.

Tom van Vuren, a national transport modelling expert at Mott MacDonald’s Birmingham office, will provide lecturing input into the MSc course. He is also on the steering group, which helped to set it up.

He said: “Employers have found it hard to recruit sufficiently qualified staff in the transport planning field. This course enables us, and other organisations in the West Midlands, to train existing staff up to higher standards, which benefits us, our customers, and ultimately the people of the West Midlands.

“The fact that the course leads to a Masters degree is of course attractive to employees, and will help to motivate them. I believe the combination of private and public sector sponsorship, and academic delivery, will make for a powerful course.”

This isn’t the first joint initiative aimed at attacking the scarcity of transport planning resources in the West Midlands. In 2003 the same steering group initiated evening classes in transport planning, aimed at those new to the industry, and providing an introduction to the subject. This course is now in its third year. Lectures are provided by local experts, drawn from the public and private sector.

Mott MacDonald is already heavily involved in transport and traffic management in the region. It uses the latest satellite technology to gather, analyse and interpret traffic movement at any time of day or night. The information can be used to plan roads, housing and other land use. It also helps local authorities to meet strict new regulations on dealing with traffic congestion.


Notes to Editors
1. Mott MacDonald’s Birmingham office has some 300 staff providing leading-edge services in buildings, water and environmental services, cost consultancy, PFI and transportation including highways, integrated transport and railways. Through its 70-strong transportation team, the Birmingham office delivers transport, planning and data services to the seven West Midlands metropolitan authorities and this has led to the introduction of enhanced traffic and travel information systems such as Mattisse and Help2Travel website which provides multi-modal travel information across the West Midlands. As well as operating PRISM, the transport forecasting tool which predicts future travel patterns and congestion, Mott MacDonald has also been instrumental in developing state-of-the-art traffic congestion measurement systems using in-vehicle GPS data for the West Midlands, which has subsequently been adopted by the Department of Transport for the rest of the country. Mott MacDonald has also created an innovative, efficient, cost saving method of constructing railway platforms working with Laing Rail Projects and RMC Rail Products. This exciting technique has been used to good effect in extensions to stations along the Chiltern line between London and Birmingham. We recently provided consultancy on the West Midlands magistrates court PFI, refurbishment of the National Exhibition Centre Piazza and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital redevelopment.

2. Mott MacDonald’s partners on the steering group are Colin Eastman of Coventry City Council; David Bull of Birmingham City Council; and Alan Bailes of Transport Planning International. Classes will be held at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, following a course set by Napier University in Edinburgh.
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