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OBOR is arguably one of the biggest stories in today’s Asia business sector, covering 60 countries and accounting for about 65 per cent of the world’s population, one-third of the world’s GDP, and about a quarter of all the goods and services the world moves. OBOR has the potential to be the world’s largest platform for regional collaboration. The infrastructure projects will stimulate economic growth and build legacy for countries along the way.

The visit was led by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). Atkins joined the mission as a key player in Hong Kong’s infrastructure sector and a strategic partner for HKTDC’s OBOR activities. I had the pleasure to join the other forty some leaders that are involved in the OBOR and infrastructure development with a diverse sector representation which made the trip particularly rewarding.

Thailand: A key OBOR development and public and private sector collaboration

Our first stop of the trip was Thailand. We had the opportunity to meet with various senior Thai government officials including the Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as many leading Thai companies. On the business level, the highlight was the discussions on how Hong-Kong-based companies can help the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). Thailand hopes to develop its eastern provinces into a leading ASEAN economic zone. Branded as one of the three key OBOR corridor developments (the other two being China-Myanmar corridor, and China-Pakistan Corridor), the EEC straddles three eastern provinces of Thailand – Chonburi, Rayong, and Chachoengsao – off the coast of the Gulf of Thailand and spans a total of 13,285 square kilometers. The government hopes to complete the EEC by 2021, turning these provinces into a hub for technological manufacturing and services with strong connectivity to its ASEAN neighbors by land, sea and air.

The government has identified four “core areas” essential in making the EEC a renowned economic zone: (1) increased and improved infrastructure; (2) business, industrial clusters, and innovation hubs; (3) tourism and; (4) the creation of new cities through smart urban planning. The government predicts the creation of 100,000 jobs a year in the manufacturing and service industry by 2020 through the EEC. 15 major investment projects for the EEC have been identified in line with the “core areas”.

The government expects US$43 billion (Thai Baht 1.5 trillion) for the realisation of the EEC over the next five years. This funding will come from a mix of state funds, public-private partnerships (PPPs), and foreign direct investment (FDI). As explained in a recent article “One Belt One Road: seven factors to attract private sector investment” by Chris Birdsong, Atkins’ CEO for Asia Pacific, the key for development projects of this scale to succeed is for the public and private sectors to work together closely to increase projects’ bankability, therefore attractiveness to private sectors to invest. The public sector has a major role to play, in facilitating and attracting private sector investors to realise the full potential of aspirational development like this.

It’s encouraging to see that with the Eastern Economic Corridor Bill, which was approved in principle in mid-April 2017, more than 100 Thai laws and regulations within the EEC which restrict foreign investment and generally curb the ease of doing business will be amended or suspended, in support of the government’s strategy to secure much of the funding for the EEC through PPPs and FDI. Offering and facilitating attractive incentives from the public sector to unleash the full potential from the private sector is key. I am excited that Atkins has started discussions/bidding to work on some of the key developments in the EEC.

Vietnam: Development vs Destination

The second stop of my trip was Vietnam. We met with Prime Minster Nguyen Xuan Phuc and many senior government officials including Nguyen Chi Dung, Minister of Planning and Investment and Nguyen Hong Truong, Deputy Minister of Transport, as well as major property developers. The property market there is rapidly emerging. In 2016, real estate in Vietnam saw a 12% increase in investment comparing with the year before. Driven by the young demographic, growing middle class and the boom of the tourism industry, especially high-end tourism, urban residential property and hotel development are in particular demand. Tourist destinations and major cities like Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) present some interesting opportunities. In my view, it is of paramount importance not to view property developments in isolation, as a holistic and comprehensive planning approach would be the solid foundation for any development success.

Atkins has successfully delivered a number of high-profile architecture and masterplanning projects in the property market in Vietnam. Our multi-award-winning Landmark 81, at 460m tall when completed, is a testament to that. We believe that a comprehensive understanding of urban development to create a destination which offers future users or tenants an impeccable experience is something that no planner or architect should overlook. After all, what’s the use of a beautiful development that is impossible to get to? Or what is the use of a fast transport system when there is no destination to go to? And I am proud to say this is an important value that Atkins can add to our clients. We have started following up with some of the major players, and are working hard to create unique value propositions.

Capitalising on Hong Kong’s expertise and unique position

Comprehensive and effective project preparation is the first step towards success for any major infrastructure development. In an address from the Chief Executive from HKSAR, Hong Kong is ideally positioned to be the “super-connector” between the Mainland and the rest of the world. As China’s major international financial centre, and one of the world’s financial capitals, Hong Kong has the experience, the expertise and the connections to play a role as a major fundraising hub. Hong Kong hosts headquarters of many top international firms. The rich resource of top professionals in a wide range of services, such as accounting, law, construction, engineering and business management, also makes Hong Kong a go-to destination to seek professional advice for project preparation to close the funding gap. The HKTDC-led trip was a great example of the breadth and depth of expertise that Hong Kong has to offer to support major infrastructure developments in Asia, and Atkins is proud to be part of that!

No room for short sight  

Of course, a key aspect for the success of any development project, regardless infrastructure or property development, is to look into the future. Sustainable decisions must meet the need of today and the aspiration of tomorrow, taking into consideration rapidly changing technology. Although politics play a key role in facilitating major development projects, the decisions must be made beyond short-term political agendas and goals to solve an immediate problem; taking a holistic view of the country’s economic, demographic, cultural, social, environmental objectives and focusing on addressing the public’s needs of today and tomorrow is the key to ensure its longevity. In our industry, there is no room for short sight.

Catherine Li, Atkins’ director for strategy and business development for Asia Pacific, is a board director of the China Britain Business Council (CBBC), and Vice-Chair of the International Infrastructure Forum (IIF) at the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. 


Asia Pacific,

The Digital Railway programme at Network Rail is charting new territory on many fronts. The work is different to that of traditional projects, and so are the relationships. Leveraging the benefits of the programme requires different relationships between technology developers, infrastructure owners and train operators.

Funding and financing are also likely to necessitate different ways of working. Fundamental change is required from both Network Rail and suppliers and questions of whether we understand the change and can navigate it remain open. The Digital Railway is an industry challenge, not a Network Rail challenge. Are we any closer to understanding what this means for suppliers?

Part of the problem lies in that word - suppliers. Despite efforts by the Digital Railway team to set labels to one side, seeing Network Rail as the client and other organisations as suppliers conditions a certain set of expectations about roles and relationships. It is only when we move past these labels that we will really embrace the sort of industry leadership which is being called for and start to think more clearly about contributions based upon capability..........

Please see here to see read the full article from David Brewer, market director, Strategic Rail at Atkins. This article was first published in Rail Professional's May edition.

UK & Europe,

OBOR has the potential to be the world’s largest platform for regional collaboration. The infrastructure projects will stimulate economic growth and build legacy for countries along the way.

How much would such a transformational programme cost?  

It is estimated that the total cost lies somewhere between $4 and $8 trillion US dollars, meaning that realising the full potential of the OBOR initiative is beyond even the investment ability of the Chinese government and institutions, and is therefore going to need significant private sector involvement. 

This, however, means that each element of the initiative needs to have a positive investment case in order to attract financing. Whilst we are already seeing a shift amongst Chinese agencies and institutions towards broader funding avenues such as pension funds, overseas sovereign wealth funds and private equity funds, further private sector involvement is required due to the ambitious scale of the projects.

This brings a range of wider considerations in attracting private sector investment. Whilst it is well known that investment is available in the market, matching this to viable projects is the critical gap that OBOR, like many other major projects, needs to address.

Based on my experiences with Atkins and Atkins Acuity, the advisory business of the Atkins Group, there are seven areas that a private sector investor would consider when an opportunity is presented.

  1. Bankable and technically feasible projects. Detailed feasibility studies and robust business cases are important to attract investors who will often require high quality information on which to base their investment decisions. The effect of poorly thought through and ineffective business cases is profound, resulting in investors, developers and institutions losing confidence in a government’s ability to be an effective business partner. To address this, it requires professional de-risking at the project level, an area in which Atkins has expertise. Early state involvement is key to maximise a project’s benefit, providing more certainty in revenue projections and project input cost, which reflects the complexity in design and construction and the engineering delivery risk. 
  2. Appropriate risk allocation. At the early stage of a project, institutional and public bodies shouldn’t expect the private sector to bear the risk. By providing the right funding to proper project preparation and guarantees can help mitigate the risks to attract private sector investment.
  3. Innovative funding. Governments need to be more open towards achieving a balanced funding mechanism between tax payer pay and user pay. The willingness to pay is key to attracting private investment. Local currency bond markets are also important to funding Asia’s growing infrastructure needs as they avoid currency risk arising.
  4. Affordability. Can the host government, tax payers or end users afford to pay for the charge over the lifetime of the concession? Linking back to the innovative funding models, should the public money rather be used to support project life affordability, than be spent on the investment side and crowd out the private sector?
  5. Institutional capacity in host countries. A system to identify, select and prioritise major projects can effectively shorten the lead-in times of the pipeline. Public sector bodies must ensure they have sufficient capacity within government departments involved in infrastructure delivery, especially if procurement is via public-private partnerships. Atkins Acuity has strong expertise in this area and has worked with World Bank and Asian Development Bank for capacity building in some Southeast Asian countries.
  6. Governance and transparency. Transparent and consistent policies and processes are required across all sectors to provide confidence to investors. A solid regulatory framework, a reliable and consistent judicial system and clear and transparent governance are all important considerations.
  7. Project delivery risk. Overrun on major infrastructure projects is a significant project delivery risk. Not only does it have an implication on project cost, but also has implications on the credibility of the host country, which may result in difficulty in raising investment in the future or at an unnecessarily high premium that affects the affordability of the project. At Atkins, we believe that technology has a major role to play. Digital engineering tools such as BIM can provide vast productivity improvements in design, costing and progress visualisation, providing increased clarity and confidence to help make the decision to invest.

Evidence shows that there is no deficiency in available funds, but there are gaps in bringing bankable projects to the table. In focusing on these seven key areas, we believe we are going to see more infrastructure projects being realised that are crucial to the development of many countries. 

Asia Pacific,

Due to a backlog of “shovel ready” projects nationwide, and required annual letting volumes that exceed $5B in the coming years, DOTs across the country are looking to increase the efficiency of their project delivery models to meet the anticipated dollar volume requirements. Civil Integrated Management (CIM) can help meet the challenge but will take time to realize—the quicker we’re willing to learn and adapt, the faster we’ll become more profitable.

Think of it this way. A hand saw and a power saw both accomplish the same task, but the power saw will get it done faster—and better. Engineers should look at CIM the same way. And as thought leaders in our industry, we have a responsibility to help meet the challenges ahead by assisting clients in delivering their work programs more efficiently through the innovative use of technologies across the project life-cycle. CIM is defined by the Federal Highway Association (FHWA) as the technology-enabled process of collection, organization, managed accessibility, and the use of accurate data and information throughout the life-cycle of a transportation asset.

Simply put, CIM is a win. It’s an innovative process that will best serve our clients moving forward. Our job is to help agencies make the transition from 2-D CAD deliverables and processes to a 3-D model data environment. Using CIM, we will be able to deliver work programs faster and within budget with minimal claims and variations. How? By improving on-site job safety and reducing the change orders caused by utility coordination conflicts between engineering disciplines. When information is digital and managed properly, updates flow and evolve from a single source—eliminating information loss across the various phases of a project.

To support the DOTs across the country, the FHWA and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently published a CIM Implementation Guide (NCHRP Report 831) which establishes framework and guidelines for DOTs to implement CIM processes and technologies successfully across their organizations. The guide follows the FHWA’s Every Day Counts initiative to use innovative technology and project delivery methods to deliver projects better and faster.

Several states across the U.S. have been doing various pilot projects in recent years and are sharing their feedback, and return on their investments, after going digital with project delivery and implementing CIM processes and framework. Wisconsin DOT, for example, achieved a 3-4% reduction in project costs with pre-construction utility coordination. And Florida DOT has seen both an estimated 3-4% project savings through the use of 3-D models for automated machine guidance (AMG) with contractors, and an approximate 12-15% savings in program delivery schedule.

Digital engineering technologies are here to stay. Success will be measured by how quickly we adopt this technology, the level of benefit enjoyed by the users, and the seamless integration into their project workflows. It’s more critical to understand digital project delivery than just how to use the digital tools. Those who grasp the overall digital delivery process will no doubt achieve the greatest benefits through implementing CIM.

Of course, we will always retain the ability to create 2-D outputs, but we have new tools at our disposal today that provide a better, safer outcome. We should embrace these technologies, not fear them. The designers who adapt to new tools and processes will become much more profitable and can increase business.

Power saw? Hand saw? Which would YOU choose?

North America,

As professional engineers, we have a responsibility to help meet this challenge by assisting clients and communities in designing, managing, and operating the roadways of tomorrow, today. That means helping agencies make a monumental shift from relying only on hard capital assets to improve safety and mobility to embracing innovation and technology.

The traditional transportation department charge to effectively build, maintain, and operate highways and their associated infrastructure remains unchanged. But it should be augmented by the integration of innovation and technology solutions for reducing deadly accidents, alleviating traffic delays, and communicating road conditions to travelers.

In many states, intelligent transportation systems are already supporting traffic signals, lane controls, variable message signs, and video monitoring of traffic and highways. Through planned improvements in analytics and integration, existing systems can be enhanced and contribute to more efficient roadway operations. This innovation will help increase the level of critical information that can be disseminated to roadway users, and help manage and operate transportation systems more effectively.

The simple reality is that we cannot build our way out of congestion. The need for a transformation in transportation is revving up in states across the country, and Colorado is among them. Colorado Department of Transportation has taken a bold step to effect change and transform its aging transportation system by embracing technology. Their goal is to be one of the most technologically advanced transportation systems in the nation.

In launching the RoadX Program, CDOT made a commitment to aggressive implementation of new transportation technology within the next 10 years. In support of their aggressive timetable, CDOT took a unique approach to selecting consultants to help advise and lead idea generation. Instead of selecting a single consultant, CDOT selected three (Atkins being one), and they share equal responsibility of solidifying partnerships and entrepreneurial relationships. CDOT’s approach is paying off, with leaders from public organizations and private industry all working together, bringing the brightest innovators to the table from Colorado, across the nation, and around the world.

CDOT is definitely sending a signal that the state means business as it pledges to improve safety for all who use its roadways. They launched a RoadX Bicycle and Pedestrian Challenge that demonstrates the kind of out-of-thebox thinking that takes public involvement to another level. The challenge will award a total of $500,000 to innovators who have the best ideas to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in Colorado. And in an effort to encourage the best and brightest ideas, CDOT held a networking event with its leadership, industry partners, and innovators to facilitate connections between the individuals, businesses, and agencies that are considering submitting ideas. This emphasis on collaboration at every turn is a differentiator for CDOT, and it is also an approach other transportation agencies can emulate to encourage stakeholder engagement.

Further integration of technology and transportation is simply inevitable. Helping to transform and deliver more efficient, agile, and flexible transportation systems to communities should drive us to take action. This is the type of opportunity to make a difference that led many of us to pursue the engineering profession in the first place.

This article was originally published in the March/April edition of PE Magazine.

North America,

Transport planners in cities around the world – after decades of neglect – are now acknowledging the functionality of walking and cycling, in particular for short local trips and as ‘first and last mile’ connections to public transport. But another mode of urban mobility is emerging which could add to the mix of options and prove a game changer.

The new mode is known by some as Personal Mobility Devices, or PMDs. These are generally lightweight motorised vehicles powered by small electric motors to increase travel speed and distance of individual users without major exertion. PMDs come at a time when infrastructure investment and targeted marketing campaigns have helped grow take up of active travel modes which are increasingly recognised in terms of value and benefits to public realm and health. The term embraces a plethora of new consumer products such as e-scooters, hoverboards, electric monowheels and mini segways. New devices continue to be developed and are falling in price to levels well within the reach of those on middle incomes.

In most cities to date PMDs have mostly been used for leisure purposes. Some of us have given them to our children as playthings and we are increasingly seeing young people riding them in parks and on footpaths for recreation. Because they have a largely niche application and due to the lack of a clear legal definition they have largely escaped the serious scrutiny of transport planning professionals and not received much consideration as part of the accepted hierarchy of transport modes.

Where policy makers have stepped in the approach has often been to ban or restrict PMDs from footways or public spaces on the basis of health and safety, risk to other users and regulatory ambiguity around technical standards.And PMDs are often not allowed to be carried on aeroplanes or trains on the grounds of limited space for storage or the fire risk posed by their battery packs. 

It is easy to dismiss PMDs as a passing gimmick, or let decisions be made on the narrow basis of health and safety or poorly designed and maintained infrastructure, rather than see their wider potential for use on short distance trips. While safety concerns will – and should – always have priority these devices may yet, in my opinion, have a positive role to play in urban mobility policy and extending the accessibility of public transport.

It is therefore time we defined our terms properly, gathered the evidence and had in open debate about the role of PMDs alongside walking and cycling as viable alternatives to the car. The profession must also seek to create proactive and safe deployment through clear standards and guidelines.

Singapore is one city where PMDs are gaining traction as a key component of a ‘car- lite’ society, as a strong alternative mode for first and last mile links to public transport and as an important element of creating a sustainable and ‘liveable’ city. Such devices feature prominently in the Government’s ‘Walk-Cycle-Ride Singapore’ campaign, are allowed to share certain walking and cycling infrastructure and are a focus within events such as Car Free Sundays.

Proponents argue that PMDs serve much the same role as walking and cycling in reducing car dependency and extend the catchment of public transport without the need for major infrastructure investment or feeder bus or taxi services.

They also do so in a manner which is appropriate to Singapore’s tropical climate where heat and humidity deter many people from intense physical exertion for much of the year. Against these arguments critics have expressed serious concerns over the dangers posed to pedestrians by reckless riding and point out that PMDs have only a fraction of the health benefits of non-motorised transport.

Now after much debate the Singapore Government is legislating to set clear rules and regulations as to what riders of PMDs can and cannot do and where they can do it. The Singapore Government introduced an Active Mobility Bill in November 2016, which is currently completing Parliamentary approval and enactment is due early this year. The Bill includes the use of PMDs and limits their speed to between 15 and 25km/h depending on type, route and location.

A series of rules and a code of conduct are being set out to encourage responsible use. Rules include the need for lights to be fitted and turned on at night, use of hand signals, observing of all relevant traffic regulations and exchanging personal details in the event of an accident. Penalties of up to S$5000 (about £2800) will be handed down for reckless riding behaviour, with custodial sentences of up to 12 months for the most serious offences.

Over the last year ownership of PMDs has grown in Singapore, especially e-scooters which are increasingly being seen on the streets. There is an active and competitive supplier market developing and a proposal has been made for a public e-scooter hire scheme, operating much like the public cycle hire schemes of London and Paris.

The question in my mind is whether Singapore’s acceptance of PMDs offers an example for other cities across the world seeking to safely adopt the latest wave of innovation. And are PMDs a passing fad, an unsafe nuisance or potentially a disruptive form of technology here to stay? If such devices are recognised as a proper transport mode how do we weigh their costs, benefits and wider impacts and adapt the design and maintenance of infrastructure and public realm to allow their safe (and as appropriate shared) use? Would the policy adopted in Singapore play well in other cities with a hot or tropical climate, such as Kuala Lumpur or Dubai, or even in those with temperate conditions such as London, New York or Munich? Will cities leading on public transport or cycling such as Zurich, Amsterdam and Copenhagen see PMDs as irrelevant, a threat or an opportunity?

Like the long running debate over shared design and use of infrastructure and public space between pedestrians and cyclists there will likely be a wide range of views, enthusiasms and concerns over the wider take up of PMDs, some of them passionately held on both sides. In deciding future policy for any given city, we should assess evidence from around the world to help shape what could be an exciting new aspect of urban mobility.

Find out more about Intelligent Mobility(iM) here.
Join the Intelligent Mobility conversation on LinkedIn.
This article first appeared in Transportation Professional, the magazine of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation.

Asia Pacific,

Throughout 2016, we won numerous awards for our work on and collaborative approach to a wide range of rail projects, from the Stafford Area Improvements Programme and the Birmingham Gateway Project to the redevelopment of Rochester station. Our investment in new innovations such as Digital Imaging Correlation technology for the monitoring of bridge structures or the application of fibre-optic surveying technology to the instrumentation of bridges has been recognised by our industry peers.

Notably, we brought our wide-ranging expertise to bear on numerous high-profile programmes. These include East West Rail Phase One, Crossrail 2, Thameslink Traffic Management Programme, High Speed 2 Phase One and the Stafford Area Improvements Programme.

The final stage of the East West Rail Phase One rail network was opened by the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling, in December 2016, delivering a step-change in regional connectivity for passengers. The new section of line runs between Oxford and Oxford Parkway, providing a brand new rail link from Oxford to central London.

Atkins' role in the scheme ranged from feasibility studies, through the Transport Works Act and onto the detailed design phase, delivering station upgrades and construction, earthworks, bridges, tunnel works, track and signalling systems for Chiltern Railways, Network Rail and most recently the Carillion - Buckingham Joint Venture.

In July, an Atkins and CH2M team was awarded a £1.5-million contract to deliver the Stage 1 On-Networks Systems programme for Network Rail on the proposed Crossrail 2 project.

The project team is working collaboratively on the development of the upgrade designs for the Network Rail-owned stations, tracks and rail infrastructure on either side of the proposed tunnelled section, which will play a key role in Crossrail 2.

The first stage of the work is to develop the initial proposals to support the revision to the business case and to enable the next public consultation. Subject to acceptance of the business case, this process will culminate in the submission of the Hybrid Bill to Parliament in 2019, as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The summer also saw Atkins awarded the design and engineering contract for the Thameslink Traffic Management Programme. This sees us support Hitachi Information Control Systems (HICSE) and Hitachi Rail Europe with the delivery of the Tranista® Traffic Management System (TMS) for Network Rail's Thameslink programme.

HICSE appointed Atkins to review its Tranista system to ensure that it meets Network Rail's functional and operational requirements for compatibility with the UK rail network. As such, a multi-disciplinary team from Atkins will provide a variety of detailed design and engineering services through GRIP stages 4 and 5.

In March, Atkins won a contract to become Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) for High Speed 2, Phase One, as part of a joint venture with CH2M and SENER.

The contract, valued at between £250 million and £350 million, is expected to run for 10 years, extendable through to the commissioning of the railway, and covers the civils, stations, planning and environment, and railway systems aspects of Phase One of the project.

As part of the Staffordshire Alliance, the first collaboration of its kind for the UK rail industry, we successfully completed the Stafford Area Improvements Programme. Passengers are benefiting from a better railway with improved train services through the Stafford area, after a new section of railway was opened at Norton Bridge.

The new railway removes one of the last major bottlenecks on the West Coast main line, helping to create the capacity for more frequent services through the Stafford area, as well as speeding up journeys and improving reliability on one of the busiest rail routes in Europe.

We have also been proud to assume prestigious industry roles, which see us contributing to the development of the world around us. Lawrie Quinn, project director, Transportation at Atkins, was appointed as the new regional chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in London for a two-year term, while Richard East, chief engineer, Transportation at Atkins, is serving in the role of chairman of the Railway division of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

Atkins played a prominent role in 2016's inaugural Rail Week, showcasing the opportunities for developing new skills in the sector. Atkins is committed to a number of in-house initiatives to increase diversity in age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economic background in the transport sector. As a business, we are proud to have over 500 STEM ambassadors. In the financial year 2015/6, Atkins' people participated in 350+ school-based outreach activities, reaching over 5,000 students. There are currently over 240 apprentices at Atkins and the business takes on 300 new graduates a year.

In 2017 and beyond, we remain committed to working collaboratively, harnessing innovative approaches, implementing digital technology and contributing to vital industry initiatives to help transform our ever-changing world and enrich lives.

UK & Europe,

Within the strategy we have been set an ‘open door challenge’ to go to the government with proposals to ‘transform and upgrade our sector’. The ball is therefore in our court. If we don’t do anything, government isn’t going to come knocking on our door with solutions on a plate and millions of pounds of funding to throw at the challenge.

British engineering is in the midst of a renaissance which I believe aligns perfectly with the ‘cultivating world-leading sectors’ pillar of the industrial strategy.  The evidence of our past successes in this regard is plain to see all around the world, from railways to buildings, and if we can do it once we can do it again. Whether we like it or not, change – in the form of technology – is happening in our sector. We must adapt to the opportunities this offers quicker than everyone else in order to capitalise and put British expertise in high demand around the world.

To a large degree we’ve already mastered physical infrastructure. But we’re still at a relatively early stage of the area where physical meets digital, and for me, this is where we can cultivate a world-leading sector. We know that technology will continue to enable us to achieve things that haven’t been possible previously or deliver more for less. We know that there will be increasing amounts of data and sensor technology that will allow assets to be managed better over their whole lifetime. And we know that technology increasingly puts the end user at the heart of infrastructure decisions. It’s not as though we aren’t already making progress, but if we want to be that world-leading sector we have to accelerate our progress. That is the challenge we need to solve.

Technology will continue to develop at a rapid, driven by the tech companies. Our focus must remain on our strength which is the application of the technology to the infrastructure environment. It will be disruptive to the norm – for governments, infrastructure owners and suppliers.  If we want to speed up our progress it means being bolder with the risks of trying new solutions, it means taking a new approach to coordinating a supply chain which is focused around innovation, it means looking for the gaps in traditional approaches to infrastructure planning. We need to be open to modifying and adopting developments in other sectors, like nano-manufacturing and advanced materials.

The journey towards digital and intelligent infrastructure is something we’d already started. The industrial strategy has provided us with a framework to gain government support and acts as a call to arms for us to be quicker and more agile in our pursuit to ensure the UK is bold, relevant, innovative and competitive in our new, post-Brexit world order. 

UK & Europe,

According to the U.S. DOT, ITS consists of the “operational systems of various technologies that, when combined and managed, improve the operating capabilities of the overall system.” ITS continues to evolve and introduce new and exciting technologies and capabilities, including smart and connected vehicles, but ITS also encompasses smart phone applications, roadside networks, toll collection kiosks, CCTV cameras and traffic management centers to name a few examples.

Product vendors and technical experts are paying attention to security of individual products. This is a good start. However, our industry is clearly not yet mature on security matters. ITS may repeat errors made in other industry sectors. Technologists must learn the lessons of recent years where organizations such as Target, Saudi Aramco and the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suffered abuse of trusted access leading to financial theft, massive data deletion and sensitive information theft, respectively. These serve as examples of high-profile data breaches and hacking, but the stakes for ITS are much higher—namely the safety and trust of roadway users. Users implicitly trust that retailers are at least attempting to address their security and privacy concerns holistically and with due care. Users also trust that their governments will ensure the safety and security of the roadway infrastructure they use every day.

Security is a systemic concern involving what is seen (i.e. the product of concern such as a ‘smart’ vehicle), but also what is not seen; the people, processes and technology which permeate in and between organizations. Vehicle security is high-priority because the combination of the basic physics of a moving object and a hacker with malicious intent is a dangerous one. With the growth of vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, there is some chance that an infrastructure attack may cause injuries or fatalities, though probably less chance than a direct vehicle attack.

What is the threat?

The source of threats to ITS infrastructure varies greatly, as do their motivations—from researchers looking to make a name for themselves, hackers motivated by greed, malice or politics, to nation states looking to create instability or an advantage during times of tension and uncertainty. Once hackers gain access to a network, they seek out where they can have the largest impact for their motives. Penetration of one piece of ITS equipment is a notable threat, but the ability to affect more than a single piece of equipment is much more significant and has been demonstrated by researchers.

How do we fix it?

Cyber security is an arms race. A robust cyber security program implements strong security practices to manage the risk of network compromise and data theft. Average adversaries are unable to achieve their aims and many sophisticated adversaries will give up or go elsewhere to easier targets. To address the specific threats and vulnerabilities in a systemic manner, here are ten enterprise IT security controls to consider:

1. Know your environment: The first step before building a comprehensive and holistic solution is for organizations to know what they have and it’s value, in order to prioritize available resources to protect critical infrastructure.

2. Start with the basics. Address basic steps such as those found in the CIS Critical Security Controls. For example, continuous monitoring and basic internal and external assessments will uncover weaknesses in a network.

3. Know and manage your information-system related risks. Entities which offer/use ITS systems must implement information security risk management programs to effectively secure their organization networks and ITS solutions. 

4. Use independent validation paths for information. Keep humans in the loop! Independent validation of operational data allows staff to see conflicts between compromised system data and field conditions.

5. Develop defense-in-depth and incident response as core capabilities. Just as roadway managers employ designs, plans and capabilities to respond to and manage physical roadway events (such as accidents or dangerous weather events), knowing these occur from time-to-time, roadway managers must also employ designs, plans and capabilities to respond to and manage security incidents which will occur from time-to-time. Assume an ITS device is going to be hacked (not if, but when), whether by an outsider or malicious insider. Force an attacker to conduct a new exploit when trying to move through the network, rather than finding one vulnerability and having unfettered access to everything.

6. Employ detection technology. For higher risk deployments, detection systems such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) can be expensive but are necessary. These detection systems minimize the risk of a compromise due to an unknown vulnerability or method of attack.

7. Deploy physical security measures. Do not place only a $5 lock on $10,000 worth of equipment that anyone can walk up to on the roadside. Invest in high-tech locks, alarms, cameras and motion sensors that notify security personnel immediately of suspicious activity.

8. Protect wireless features. Wireless access offers tremendous convenience, but also allows hackers to threaten your network from a distance. Ensure that strong encryption and access control is used.

9. Develop and maintain business continuity and disaster recovery plans. These are vital to customer assets and systems. Review them regularly to address rapidly-changing threats, networks and ITS equipment.

10. Participate in information sharing with private groups, law enforcement and computer emergency response teams. Encourage communication with organizations such as Infragard, the Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), industrial control systems (ICS) organizations such as the Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) or the ICS Joint Working Group (ICSJWG). The benefits of engagement and partnership with these organizations far outweigh the minimal resources and effort needed to get involved.

For more information, download the Cyber Resilient Infrastructure Report or read my white paper "How to Avoid Repeating History in ITS Security" co-authored by Chris Waters, SC3.

North America,

It has moved beyond rhetoric to the point of no return. Pace has been swift with six deals already agreed and ratified, and a further ten submitted and pending. So sixteen regions have put aside any political or geospatial differences to collaborate and work together. Seizing the moment to drive decision making and empowerment to a new benchmark.

As for other regions it’s a very mixed picture. In places devolution is acting as a catalyst for potential local government reorganisation and exposing deep lying differences that appear on the surface to be irreparable. Collaboration and seeking to work together across regions in whatever form is now critical to ensure that the benefits and outcomes of devolution are realised.

Newly formed combined authorities are in some ways like start-up companies. Whilst they have a strong history of delivering locally, many authorities now find themselves with the challenge of joining up across combined authority, geographic regions and beyond. This becomes an adaptive change challenge.  It’s not about drawing new organisation charts and setting up processes or working groups. Collaborative behaviours become increasingly important to equip people to work across historic silos; they galvanise and motivate the delivery of transport investment programmes beyond their traditional ‘patch’.  Whilst a challenge, it presents an incredible opportunity to drive real change, establish bestathlete’ and shared services on scales not seen in a generation. To respond to the devolution challenge of delivering growth and closing productivity, and at the same time, address the fiscal challenges authorities face in revenue budget reductions. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Devolved authorities also need to collaborate with other transport authorities, agencies and operators such as Network Rail, Highways England, HS2 and private developers.  Joined up regional transport strategies are becoming ever so important in drawing together investment at local, regional, sub-regional and national levels. Momentum is building in the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine in this regard but more must be done to better align local to regional priorities. 

Joining up programmes is particularly important to ensure that we keep our cities and towns moving whilst we build and deliver new infrastructure. Historic approaches to managing disruption on some of our local transport networks, particularly roads, has to change. We need to embrace new ways of working, engage technology and look at how to prioritise investment to drive modal shift and smooth morning and evening peaks. Keeping our cities moving and open for business whilst we build and install the infrastructure the country so desperately needs.

For many regions with devolution deals in place or those to be announced in the autumn statement, the focus must rapidly move from start-up to delivery. Regional transport plans and alignment of programmes is certainly essential and part of the solution. But don’t underestimate the importance of collaborative behaviours in making things work in practice. 

UK & Europe,

TECHNOLOGY ENABLES NEW SOLUTIONS TO URBAN TRANSPORT CHALLENGES

With populations and economies growing in cities across the World, and public expectations for journeys that are safer, quicker, more reliable, sustainable and resilient, urban transport networks needs to better connected and integrated than ever before. They also need to utilise finite funding, land and other resources prudently and combine consumers, operators service providers and regulators within a coherent and inter-linked “ecosystem.” With digital technology advancing, increasingly connected and populated by the Internet of Things and Big Data, there has never been a better time to deploy transport solutions that can deliver better outcomes with smaller resource outlay and footprint.

Many current urban transport challenges stem from the inefficiencies of over a century of mass adoption of the private car, whilst conventional public transport systems have frequently been unable to offer a competitive alternative in terms of journey time, flexibility to user needs, price and ability to pay. Exploiting recent innovation in technology systems and processes to respond to and overcome these limitations, Intelligent Mobility is rapidly developing as the seamless ‘future of transport.’ Applications in Mobility as a Service, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, interactive Journey Planning and electric powertrains are already delivering, or offer prospects for, enhanced and optimised operational performance, environmental impact, commercial feasibility and consumer acceptance. Moreover, much of the progress being made is driven not by governments, but by the private sector, which is itself subject to creative disruption, new business models and start-ups coming from nowhere to challenge market incumbents. Increasingly, it is self-evident that the mobility problems and risks facing 21st Century cities cannot be tackled with outdated 20th Century planning and regulation. Fresh thinking is required and new ideas need to be turned from theory to reality on the ground.

Nowhere is this truer than in Asia where cities such as Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong and Tokyo are developing, testing and adopting new best-in-class smart urban mobility approaches ahead of the global curve. Emerging urban economies in Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are also seeking to gain traction in supporting basic urban transport infrastructure and services to serve young and growing populations in a cost-effective manner, and adopt leapfrog technology in tackling their acute operational, social and environmental challenges.

A GLOBAL AGENDA

Atkins believes that Intelligent Mobility, and the computing power, communications and data which support it, will enable more informed, multi-modal, personalised and flexible decisions to be made by network owners, service operators and providers and travellers themselves. In time, this will drive influence operator and end user needs and support sustainable economic growth and competitive advantage through knowledge creation and exploitation. However, this will only happen if policy makers and regulators within the public sector are clear about the objectives to be achieved, act proportionately in balancing unconstrained innovation with protecting individuals and society and support the early market for key products before commercial viability, bankability,supply chain and mass adoption can be demonstrated.

For this reason, this week, Atkins has been hosting its first global Intelligent Mobility Week. This brings together key experts from Atkins, clients and influential stakeholders in the UK, Middle East, North America and Asia Pacific to coordinate a programme to raise profile and stimulate engagement across industry, government, partners and academia. The focus is on the ‘big question’ – what is Intelligent Mobility, how, and where, is it developing, who is driving it and what does it mean for the supply chain of planners, technology providers, transport operators and, of course, ultimately for end users?

JOURNEYS FROM THE LION CITY

Here in Singapore, the Government has invested heavily to expand urban rail, bus and taxi services to make it much easier to get from one place to another without the need to use a private car. In addition, whilst the urban road network has been progressively expanded, the capacity and accessibility benefits of this investment have been locked in through Travel Demand Management measures, such as Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) which helps ensure smooth-flowing traffic. With car ownership kept at noticeably lower rates than other international cities, transportation planning has been closely integrated with land use, and investment directed into promoting first and last mile connections by active travel and personal mobility devices such as e-scooters. A range of technology trials of Automated Vehicles are also under way, linked potentially to shared mobility models such as Uber and Grab.

The strategy is working; Singapore has enviable transport outcomes for some key metrics such as congestion delay, mode share, air quality and accessibility and consistently features highly in global rankings of urban mobility, economic growth and quality of life.

The Land Transport Authority acknowledges that in order for this approach to work, the public want more information to manage their travel decisions and have confidence in the multi-modal choices which are available. Since 2011 it has developed an “E-Place for All” through the MyTransport.SG portal and smart application to provide real-time travel information, such as bus arrivals, directions to train stations or bus stops, traffic news updates, car park availability, ERP prices and cycling routes. MyTransport.SG continues to continuously improve with the recent addition of information on public transport fares, bus and train crowding, “snap and send” functionality to report road defects, and information on how to get to local events and places of interest. Future plans will add car sharing and public cycle hire once these public-private partnership schemes commence over the next few years,The success of MyTransport.SG, now downloaded over 1 million times and a host of third-party travel applications, including Uber, Grab, Waze and gothere.sg, is assisted by the fact that Singaporeans love their mobiles. In per capita terms, the Country is the world’s largest smartphone market, with mobile devices now outstripping desk top computer use to access the Internet. Consumers across Asia are mirroring this trend, with many countries now over the 50% adoption rate for smartphones, leapfrogging the desktop-based Internet to create a new and exciting mobile web landscape for a wide range of services and opportunities. This is a major disruptor and wake up call to any transport agency or business without a mobile-enabled or ­optimised website or app, and a chance for new business models, service bundles and value propositions to come forward, experiment and take hold.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING, BUT HOW?

As the race for technical standards for the systems and processes behind Intelligent Mobility progresses, levels of innovation in hardware, software and user interface can be expected to converge at some point. Singapore may have an impressive lead, but Japan, China, California and some countries in Europe are not far behind. Others will inevitably follow in time, even in developing economies where the combination of unmanned drones and super-fast 5G networks could in the future provide urban and rural accessibility where roads are rudimentary, impassable or absent altogether.

However, whilst core technologies may align, policy and regulatory responses from governments, as well as consumer needs and levels of acceptance are more likely to remain localised and distinct. Atkins’ approach to Intelligent Mobility campaign provides a positive platform to have conversations around these points of difference, asking questions such as:

  • What is the current State of the Art in Intelligent Mobility and against key uncertainties and risks which approaches look most likely to gain traction and acceptance in different parts of the World?
  • What are the economic, social and environmental benefits of harnessing emerging technologies and how do these align with government objectives as well as the interests of operators, service providers and consumers?
  • How will Intelligent Mobility, including key concepts such as AVs, influence the design, operation and management of road infrastructure, and inform a more people-centred approach to urban planning, public realm and the making of places?
  • What are the barriers and practical issues for early adoption and mainstream deployment of key technologies and innovative practices, and how can these be over-come?
  • How can the boundaries of technology and operational performance be expanded at the same time as protecting public safety and security, protecting personal privacy and data rights, providing certainty to all over key regulatory tools, such as traffic laws and rules of the road?
  • How can Intelligent Mobility be successfully funded, governed and managed across the public and private sectors, who will be the key players in driving innovation forward, and how will the digital disruption of existing stakeholders and business models, and emergence of new players evolve?
  • What are the likely Intelligent Mobility applications (and distribution of benefits) for emerging as well advanced economies and how can leapfrog technology and knowledge transfer be promoted so these countries go from zero to high capability in a generation?
  • How does Intelligent Mobility integrate with other planning and technology concepts, including Future Proofing and Smart Cities and integrate across different service propositions?

Atkins’ Intelligent Mobility campaign provides us with a great opportunity to debate some of these seminal questions across disciplines, and propose some solutions to provide towards coherent, structured and systematic way forward

Jonathan Spear is a Director with Atkins Acuity, based in Singapore. He has over 22 years’ experience in transport policy, strategy and regulation across Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. He is increasingly focused on the policy, regulatory and public acceptance aspects of new technology, and is currently leading Atkins Intelligent Mobility activities in South East Asia and China. 

To find out more about intelligent mobility from Atkins, visit our hub

UK & Europe,

Often used as a buzz word, everyone talks about it but it seems there has been some confusion and lack of clarity on what this actually includes, and how, for example, this differs from the ITS sector or the ‘smart city’ concept. Definitions could be summarised as initiatives using technology to:

  • Improve current transport systems, by making them whether more efficient/less costly (e.g. electric vehicles, wireless induction charging) or more convenient (e.g. City Mapper, contactless payment, AutoPilot from Tesla); and
  • Provide new opportunities to move around, e.g. Uber, self-service bike-sharing scheme, Drive Now from BMW.

Considering those two angles, whether improving the existing or creating new mobility opportunities; one could argue what is new about this? For generations, engineers and scientists have been trying to do exactly the same - achieve those two goals, with a similar approach which is using ‘new’ technologies available at the time.  A simple example is the inventors of the internal-combustion engine whom we can’t deny they were doing ‘intelligent mobility’.

Some will disagree and say that Intelligent Mobility includes the focus on user needs and a real personalisation of the journey. Again, transport has always been on meeting user needs and putting the user at the centre of the journey somehow. What is more personalised than the private car? Current technology, especially based on the mobile phone, has generated opportunities for personalisation and indeed to a greater extent than anything possible before. It is this shift that creates a new framework and stimulates a change in behaviour that helps to make Intelligent Mobility a new trend.

Fundamentally, Intelligent Mobility is about innovating and thinking differently, based on the new opportunities technology brings us.

However, it is important to note that the concept of sharing resources, whether bicycles or cars, or partnering with a party from another discipline (e.g. Airbnb with Tesla) to create new solutions, or developing a new business model (e.g. MaaS) are firstly founded on human intelligent ideas and secondly, amplified by technology.

To learn more about Atkins' Intelligent Mobility solutions click here. Join the conversation here

UK & Europe,

First world investment in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) continues at a staggering pace, with announcements made almost on a daily basis around new technology developments or deployment demonstrators. However, limited research has been undertaken to fully understand the impact of adopting CAVs in the developing world.

It is expected that Autonomous Vehicles will provide an array of benefits for the developing world - the most important benefit will be a significant reduction in the number of fatalities as a result of road accidents and air pollution. Research shows there are more than 700,000 road accident fatalities in Asia each year which represents approximately 60% of the entire world fatalities. AVs could significantly reduce the number of immature deaths by reducing the number of accidents on the road network and providing a healthier environment for the residents of these cities.

If Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) ran at an operator level where the user can hire/pay for services as they go, this could significantly increase the number of people who have access to a vehicle. According to the 2011 census in India, 90% of people in urban areas and 97% of people in rural areas do not have access to a vehicle. It is a well-known fact that the developing world cities suffer from grid locked roads which cost countries like Jakarta, an estimated US$2.8 billion. AVs have the potential to reduce these figures by operating more effectively which will relieve congestion on the network.

One of the largest challenges in the developing world is the public acceptance of CAVs. A recent report undertaken by Cisco (2013) which surveyed 10 countries, outlined that 60% of the respondents from the USA and 45% from the UK would travel in an AV compared to 95% in Brazil and 86% in India. This suggests that developing countries are more accepting of such technologies. This could be as a result of cultural reasons why the developing world appears to be more accepting of new technologies. The developing world encounters ‘fatalities’ on a regular basis, therefore making the public more accepting to proposed solutions.

Millions have been invested in the technology required for CAVs to operate in the developed world, however the infrastructure and networks in the developing world could be significantly different. As such, with auto manufacturers having a global reach, a benchmarking system will be required to ensure the technology meets the best practice of all road types in all road areas. This benchmarking system will need to be developed based on knowledge and experience of the networks and infrastructure in the developing world. It is important these countries act now to ensure they secure the funding and have the procedures in place to support and deliver VAV solutions on their road networks. This includes considering infrastructure implications, the insurance models and the required legislation needed to make this a reality.

UK & Europe,

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is one such innovation, providing a new approach to the way in which transport is delivered, managed and consumed. Often talked about conceptually, over the past year we have seen growing interest in thoughts of practically delivering MaaS – driven on by the launch of MaaS Finland, which will oversee the launch of MaaS across the Nordic country.

What is MaaS?

"Mobility as a Service brings every kind of transport together into a single intuitive mobile app. It seamlessly combines transport options from different providers, handling everything from travel planning to payments. Whether you prefer to buy journeys on demand or subscribe to an affordable monthly package, MaaS manages your travel needs in the smartest way possible." MaaS Finland.

The easiest way to think about MaaS is to compare it to your mobile phone subscription. Your network provider may offer you a package deal, bundling a certain number of minutes, SMS messages and data. MaaS works in a similar way, offering different mobility packages to consumers, covering access to a range of modes, for example a monthly package might be made up of:

  • 30 public transport rides
  • 20 hours of car hire time
  • Unlimited bike hire
  • 5 taxi trips

Consumers would select the most appropriate package, opening up a range of modes for easy use through one integrated service.

The case for MaaS

For the consumer, MaaS will deliver an improved journey experience through the increased choice, easier journey planning and seamless ticketing and payment that MaaS promises. Replacing car ownership with a MaaS subscription could also deliver financial savings to users who no longer need to pay for a car that, according to Forbes, sits empty for 95% of the day on average.

For the public sector, part of the business case for supporting MaaS relates to the numerous public policy goals that MaaS supports – such as improving network efficiency. The cost of congestion to the UK economy is £4.3bn per year, and MaaS could help relieve this through more efficient use of the transport network, with a reduction in single occupancy vehicle usage. The knock on effect of this supports other policy goals – such as improving air quality, which would help reduce the 40,000 deaths each year in the UK that are attributed to poor air quality.

The benefits for the private sector will come from capturing a fraction of the £324 per month that the average UK household spends on travel. Furthermore, the data generated by MaaS will create opportunities for new business models to emerge.

Delivering MaaS in UK cities

At Atkins we’ve been working with our clients to unpack the case for MaaS, such as in the West Midlands where we have been working with the Integrated Transport Authority. Whilst there is still much work to be done across the sector, we believe the potential benefits of MaaS are clear. Our thoughts are therefore turning to how MaaS can be delivered within UK cities, a topic that I will be exploring at the Smarter Travel Live Conference 2016.

For more information on MaaS, read our Journeys of the Future White Paper.

UK & Europe,

I was therefore delighted when I heard that my mobile will soon take over the interface to my car. This year alone, three giants – Microsoft, Google and Apple – have announced their forthcoming ‘connected car’ platforms. Apple already has CarPlay, Google seems to have something in the works with its Open Automotive Alliance, and Microsoft revealed its ‘Windows for the car’. They all aim to bring the functionality of your mobile device right to your vehicles' center console. And vehicle manufactures, such as Peugeot-Citroen are also creating app develop platforms to deliver an in-vehicle ecosystem of smartphone apps.

But legally, I’m not allowed to use my mobile phone in my car while driving. Route guidance to each of my appointments, along with a few tunes, is of course allowed but will I be allowed to use all the extra functionality without breaking the law or corporate safety policy? Well if the net change in safety is positive then I think that could be a ‘yes’. 

And this is a real possibility with the transition from Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to Cooperative ACC (CACC). CACC trials are moving at some pace with the UK’s first CACC project just started by the UK-CITE consortium members featuring Jaguar Land Rover. The project includes a 41 mile test route capable of testing both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems on public roads. 

CACC allows a group of vehicles to communicate with each other using a dedicated short range communication creating Vehicular Ad-Hoc Networks (VANeTs). This allows cellular networks to share speed, heading, location, and gap information. CACC systems are expected to provide a number of 'over the horizon' warning systems including: collaborative emergency breaking; emergency vehicle ‘red’ routes; advanced incident warnings; junction stop alerts; do not pass warnings; icy roads ahead, etc. 

And what’s happening to all my data? I don’t want some big corporate to have it for free but I don’t mind my data being used if I benefit or I contribute to the greater good. Aggregating data from connected mobile devices and apps, and uploading it to a traffic management system, introduces a whole new dimension. All the vehicles in my CACC platoon will receive synchronized instruction on the best routes and given a traffic signal ‘green wave’ along that route.

And this data will help improve our simulations of CACC systems, providing better models of human and machine behaviour. Simulations of the humans, vehicles, communications and infrastructure are appearing widely in academia, and Atkins will be developing a more complete simulation platform as part of the recently started FLOURISH Innovate UK project. This test platform will help plan new infrastructure and services that deliver secure, safe and great value CACC systems, as well as ensuring other schemes can work with CACC systems. 

So I look forward to 2016 to see if the safety and efficiency benefits can keep ahead of the mobile app distractions. I expect this year we’ll see a boom in apps around in-vehicle messages, with popular apps on real issues like fuel saving, vehicle servicing and insurance. With driver communities like Waze I wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘cooperative awareness messages’ available to members of the same community, which might be the first steps to CACC. I’m very interested in the data from these apps and we could see these communities taking control of their own data and selling it to predictive modellers like me.  I’ll think about this data as I drive around with my mobile device slowly, but surely, taking over more aspects of running my life.

UK & Europe,

Transport connectivity and economic growth are both central to Transport for the North (TfN) and the likely approach to infrastructure that the newly devolved cities and city regions will take. Over the next decade leaders from across the Northern Powerhouse will look to make long overdue investment into the transport network across many parts of the region happen. All parties involved will have to work out collectively the key priorities for areas of transport investment, arguably a process is well underway already.

However, it’s with my experience of over 30 years in the rail sector and most of it based in the north of England, that I believe we need to take stock and review where there has been significant levels of underinvestment across the region before rushing off and setting out multiple new investment priorities. Carrying out this review will enable TfN and city leaders to truly create a holistic plan and approach to priorities for transport. At the core, this discussion needs to ensure we question why investment hasn’t happened in certain places previously. Was it because there were other priorities, was it because it would cost too much or was it because the return on investment was poor? Have things changed that now make this investment a viable option or can we look at how the scheme is assessed to ensure that the wider positive outcomes that could be created for a city and local area if the right level of investment is made form part of the decision making.

I believe a recent success story of targeted rail investment was connectivity between Leeds and Manchester. The route had previously lacked funding, so when money did become available the main focus of investment aimed at increasing the frequency of trains, capacity and reduced journey times between both cities. Once upgraded the number of trains was increased to five per hour creating wider positive knock on effects to the cities and surrounding areas. As a direct result, the North TransPennine route experienced a significant increase in demand for use of the service as frequency and capacity increased, impacting on wider employment and job opportunities, social mobility along with personal use of the service benefiting local businesses, entertainment and retail spaces.

So, what type of rail investment is required?

  • Reduce journey times, making it quicker and easier to work and socialise between cities
  • Increased capacity to run more and longer trains, leading to flexibility in movement of people, goods and services and a more reliable network
  • The introduction of technology and data to our networks to enable us to provide a better customer experience and journeys on all forms of transport

Returning to the example of connectivity between Manchester and Leeds, these two cities had previously been exposed to under investment on their network, but through targeted funds being used to plug this gap we’ve seen the multiplier effect come into force across local areas and people. It goes to show that when we take time, review where there has been a lack of funding the past, but the opportunity for growth still remains, we are able to make significant and positive changes to places, businesses and communities. It can also deliver benefits more quickly, while the more significant game-changing investments are developed. One big mistake we do not want to make as we embark on the long term Northern Powerhouse journey is to widen economic gaps, leaving people and places behind.

UK & Europe,

This is a systemic problem, and to resolve it requires anyone leading the delivery of projects to set aside the traditional task/technical focused way we approach the set-up, planning and execution of work, and focus much more on the people. Achieving this is simpler than you might think. But first let’s demonstrate how systemic this problem is; have a go at this exercise:

Try defining the game of football.

Okay, you probably came up with something like: a game played between two teams of eleven people, where each team tries to win by kicking a ball into the other team's goal. That seems fairly sensible, you can’t have a game of football without people to play it.

Now try defining a project.

If you have a qualification in project management then you probably said something like: A project is a unique, transient endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits (APM & PMI define projects like this). Notice there is no mention of people, but just as you can’t have a game of football without people, no people = no project.

Here’s an even more embedded piece of thinking, the Iron Triangle: Cost-Time-Quality, wrapped around Scope. This piece of simple but powerful logic fundamentally drives most professionals’ approach to delivering projects. But whilst projects fundamentally rely on people as the main agents for successful delivery, this logic naturally creates a task/technical focus and draws the focus away from the people doing the work and making the decisions. The Iron Triangle is a very seductive philosophy for technical delivery organisations to subscribe to because it suits our character, we are naturally much more comfortable dealing with abstract, technical problems like writing long scope and task documents and cost estimates than confronting and dealing with all the complications that come with people.

So here’s an alternative triangle for a design project: Leadership-Resource-Definition.

Leadership – a successful project requires experienced, empowered leadership for delivery and technical aspects;

Resource – a successful design project is fundamentally built on having a sufficient number of organised, appropriately skilled, experienced and motivated teams;

Definition – a successful project depends on having a clear and fully captured definition of the objectives and all the associated deliverables, tasks, budgets and plans that support these.

So next time you get presented with a project to deliver, consider setting your standard against these three measures, leadership/resource/definition, not just cost/time/quality, and you will significantly increase your chances of a successful outcome.

You can read more about the importance of people and project delivery in Stephen Ashton's opinion piece, Projects are about people.

UK & Europe,

In my experience transport modelling techniques have changed little over the last 30 years. Whilst advances in computing have enabled us to run increasingly large and complex models, the underlying processes have changed little from the models I was building in the 1980s.  A key factor in this lack of change has been the continuing use of interview based data to identify why, where, when and how people are travelling. 

New technology is now presenting us with exciting new data sources, in particular satnavs and mobile phones, which have totally different, in some ways opposite, characteristics from traditional data. For example, mobile phone data explains where and when a large proportion (typically 40%) of the population are travelling on a 24/7/365 basis, but not why or how.  Conversely, interview data only represents a tiny proportion of the population for a ‘snapshot’ in time, but does explain why and how they are travelling.

Understandably, and correctly given current guidance and best practice, the focus at present for use of mobile phone data is a series of complex and assumption based processes in order to manipulate the data into the traditional form used in transport models.  
New technology isn’t just affecting the data available to us, it is providing a range of new technological solutions to transport needs that have the potential to transform the use and provision of transport systems.  

Looking to the future I think this raises some challenging questions:

  • Are we making best of use new data sources by adapting these to suit traditional transport modelling techniques?  
  • Should we recognise that new data sources and new technological solutions may be incompatible with traditional modelling?  
  • Do the needs of new transport solutions and the advent of new data provide the catalyst for us to develop entirely new methods of transport modelling?

An analogy would be the introduction of concrete in bridge construction, where early works such as Glenfinnan Viaduct (of Harry Potter fame!) were built using concrete in the same way as masonry would have been used.  Subsequently, techniques to take advantage of the characteristics of concrete led to new approaches in civil engineering design and construction. 

I believe that the move towards active technological solutions for transport (intelligent mobility), together with the advent of new data sources such as mobile phone data, challenges the continuing use of traditional modelling approaches.  So let’s have a ‘Glenfinnan’ moment with a radical rethink as to what we will really need from our transport models in the future and how we can make best of new data sources to fill this need.  

UK & Europe,

As has been rightly pointed out by the industry and media, this feels truly significant because it was only six years prior that the record was broken in Seathwaite (316mm), which is also in Cumbria. Many who were flooded then – in reportedly a 1:100 year plus event – have been flooded again with an event of even greater severity. Often flood events affect different people in different locations even if the events are not “playing the game” in terms of our understanding of frequency, but here lightning is truly striking twice; inhabitants of Yalding on the Medway have suffered similar repetition of flooding but not such torrential, record breaking rainfall.

It’s important not only because it allows the public to recognise that both the frequency and severity of storms may be changing, but also because these events shake up and redefine the datasets that we use to estimate return periods and flooding levels when we are trying to manage flood risk. People are engaging with the significance of the storm and isn’t it a coincidence that this is coinciding with the climate change talks in Paris?

For me, Storm Desmond is significant for a number of additional reasons that may not be immediately apparent to those overwhelmed by the scenes or shocked by the magnitude of the storm:

1 - Future cities need to become sustainable

The country’s desire to deliver economic growth that is truly sustainable needs to recognise that water quantity and quality is integral to delivering our city powerhouses of the future. If the £12 billion pledged for Local Growth Funds and £400 million pledged for the Northern Powerhouse fail to recognise the importance of the impact of too much or too little water in cities alongside the issues of transportation, energy, health, and citizen wellbeing these investments may need to be supplemented from time to time by an emergency tax relief pot, as is currently being proposed for Cumbria (source), to account for the likely increasing frequency of future severe weather events (droughts and floods). Not reflecting on sustainability needs now will mean we will need to prepare future budgets with ever increasing risk pots: might it not be better to build infrastructure that is appropriately designed in the first place?

2 - Resilience needs to be built in

The Government’s recent pledge in the spending review and autumn statement to increase capital spending on Department for Transport infrastructure by 50% to £61 billion needs to be coupled with robust flood risk management planning.  If it isn’t, our new transport infrastructure for future generations will just add to our stockpile of assets that are currently considered to be non-resilient by the Department for Transport following the 2013/14 floods (source). Resilience is not necessarily difficult or even significantly more expensive in capital cost terms to include, it just needs to be considered in our future plans from the start.

 

 

3 - Adopting data and technology for rebuilding

The fact that Storm Desmond was named by a crowdsourcing pilot project undertaken by the Met Office (source) is signposting for how flood risk management, and the engineering sector at large, should make better use of data and technology to improve how we design infrastructure for the future. “Big data”, “Data Science”, “Genetic Algorithms”, “Systems of Systems”, and “ Smart Cities” are all phrases that have been used in the context of driving efficiency, but they have been difficult to incorporate because of in-built barriers (e.g. legislative and economic). While Storm Desmond has caused awful scenes in Cumbria, there is now an opportunity to adopt data and technology solutions to better plan, manage, prepare, and respond to future events that seem to be changing.

4 - Reconsidering what we value in an uncertain economy and changing climate

Lastly, but certainly not least, we need to have a frank discussion about what we value more in our ever changing climatic and economic conditions. In a previous article (source) I highlighted that flood alleviation schemes must currently justify two to four times as much benefit to every pound invested in a transport scheme and we must ask ourselves:

- Do we value more transport that, if not appropriately designed, is frequently disrupted?

- Do we appropriately value that disruption or continue to ignore it?

- Do we value protecting houses from flooding?

- Or do we value all of the above and should we value these and others more holistically to ensure public needs are truly served?

An open discussion about what the public value most in their daily lives would be difficult to have and would ultimately be highly affected by the short term issues that a family unit, individual, or community were dealing with unless we can develop messaging to help people understand what future issues may need to be overcome.

Following the winter floods of 2013/14 this is something that we at Atkins have investigated through our Futures research and development initiative, uncovering that not only can flood and transportation appraisal methods be coupled, but such cross discipline linkages can add substantial weight to investment priorities (an additional 33% more benefit for the one case study considered). A technique that we call “FloodRoute” allows future transport infrastructure to be developed in tandem with flood risk management needs, so that resilience measures, such as traffic light re-configuration and appropriate mediums for communication, can be readily included alongside improved levels of flood risk management service.

So, is Storm Desmond significant? Absolutely, but rather than just “putting it all back together as it was and crossing our fingers” we should be incorporating our learning and innovations, so that we adapt and deliver new infrastructure that is more sustainable, resilient, smart, and valued by our country. We have the tools, the knowledge and the ability we just now need to support a call to arms to do it right, and do it right now.

UK & Europe,

The potential of “Pop-up transit” is now starting to feature in the thinking of authorities and operators responsible for managing some of the five billion or so bus journeys that we make each year in the UK. What may be exciting to these policy makers, regulators and procurers of mobility, is the emergence of Pop-up transit operators such as Bridj in the US, and Kutsuplus in Finland, and what this means for the UK. So what is Pop-up transit? 

There is no common definition for Pop-up transit, so it is perhaps easier to describe what it looks like from the passenger perspective. Imagine using an App to request a bus ride when you want it and where you want it – you may pay more than you would on a traditional bus, but less than in a taxi.

A key feature that differentiates Pop-up transit from existing demand responsive transit (aka dial-a-ride) is the ability for bus routings to be dynamically managed using a range of data sources. The use of data analytics to efficiently service real-time demand is crucial to offering passengers a competitive tariff whilst also providing as close to a “door to door” service as possible.

Much of what is new about the Pop-up transit model is enabled by innovation using the same data and communication technologies that are supporting adoption of Intelligent Mobility in other parts of the transport industry. This means that it may be that the policy and politics holds back progress rather than the technology itself.

The potential market for Pop-up transit is significant given the key reasons travellers use the car are flexibility and convenience, and it is against these features that Pop-up transit is positioned. Recent research commissioned by the Transport Systems Catapult shows that being able to travel when you want is the most important attribute to travellers (49%) and public transport is more likely to be chosen when it is easily accessed (47%). It is not surprising then, that the flexibility and convenience of Pop-up transit could be an attractive proposition for many of us, especially in our urban areas. 

It is too early to tell if Pop-up transit will become wide-spread. Moreover the operators, new business models and most importantly the policy and regulation influences, need to be considered carefully. Atkins is currently exploring these issues with our clients, particularly around the devolution agenda and changes in funding models.  

Meanwhile on the operator side, new entrants to the market will need to focus on managing the PR and politics risks that could otherwise constrain growth, and there may be lessons learned from Uber in this respect.

With uncertainty ahead, it is important for authorities to investigate rather than ignore the potential for Pop-up transit so that future investment, public or private, provides both economic as well as social benefits on the ground. Looking to the future, is it likely that pop-up transit will become the cool cousin of the bus, or will it be part of business as usual for our existing operators? How far can it support the policy objectives of our city authorities, and will it be effective in eroding the dominance of the car on our daily journeys? Perhaps most importantly, the question is whether Pop-up transit will be embraced by our policy makers and supported by the industry regulators over the next few years, or will it be left to its own devices?


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UK & Europe,

Question:  What is the top visitor attraction for Chinese visitors to the UK? 

Answer:  Buckingham Palace. 

Well, it is in the middle of Central London and next door to many of the other attractions on the ‘10 places in the UK you really must go to’ hit list. 

Ok, so the next question:  Where do they head to next? 

Answer:  Bicester Village. 

That’s right, Bicester Village.  Are you surprised?  I certainly was when a colleague shared this fact with me.  But it turns out I shouldn’t have been surprised at all, as this 20 year-old venture attracts well over 6 million visitors a year from across the UK and beyond to spend their hard earned money on a variety of designer goods.  All good news for the UK economy and long may it continue, but what has this all got to do with Atkins? 

Well, getting shoppers to and from Bicester Village from London more expediently (no longer having to hop on a transfer bus) is just one of the many benefits that the East West Rail Phase 1 project brings; and East West Rail Phase 1 is a project I am very proud to have been involved with since 2008.

So firstly some project details.  East West Rail Phase 1 is the first new rail link between London and another major UK city for over 100 years and it was opened on 26th October 2015 by none other than David Cameron.  East West Rail Phase 1 now runs between a new parkway station on the outskirts of Oxford and Bicester and then into London via a new connecting chord line on the Birmingham to London main line.  Eventually it will run all the way into Oxford station but more importantly, this first phase forms part of a much larger project to provide railway connections between Oxford and Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale (referred to as East West Rail Phase 2- and watch this space for more information on how Atkins are involved in this future phase). 

When I first got involved with the project back in 2008, I was managing the completion of a small study looking at the condition of the railway between Bicester and Oxford on behalf of Chiltern Railways.  Chiltern Railways wanted to provide an alternative route to London for the thousands of passengers who parked up outside Oxford, got on a bus into Oxford and then onto a train to London.  Why?  Because they believed they could offer something better with reduced journey times, less traffic congestion into Oxford, better stations and of course, better shopping to name a few.

But did it all stack up financially?  Well, whilst I was busy helping to solve the engineering problems associated with upgrading the line, others within Atkins were working hard on business case work which showed that rebuilding this stretch of railway, along with the subsequent sections to the east, would unlock significant economic growth.  In fact, the Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) for the full scheme is reportedly a minimum of 6:1, so that’s £6 back for every £1 spent – not a bad return and on top of that it is expected that the scheme would pay for itself within a mere 6 years of operation.  This scheme therefore fell squarely into the no-brainer category of ‘things we really should invest in’ – and so they did.

Since 2008 we haven’t looked back.  We’ve worked with a range of clients including the East West Rail Consortium, Chiltern Railways, BAM Nuttall, Network Rail, Carillion, Buckingham, Siemens and others to develop and design a modern, twin track 100mph railway using our expertise in disciplines including project and engineering management, track, civil, structural, mechanical & electrical, telecoms, signalling, electrification, surveying, highways, geotechnical, drainage, utilities, architecture, noise and vibration monitoring and modelling, environmental and engineering safety management.  All provided from numerous offices across the UK and India.

Throughout the project we’ve been incredibly mindful of the broader context, the benefits of the scheme, our client’s aspirations and how Atkins can best support the project.  Our involvement showcases our phenomenal expertise, how our dedicated people make a real difference that really delights our clients and their customers.

So what is next?  Well, we’ve got some work to do to finish Phase 1 off and then we’re straight into Phase 2 as part of a new alliance and we can’t wait.  And whilst we’re busy doing this, our friends from Asia are listening to the Cantonese and Mandarin announcements on the train telling them they are arriving in Bicester Village!

UK & Europe,

The ‘devolution revolution’ is finally upon us and we must collectively grasp the opportunity it presents.

‘Transport devolution: the ticket to greater productivity’ was the topic of two fringe debates at the recent Labour and Conservative Party Conferences sponsored by Atkins, TfL, TfGM and The Guardian. From the panel discussions it was evident that there is a general cross party support for the devolution of powers to local government, albeit some differences on points of detail.

Decentralisation is particularly relevant to local transport services. Transport for London previously led the way by evolving from disparate transport authorities into one entity, linking transport as a whole across the capital and has achieved this with much success. Now the government is keen to revitalise other city regions through new initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine for Growth – driving other regional groupings of local authorities to embark on a similar restructure.

The significant social, economic and infrastructural benefits of devolution have been noted. As Whitehall releases powers to cities, Regional Transport Authorities engaging with local communities and end users are arguably best placed to identify what infrastructure improvements will best serve local needs. Infrastructure investment in local transport is expected to become regionally strategic and more balanced across travel modes. Regions will have the opportunity to achieve greater integration and provide simpler smart ticketing and fare systems; allowing greater accessibility to travel.

Viewing infrastructure as an enabler to improve productivity, drive economic growth and unlock much needed social development, was also widely accepted at the fringe events. Providing better connectivity will broaden the ability for people to access employment, education and training and healthcare. Better outcomes for residents are possible by getting skills to jobs, trainees to education and goods to markets. And, of course it is an opportunity to unlock regional growth and address the historic north/south divide.

Technology also has an important part to play in the revolution. Customers and users of both public transport and roads are increasingly dependent on technology to provide travel solutions. Whether it’s to purchase tickets or understand how to get efficiently from A to B across different transport modes. Smart cities are already becoming a reality and looking further ahead towards autonomous vehicles, the internet of things and the next generation of broadband, it becomes necessary to join up services more efficiently than ever before.

Devolving budget responsibilities for health, education and transport to local government offers many other opportunities particularly in relation to Total Transport. Significant efficiency improvements can be achieved by joining up different transport services, allocating resources and providing services that better meet the needs of passengers.

This all sounds brilliant. But here is the fundamental challenge – devolution is set to be ‘budget neutral’. We need to constantly make the case for investment in infrastructure, we need to be relentless in this regard. Local Transport funding needs to be ring fenced with secured multi-year settlements and as devolution is set to reshape the political landscape, the devil will be in the detail.

UK & Europe,

The North of England is made up of more than 70 shire district, metropolitan district and unitary authorities. Despite being geographic neighbours they have strong individual identities, there are many deep-rooted local rivalries and they all have their own locally-elected representatives. A successful Northern Powerhouse will rely on all of these authorities to work together as one, which given the preceding points might appear a tall order.

However, I believe that Rail North provides proof that the northern authorities can work together to achieve a common goal. Rail North is made up of the 29 City Region Combined Authorities and Local Transport Authorities covering the entire north of England. It paves the way for the Northern Powerhouse, transforming franchised rail services to meet the needs of the northern economy. This means more trains. It means longer trains, it means passengers benefiting from at least the same level of quality as those in other parts of the country. Rail North also provides an excellent model of collaborative working across Local Authorities and with DfT that other regions seeking devolution of transport services could certainly learn a great deal from.

Once the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises start operations in April 2016, they will be managed by a formal partnership of Rail North and Department for Transport, the first of its kind. The Rail North/DfT Partnership is a stage in the transition from Central Government control of rail services to devolving their management and funding to the North of England.

In my view, one of Rail North and DfT’s most important achievements is to ensure the phasing out of the ageing fleet of low capacity, poor quality, bus bodied Pacers by 2020, which like the old ‘slam-door’ trains we used to see on network around London until the early millennium, should have no part to play on a modern railway. Passengers want rolling stock of sufficient quality, capacity, reliability and accessibility which will transform their experience of train travel. All other rolling stock that is retained must be refurbished to modern standards across all routes. This approach potentially paves the way for further transformation of regional services in future franchise competitions, including London Midland, where West Midlands Rail is working with DfT, and in Wales.

What I find particularly interesting about this is that the replacement of the Pacer fleet was not based on a traditional business case, which largely focuses on narrowly defined economic factors. The case was made on the basis of life expiry, passenger satisfaction and a future need for total fleet replacement .

Transformation of service levels, capacity and quality are committed. This is a huge leap forward from the previous Northern franchise let by the Strategic Rail Authority in 2004; that franchise assumed no demand growth and preserved a pattern of services that was no longer fit for the structural changes in the economy of the North that were already underway.

Without the involvement of Rail North and joint working across 29 Local Transport Authorities and DfT, a focus on subsidy reduction through cost savings and service cuts, rather than the economic growth stimulation based approach that underpins the current franchise competition, would have been the most likely approach. What is certain, as a result of Rail North’s role, is that passengers and the northern economy will gain significant benefits from additional services at weekends and evenings, additional peak capacity (+40% in Manchester) and improved quality. I hope it will also be a catalyst for northern authorities to continue to think beyond their local boundaries and collaborate to make the Northern Powerhouse concept a reality.

UK & Europe,

Whilst the UK is in a leading competitive position to support Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology development and testing, others across the world are not standing still. In Asia, Japan’s Nissan has set 2020 as the target year to have fully self-driving AVs available on the market, subject to regulatory approval. South Korea’s Hyundai is aiming for a step change in driver assistance systems from 2020 and commercialised applications of full driverless automation by 2030.

Two other countries, China and Singapore, are emerging as key players, both for production capability and early deployment at the city level to address transport and mobility challenges.

Baidu, the owner of China’s largest internet search engine, has in recent years carried out research into automated cars, working with auto manufacturers to test integration of hardware, sensors, control systems and software. The company is providing the city maps and cloud storage systems which cars will use in order to navigate. To date, testing has been largely confined to simulators and the laboratory, but it is understood may shift to a road-ready prototype onto the streets of Beijing by the end of 2015.

Baidu’s initiative is one of a number by Chinese companies, encouraged by the Government which is keen to see collaboration between auto makers and technology developers in such areas as navigation, systems automation and electric propulsion. Alongside Baidu, Leshi, a manufacturer of web-enabled TVs, has indicated its plans to invest in the development of a connected electric car as part of its wider diversification strategy; Alibaba, an e-commerce-firm has announced a fund to promote internet-enabled automobile technology in collaboration with SAIC Motor, and more are expected to follow.

Interestingly, Baidu’s approach differs from the approach taken by its US counterpart, Google, in purposefully not aiming to design a full-driverless car from scratch. Instead, the company sees the way forward as increasing levels of intelligent assistance to the driver and providing optional autonomy only when it is desired or needed. Hence, new cars will continue to have manual controls, and in the view of many, the role of the person in the driver’s seat will shift from that of an ‘active driver’ to that of a ‘supervisor’ who must be able to intervene or resume control whenever necessary. This different approach may make it easier for consumers to adapt to, and for public regulators to test and accept AV technology over time and license it for mainstream deployment within prevailing traffic laws and regulations.

China is seen by some as a more open market than the USA or Europe for the early AV adoption. This is not only down to the size of its domestic market and manufacturing capability, but also because of a perceived looser regulatory environment and less litigious track-record in the event of product faults, recalls or accidents. China’s poor road safety record and the strong interest in technology amongst consumers are also seen as making the market attractive for early adoption.

Elsewhere in Asia, the city state of Singapore has recognised the potential benefits from AVs working alongside traditional public transport. The opportunity for such vehicles to bridge first- and last-mile connections, particularly for the elderly and disabled, is seen as a strong benefit. Additionally, the prospect that AVs may reduce car ownership levels – as users share access to common vehicles – is held as an opportunity for urban mobility and land use planning in a city long regarded as “best in class” for its integrated transport policies, delivery and outcomes.

In August 2014, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that it was setting up the Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI), to oversee and manage AV research, test-bedding and the development of applications by industry partners and stakeholders. It has now issued a Request for Information and will shortly assess the potential of proposals from manufacturers to test AV concepts in the One-North, a business park in Jurong, including demand-responsive vehicles and mass-transit operating on fixed routes and scheduled timings. Third-parties wishing to test their AVs must have safety procedures including immediate manual override as well as third party insurance, with much of the LTA Guidance matching the UK Code of Conduct for Testing of Driverless Cars, published in July 2015.

Several other AV trials are currently underway in Singapore, including SCOT, a low cost AV which has been jointly developed by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. SCOT was originally deployed on the NUS campus in 2011, with the first prototype being an adapted golf buggy. The latest version of SCOT is an adapted Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which uses LADAR sensors to navigate through an environment and is also able to drive through tunnels and other places where a GPS signal would normally be hindered.

These trials are particularly interesting since Singapore is of a scale, has a dynamic and technology-orientated Government and population, and a world-class track record in urban mobility planning that may enable proof-of-concept, operational applications and widespread AV deployment earlier than many other countries. SAVI is interested in the technical and statutory requirements underpinning such developments and keen to ensure Singapore reaps the full benefits that technology can offer.

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Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, UK & Europe,

Looking back over the last seven plus years that I have lived and breathed the Birmingham New Street project I can say that it has been a roller coaster of a journey with some great highs and challenging lows! But now, as we reach closure of the project with the opening of the station and Grand Central shopping centre, not forgetting John Lewis as my friends and family keep reminding me, I can only view this as a fantastic experience and so I would like to share a key lesson I have learnt – projects are about people.

When I first met with the client’s team at the project mobilisation meeting it was apparent that they had a dream that they wanted us to deliver by working alongside them. It soon became clear that the change to Birmingham New Street station was to not only improve the station environment but to give the city of Birmingham a new gateway which would form part of the ongoing vision from Birmingham City Council to redevelop the city and reinforce its place as the UK’s second city. This project was to make a difference to the people of Birmingham.

This project is massive but I am not sure that the project team really got to grips with the enormity and reality of the challenge to transform the tired 1960s building to the iconic structure it has now become until we were all relocated into the project office and began our journey together. The shortage of good records of the existing structure and the constraint of access to undertake surveys meant we were discovering information throughout the construction stage. This discovery meant that the accepted design was no longer appropriate and so the team – Network Rail, Mace, Atkins – had to work closely together to refresh the design to reflect the new information while taking account of the ongoing construction programme and protecting the design concept. Investing time in developing trusting relationships that allowed open and honest conversations meant workshops held to resolve the challenges could be lively and productive. This mind-set of collaborative working and problem-solving whilst retaining technical solutions that protect the client’s dreams is essential as we move forward into future projects such as East-West Rail Phase 2 and HS2.

As the project progressed the input from the multiple stakeholders combined with the client’s passion to make sure their concept was protected by seeking opportunities to refine and adjust the design meant we were having to take on board major changes. This included the introduction of the John Lewis building and the redevelopment of the shopping centre. Atkins was able to respond to these challenges by supplementing the core team with various technical specialists and enhanced design teams based in our offices around the UK and India. Communication and visibility between the Atkins teams, project team and the client was the key, so all who worked on the project understood the concept, the project programme and complexities of the existing environment. The design had to be buildable whilst minimising the impact on the ongoing construction programme including the daily operation of the station and the lively shopping mall. It was good to talk and face-to-face whenever possible. Key members of the Atkins design teams often spent time in the project offices to enhance the communication process.

I believe we did brilliantly to deliver this project. David Balmforth, ICE President, commented at a recent ICE event where Network Rail and Atkins delivered a presentation on the Birmingham New Street project, “This project would have been fantastic as a new build on a green field site, it would have been stunning in that context. To do this on an existing station is absolutely amazing.”

It has been a fantastic journey with the whole project team to see the client’s dreams come true – come along and see for yourself.

Read more about Atkins’ work on Birmingham New Street station in our thought leadership feature, Station masterpiece.

UK & Europe,

Like any epic journey, turning Birmingham’s 1960s reinforced concrete railway station into a futuristic transport hub, would be full of twists and turns. “We were running four design programmes in parallel, all at different stages and each affecting the building and that was quite complex,” says Stephen Ashton, Atkins’ engineering director on the £750 million project.

Birmingham’s 1960s reinforced concrete railway station
Birmingham’s 1960s reinforced concrete railway station.

Starting in February 2008 Atkins’ original contract was for detailed design of the station redevelopment for client Network Rail. This would open up the dark and gloomy underground platform complex and increase passenger capacity in the station through the creation of a new concourse, improve vertical access to the platforms which sit below ground level, and deliver an enlarged station building. All of which was to be enveloped in an iconic futuristic roof structure.

“On day one we hit the first major challenge. Following a review by the Department of Transport of the GRIP 4 design it was agreed to implement some changes to improve and enhance the concourse layout and so we were instructed to redesign a significant proportion of the scheme,” explains Ashton. Changes to the layout including a new eastern entrance were requested and so Atkins got started on this, as well as progressing the original detailed design contract in order to ensure that the client and principal contractor Mace could keep the project on schedule. As these first two design streams got underway the team carefully watched to ensure that any changes to the outline design were incorporated into the detailed design workstream.

A few months later in September the architectural contract for the façade and roof structure was awarded to Foreign Office Architects (FOA). A third design stream then commenced as the team worked to move this section of the project through early design stages. However from the outset it was clear that the chosen design would have a major impact on the work that had already been undertaken. “The FOA design changed the concept in that the original façade and roof design consisted of a glazed frame with its own foundations but the new structure used stainless steel cladding that hung off the existing building,” says Ashton.

The glass roof had been replaced with a transparent polymer called ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) which was to sit on 30m long structural steel arched trusses
The glass roof had been replaced with a transparent polymer called ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) which was to sit on 30m long structural steel arched trusses.

The glass roof had been replaced with a transparent polymer called ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) which was to sit on 30m long structural steel arched trusses. “We had this whole new loading system coming into the building with new roof structure and cladding combined with the removal of the central part of the existing reinforced concrete frame. This means we are changing how the building moves, how loads were being applied and therefore we needed to analyse the building to ensure that the end product was stable,” said Ashton. From this the Global Stability Analysis (GSA) tool was born.

This digital model enabled the team to mimic the impact of local design changes across the whole structure, running computational analysis as major changes were made. Ashton says that throughout the project there were six key construction stages where the model was used as a construction tool to ensure stability through the build and advise on temporary works design. In the case of the new roof the team sought to ensure that loading was carried vertically through the existing reinforced concrete columns. “As a result of all these loading changes we ended up strengthening 52 columns with concrete jackets of 100-200mm thick depending on the loads,” says Ashton.

Commercial impacts

If things were not complex enough commercial considerations then threw another bump in the road when in 2010 Birmingham City Council negotiated an exciting deal to bring John Lewis into the Pallasades shopping centre above the station. News that the company would open its biggest store outside London at 250,000 sq feet was announced in February 2011.
“Once the negotiations had concluded and John Lewis agreed to come to Birmingham, Network Rail added in the south side development and that was the addition of the new building along with the redevelopment of the Pallasades shopping centre, which is now Grand Central,” explains Ashton.

The fourth major design programme was born and once again it had huge implications for the design of the station redevelopment. The new steel framed building appears to step in to the existing structure at the southern end where the careful and piecemeal demolition of the existing 22 storey Stephenson Tower made space for it. Some of the existing structure at roof level also had to be taken out allowing the new structure to expand over the top of the station like a mushroom. However there were still limits on how much load the existing concrete structure would be able to absorb from the new steel frame.

“What you don’t want to do is to add stresses in the existing structure by causing any deflections in the concrete beams and columns as the new structure and foundations settle with the load. What we have had to do is design a jacking system that was installed between the new steel columns and existing concrete beams along with a deflection monitoring system. The jacks are adjusted so that there is controlled deflection of the existing structure and hence no change in its loading,” says Ashton.

He explains that the connection between the new steel framed structure and the existing concrete beams needed bearings too, to account for the load induced movements, such as thermal movements, of concrete and steel structures. “We designed the bearing and the movement system for the joints to make it so that you don’t know these are two different buildings. We also designed the foundations to the John Lewis building to a very tight settlement criteria such that the settlement that occurs from the loading was minimised. We didn’t want the new building settling significantly compared to the existing building,” says Ashton.

Design of the various elements then continued to progress at different rates so integration was a project buzzword. Ashton says that having senior members of the engineering team leading the coordination efforts was critical as each took responsibility for their discipline: “We ran a separate team on the John Lewis building so in some areas we had two drawings per area which we then had to integrate such that we only had one set.” With over 3,500 drawings prepared as part of the detailed design and another 500 for the John Lewis building the task was enormous.

Quick changes

Even more challenging was that as contractors started onsite it became apparent that the limited available as-built drawings did not accurately reflect the true condition of the building. “We had requested intrusive surveys for the start of the detailed design but the client was not able to undertake a significant number of these because it would mean closing parts of the station and Pallasades Shopping Centre which could not be done. So the decision was made to undertake those intrusive surveys during construction,” says Ashton.

This meant making a lot of design assumptions about the existing building from the size of columns to percentage of reinforcement. Although the team made conservative estimates to be sure of the structural integrity they also assumed that the building was in relatively good condition which unfortunately turned out not to be the case. In some areas poor construction work on the 1960s building meant that the concrete contained a lot of voids, various concrete elements had deteriorated and rebar became exposed. Original movement joints for the building were not where the plans said they were.

“Contractors were onsite telling us that the building was not like the drawings, so we were forever going out to site to validate or update our drawings,” says Ashton. But the clock was ticking. Phase one opening for the first half of the new concourse was set for April 2013 and with full phase two opening in September 2015, Atkins quickly brought in more resources to ensure that work could progress. “Our design team for the construction stage flexed in size in response to the project demands with a peak of 180 during phase one,” says Ashton.

This kind of fluctuation in staff numbers happened several times throughout the scheme and Ashton estimates that over 800 design staff have worked at Birmingham New Street since work began in 2008. Critical to this flexibility was the work of engineers in the Atkins Global Design Centre in Bangalore, India. “They have done a really good job in supporting us,” he says, but points out that it was a group effort with Atkins’ offices from all over the UK contributing.

The GDC team was ramped up as the work progressed and with program being the key focus, a dedicated team of architects, engineers and technicians worked relentlessly ensuring that high quality designs were delivered.

“The key for successful delivery from the GDC was the engagement with the client and contractors. Design team leads interacted with the client representatives, project managers from MACE and various suppliers located in the UK and other parts of the world,” explains Raja Narwari, Atkins’ GDC practice manager for Rail Solutions. “This allowed the design teams to fully coordinate the designs and give a thorough consideration of buildability.”

With so many changes cropping up, Ashton confirms that having a good relationship with the contractor was vital especially as changes had to be made during the construction phase. “It wasn’t an alliance in contractual terms but we have worked collaboratively to come up with the best solution possible while protecting the design. We wanted to help make the construction as easy as possible whilst assuring the integrity of the structure,” says Ashton.

Ashton continued: “Looking back this has been a fantastic journey during which the Atkins team has applied fundamental engineering principles, knowledge and experience to enable the transformation of this extraordinary building – a structure made up of nine interdependent concrete frames over eight levels, a final concourse footprint five times larger than Euston station along with the addition of the steel framed JLP building over four levels and 187 M&E systems to be commissioned.”

And what a structure it is. Birmingham finally has a gateway that befits its status as the UK’s second largest city and what is more the improved accessibility with four entrances rather than two, is opening up the southern part of the city. “This station will draw more people to Birmingham and lead to regeneration of the southern part of the city. It will have a big impact on those who live and breathe Birmingham,” says Ashton.

atkins0178

UK & Europe,

There’s no denying that Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are coming. Lower levels of autonomous capability can already be seen in cars available today – such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping. But no-one really knows yet how long it will before highly autonomous vehicles are on our roads and how much time we have to benefit from their development.

We’re in a global race to exploit the economic opportunities provided by CAVs, from the intellectual property generated in the design of such vehicles, to their testing, validation and production. With our strong automotive heritage and history of innovation, the UK should be trailblazing the development of CAVs and reaping the economic rewards. The UK government’s Code of Practice for the testing of autonomous vehicles and ongoing CAV trials across the country – including VENTURER in Bristol, mean we are in a good starting position. But more must be done to build on this competitive advantage to ensure the UK benefits economically from the development of CAVs, before time beats us and we lose out in this global race.

Now is the time for greater investment to exploit the growth potential of this emerging industry. The UK must maximise the opportunities that regulation currently provides and aggressively target market growth in the areas of testing and validation. We must work to understand what society expects from CAVs, the expectations of different user groups and the challenges that will emerge in their adoption. Beyond this, we need to understand what CAVs will mean for the transport system as a whole and the opportunities they provide to deliver a more seamless travelling experience through journey management. In terms of mobility, we must also understand the opportunities provided to broaden travel horizons for those with limited mobility – such as the elderly, infirm and the young.

Alongside this, our cities must work to understand how CAVs will impact upon them – from changing travel behaviours to capacity management and vehicle emissions. They must also take action to prepare for the arrival of CAVs, by developing their highway and digital infrastructure – such as installing the infrastructure to support connected vehicle technologies – and ensuring they have a resilient and secure cyber network. At the same time, companies must look to how they can exploit this opportunity and develop new operating models to reap the reward.

Now is the time to act. We must continue to invest in CAV research and development and ensure we are best prepared for their arrival in order to maximise the opportunities this new technology brings.

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UK & Europe,

The transport sector has long had far-reaching ideas for how people and goods will get around in the future.

In 1961, for example, the American Weekend Magazine speculated:

“The Year 2000 will be the age of press-button transportation. Rocket belts will increase a man’s stride to 30 feet, and bus-type helicopters will travel along crowded air skyways. There will be moving plastic-covered pavements, individual hoppicopters and 200 mph monorail trains operating in all large cities. The family car will be soundless, vibrationless and self-propelled themostatically. The engine will be smaller than a typewriter. Cars will travel overland on an 18 inch air cushion.”

This particular vision of the future didn’t happen of course; and whilst the following 40 years did see great progress in personal mobility, freedom of movement and access to a wealth of opportunities, supported by modern motor cars and mass transit, it also gave us urban congestion, pollution and a public realm shaped more often than not by vehicles and concrete than for people.

In the 21st Century, many have once again taken out their crystal ball to contend that we are on the verge of a new technological revolution. In particular, there has been much talk about so-called “disruptive” technologies which are predicted to transform consumer experience and change society beyond recognition.

In a 2013 research piece, the McKinsey Global Institute lists 12 such technologies. To qualify as disruptive, each is classed as rapidly advancing or experiencing breakthroughs in innovation, having broad commercial reach, showing the potential to create significant economic and social value and, above all, radically challenging the status quo. The Mobile Internet, Cloud technology, 3D printing, renewable energy and next-generation genomics are all seen as fulfilling these conditions with profound public policy, economic and legal implications, and with impacts which cannot be fully predicted based on existing values, experience & business models.

In transport, we are facing a number of technologies which could arguably be described as disruptive on these grounds. These include:

  • The electrification of road transport, ranging from hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius now giving way to exploding sales of plug-in electric cars from the likes of Tesla, BMW and Nissan, and with breakthroughs in battery and energy storage expected in the early to mid-2020s;
  • Intelligent Mobility, with smart information and access to online services via personal devices, big data and the broader Internet of Things allowing travel to be commoditised, ordered and managed on demand in near real-time, threatening established transport operators as Uber has shown; and
  • Vehicle automation, with engineering, software and data becoming increasing integrated to the point that within a few years it will be technically possible to take the human driver out of the loop completely, with Google and others seeking to turn motor vehicles into “living spaces on wheels” for work, rest and play.

For many commentators, these technologies are not a question of “if” rather than “when.” Indeed, they are out of the test lab in some shape or form already, at demonstration stage or evolving from concept to commercial application.

They are also showing signs of converging. The car of the future is likely to be clean (to the point of zero-emission on-street), intelligent (able to steer and park itself) and connected (offering the user infotainment and other targeted personalised services rather than a focus on unproductive driving). And the companies behind this shift will be driven as much by licensing software (Apple, Google and Baidu making the running) as selling traditional automotive hardware (threatening Ford, Toyota and Mercedes).

Is it possible that within ten years from now, these converging technologies will have moved into the mainstream? There are clearly some sceptics, but ten years ago who would have anticipated the emergence and impacts of Wi-Fi, 4G and smart apps on the daily lives of millions? Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in June 2007, only 8 years ago. Now in 2015, who doesn’t crave the latest iPhone6 or its Android equivalent, constantly connected, on the move and tracked via Google, Twitter or WeChat? Already over 50% of the human population and 20% of motor vehicles of the planet are connected to mobile data services and the numbers are increasing in double digit proportions year on year.

In the transport sector, new technology clearly offers substantial benefits including increased safety, more efficient use of infrastructure and reduced emissions. From a user perspective, it offers the potential for greater personal productivity, accessibility and informed choice. And for businesses, it offers large operational efficiencies and the opportunity for targeting products and services to where they best add value and generate revenue. In each case, as Apple might say, “This changes everything.”

Perhaps, however, we should pause for a minute. In many areas, the vision of technology is running ahead of the practicalities of making it work in the here and now understanding consumer tastes, deciding ethics and enabling practices which are acceptable to policy makers and regulators. Sometimes, it can also be difficult to separate the blue sky claims for technology made in the latest company keynote or TED presentation from the more mundane realities of ease of use, reliability, cost and legality.

Again, as McKinsey comments:

“The link between hype and potential is not clear. Emerging technologies often receive a great deal of notice. News media know that the public is fascinated with gadgets and eager for information about how the future might unfold. The history of technology is littered with breathless stories of breakthroughs that never quite materialized. With the possible exception of the mobile Internet, there is no clear relationship between the amount of talk a technology generates and its potential to create value.”

This is good advice. The challenge for policy makers is to make sure they fully understand all sides of the technologies coming forward and make their own assessments based on hard evidence and structured analysis. And whilst the focus of this understanding will be on the next 10 to 20 years, there needs to be immediate and short-term attention on getting some fundamental building blocks in place linked to clear policies and standards and a clear roadmap of delivery.

Otherwise, we risk being as wrong about the future as many of the armchair scientists of the 1960s.

This text is a summary of a presentation on Transport and the Smart City given to the Annual Conference of the Hong Kong Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management in May 2015.

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Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, UK & Europe,

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) last week announced that it had terminated its contract with Atos to design, build and operate an Oyster-style smartcard across its transport network, with TfGM questioning whether the technology behind smart cards is now obsolete (source: Transportxtra.com). The recent launch of Apple Pay in the UK, allowing London Underground commuters to swap out their Oyster card for their iPhone 6, suggests that TfGM may be right, with technology having progressed faster than many have realised. Given these developments, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on how such technologies could impact on how we interact with the transport networks around us.

The technology behind Apple Pay – mobile embedded near field communication (NFC) chips, similar technology used in contactless credit cards – is not new. The Japanese have had NFC enabled mobiles for over a decade, using their phones to pay for a variety of goods and services – from convenience stores to vending machines. The technology is now finely ingrained within the country’s transport network, covering buses, taxis, airline tickets, underground systems and of course, the Shinkansen high speed rail network. Apple and others like Google and Samsung are merely playing a rather delayed game of catch up, driven by the high adoption rate of smart phone technology, rising consumer expectations and improved connectivity.

The use of credit cards and NFC enabled devices marks a wider trend towards account based ticketing amongst transport service providers. Traditionally, transport system payments have been card based tickets (be it in the form of paper tickets or tokens), with a passenger buying a ticket or card, which gives them access to the transport network. Where access cards are used, such as the Oyster card, all information is held on the card itself. This approach, developed at a time when communications infrastructure were far slower than today, is an expensive one for transport operators – requiring sales infrastructure (ticket offices and machines), as well as the costs of producing and distributing the tickets themselves. Account based ticketing bypasses the need for a passenger to purchase tickets, theoretically allowing a passenger to gain access to the transport system through any form of contactless device linked to their payment account, such as an account card (Oyster), phone, watch or personal ID card.

The benefits for passengers to such an approach would be vast: mobile phones would become one-stop-portals for journey planning, ticketing and payment. Gone would be the days of worrying about having the correct change, or which ticket would be best for your journey – with the back office system calculating the cheapest price for your journey after its completion. Opportunities for further development are abound – from personalised and specific journey updates to truly flexible multi-modal journeys within one ticket – a vision set out in Atkins’ white paper on Journeys of the Future.

For operators, the benefits of account based ticketing are also persuasive. Lower upfront and ongoing costs for the technology will provide direct financial savings (operators will not have to issue, maintain and replace tickets or cards themselves), whilst mobile commerce and targeted advertising could provide a lucrative revenue stream. Account based ticketing also provides an opportunity for operational efficiency improvements, for example by improving the accuracy and speed of ticket checking, and providing authorities and operators with highly detailed passenger origin-destination data. Such are the benefits provided through this approach that TfL has announced its intentions to replace the technology in its Oyster Cards to allow for account based ticketing (source: Railway Gazette).

The key to this is the interoperability of account based ticketing systems and the expansion of such services. The ITSO standard was developed to ensure interoperability of smart card ticketing between transport operators in the UK, but has faced criticism over its slow progress (source: ITSO PDF). In securing the interoperability of account based ticketing systems, transport authorities and operators should consider the technical standards required, the customer experience of using the service and the opportunities the system creates for wider journey management.

Account based ticketing is one step towards improving the door-to-door journey experience for transport users, providing a customer centric approach to transport delivery and journey management. This will allow authorities and operators to better manage their transport assets, improve efficiencies and provide customers with personalised, accurate and specific details about their journey. As Apple transformed the music industry, journey management and the overall Intelligent Mobility market space offers similar opportunities for people and their mobility options, with account based ticketing being a step towards this which authorities and operators should be looking to harness.

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UK & Europe,

For the 33rd time since 2008, congress is expected to pass yet another stop gap measure—a temporary fix—to the nation’s transportation funding. The July 31st deadline (when current funding expires) is just days away. And the timing could not have been worse, taking place during the peak of roadway constructions season.

Federal fuel taxes, a major source of transportation funding and main contributor to the Highway Trust Fund, have not increased since 1993. As a matter of fact, when factoring in inflation, its value has actually eroded by 40 percent.

Automobiles are now twice as fuel-efficient as they were in 1975, and will be yet twice as efficient by 2025 due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s CAFÉ requirement. That means they will consume less gasoline and pay less fuel taxes. Electric and hybrid vehicles, which are fast gaining popularity, are good for the environment and air quality, but do not contribute their fair share of fuel taxes and infrastructure upkeep.

And unfortunately it gets worse. The cost of constructing highway and transportation infrastructure has escalated well above the national Consumer Price Index (CPI) and inflation for the past decade.

It’s exceedingly clear that the status quo is unsustainable and “business as usual” is not an option. So then, what are our options?

Option 1: Congress approves an increase to the federal gas tax now, and ties future annual increases to the CPI or other indices. Many believe that the current political environment in Washington makes this option dead on arrival. The notion of new taxes is a nonstarter for many politicians, particularly those who are up for 2016 and 2018 (mid-term) re-elections.

Option 2: Use other taxes/revenues (e.g., corporate foreign investment income) to supplement the Highway Trust Fund. This solution, even if passed by the legislative branch, is not only unsustainable, but unpredictable. In my view, it is also philosophically flawed. Fuel taxes, after all, are paid by road users for the upkeep and expansion of the roads they drive on. By supplementing road funds with unrelated taxes, this solution becomes an unfair subsidy.

Option 3: Use a per-mile road user fee instead of a per-gallon fuel tax, similar to Germany’s Toll Collect or Oregon’s pilot project (OReGO). A Mileage-Based User Fee (MBUF), Vehicle Mile Travelled (VMT) or Road User Charge (RUC) seems to be a very viable solution. Here are a few reasons the whole country (not just Oregon) should give this option some serious consideration:

  1. It’s fair: You pay for what you drive, regardless of your fuel source or efficiency. Your impact to the traffic flow (capacity of the roadway) remains the same, so the fee you pay reflects this.
  2. It can be congestion-priced: Depending on the level of congestion and roadway capacity, the per-mile user fee can be dynamically adjusted. This pricing concept is used by utility companies, airlines, hotels cruise lines, and others. It also has the potential to change driver behavior and choices through alternate route selections, planned time of travel, or use of public transportation.
  3. The technology is available and it’s getting cheaper: Many pilot projects in the US and current implementations in Europe have proven that satellite and other detection technologies work and can be scaled. In my home state of Florida, the majority of registered vehicles are already equipped with transponders due to the success of all-electronic tolling and the numbers are increasing every day. The legacy transponders of early 1990’s were not only bulky and battery driven, but also expensive ($25-$50 each). Those are now being replaced by battery-free sticker tags, with a cost of a few pennies.
  4. Fees are adjustable: This approach could allow discounts for low- or no-emissions vehicles to discourage pollution, or charge large/heavy trucks more to cover their increased impact on the pavement and traffic flow.
  5. The public doesn’t mind new gadgets: With the wide-use of social media and internet-based electronic gadgets that track our movement, sleeping habits, caloric intakes and shopping habits, we’ve largely accepted technology in exchange for greater ease, convenience, and efficiency in our daily lives. We’ve become accustomed to monitoring devices installed in places like malls, arenas, intersections, and other public facilities that already collect and compile far more data about us than a sticker tag on our car windshields.

Similar to the early 1900’s when the state of Oregon pioneered fuel tax collection and all the other states and Federal government quickly joined suit—I believe it’s time again for us to follow Oregon’s lead and seriously explore the per-mile option nationwide. In bringing together transportation and technology experts to push forward effective and innovative approaches, the open road will continue to be a treasured American hallmark.

North America,

..for connected and autonomous vehicles. It’s been a busy time since Atkins was announced as the lead partner for Venturer; the Innovate UK funded autonomous vehicle consortium based in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. As I put the finishing touches to the whitepaper ‘Roads of the Future’ it is worthwhile reflecting on the growing interest in this emerging market.

People are really interested in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). The elderly, vulnerable, taxis, buses, freight, hire cars, insurance, communications, police, you and I, will all be influenced by the introduction of CAVs. Whether that is to share information between cars about incidents along routes or bad weather warnings, or to click a button and a car will drive you to your local bingo as you read the paper; the future is now and that is why people find it so fascinating.

I was recently invited to share my thoughts at Bristol’s Venturefest festival, and the following day invited into the Transport Systems Catapult’s ImagineFest festival to discuss what CAVs means from a policy and strategy perspective. Venturer aims to establish an independent urban test facility for the testing of elements associated with the deployment of CAV. This includes understanding peoples’ perception, not just technology or data; and exploring what people will get from CAVs, why will they want to use it, what must they accept and what will they not change. People drive change and it is vital that those in the CAV space fully understand this and reach out to test areas like Venturer to really grasp what it means for the future of their businesses.

Though an electrical engineer by qualification, I’ve been delighted to present at a number of Institute of Civil Engineer (ICE) meetings. It’s been really interesting hearing what people think and feel about connected and autonomous capability. The feedback has been amazing and lots of people are very keen to know when it will all happen and how it will link pieces of the transportation puzzle together. I also presented at the SMMT forum a little while back, and if you’re really interested, check out the video (best bits at 3:02 and 6:05)

I am also thrilled to be taking part in a BBC based STEM initiative later this month in Bristol. It is vital that people are encouraged to think about how the application of maths and engineering can enable world changing initiatives. The skills of this new world are yet to be defined, but encouraging the next generation to imagine a world where they are the designers, the creators, the developers of approaches and technology to a CAV based world is critical.

On the regulatory and policy front I’ve been delighted to share my thoughts on the new Code of Practice that the Department for Transport will publish. The approach is to position Britain at the forefront of CAV testing by providing a non-restrictive but sensible approach to testing. This will lead to significant job growth and IP creation.

It’s been a very busy time as the market responds to the challenges and opportunities that CAV provides and looks to leaders such as Atkins to provide thought leadership and direction. America, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Sweden are all looking to become the world’s testing ground for CAVs. Britain cannot afford to be content with what it has done to date. It must continue to invest and grow the test capability for connected and autonomous vehicles. The future is now, we must reach out and grasp the opportunities that it creates!

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UK & Europe,

Both intelligent mobility and the sharing economy will increasingly influence and transform the transport sector over the next decade. This was the crux of a debate organised by Atkins in partnership with Sharing Economy UK held on Tuesday evening.

The ‘question time’ style panel discussion was received by an audience of representatives from several Government departments and agencies, established transport sector businesses, SMEs, academia and the media. Delegates were presented with an opportunity to put questions to a panel comprising representatives from Atkins, Liftshare, Zipcar UK and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The debate addressed three core themes: what will transport look like in 2025, what will it mean for transport users, and what will be the impact for Central and Local Government and the transport sector? There was a clear consensus on the panel that intelligent mobility would make a significant difference and its possibilities were already being felt across the industry. New entrants into the transport sector are pushing ideas and boosting customer take-up of new services.

With a highly-engaged audience challenging the panellists on a range of issues, several key areas of concerns emerged:

  • Is access to smartphones and other enabling technology going to create a two-tier system of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’?
  • What will be the impact of the devolution agenda and is the future going to be driven by the public or private sector?
  • What will be the practical impacts of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy, particularly on issues such as sustainability, social inclusion and on freight and goods?
  • Is data critical to all of this; is there sufficient data security or will we become overly-reliant on fragile systems, as well as the fundamental importance of open data?
  • What role will satellite capabilities play in influencing the future role of intelligent mobility?

It was made evident that the sharing economy brings significant benefits to the future transport sector. In particular, the more efficient use of assets and the ability to provide mobility on demand in potentially all places and at all times – challenging the existing transport sector to up its game.

Intelligent mobility can have a similar impact; making use of new technologies and big data analytics to better understand and utilise transport capacity to more effectively manage the demand for mobility services and finding creative ways to incentivise user behaviours.

It is notable that around two-thirds of the audience had used Uber and slightly fewer had used a sharing economy business such as Airbnb or Zipcar, while around half had used the Citymapper app. Sharing economy panellists showed great enthusiasm about their businesses and the role of the peer to peer economy in improving outcomes for transport users and the transport network as a whole.

For Atkins there was a clear message – the sector is growing and an increasing number of people are interested in the vast potential of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy to shape how we fully utilise transport systems and what we can expect from it. We cannot deny the fact that the digital transport revolution is here but we can welcome and be excited by the opportunities it will present. These are ideas whose time has come.


The initial article on this topic is available to read here.

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UK & Europe,

Tomorrow evening Atkins will host a debate with Sharing Economy UK to discuss the future of transport and the potential impacts of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy. It is a timely debate with a number of developments starting to change the landscape of the transport sector.

In recent days, Ford, Opel and BMW-MINI have all announced new car sharing services that will allow car owners to rent out their personal vehicles when they aren’t being used. With car manufacturers enabling car owners to do this could we see transport taking the lead and Airbnb looking to emulate by partnering up with house builders?

In Helsinki, a showcase for the emerging concept of Mobility as a Service, the Transport Safety Agency is proposing offering tax incentives to motorists who share empty seats in their cars.

The trend of growing user preference for access to mobility over ownership is now becoming tangible in cities across the globe. Car clubs, car and bike sharing, lift sharing, as well as other new services like Uber, Lyft and Bridj are all starting to take hold and becoming a normal part of urban living.

There are of course a number of wider issues to consider. Ensuring everyone has access, including the (ever-diminishing) non-smartphone users, is vital; using these trends and technological advances to increase connectivity and social inclusion should be a policy priority; and integrating these new services into a single network for users to easily access must be a commercial priority.

What will the growth of intelligent mobility and the sharing economy mean for users and for the transport sector? For users there are a number of significant benefits – a wider range of mobility opportunities, better value for money, greater flexibility to use on-demand services that can offer personalisation based on every individual’s preference. Imagine paying for your mobility on a pay monthly or pay as you go contract. Even better, paying for your travel at the end of the month based on what you actually used – in an instant removing the hassle of planning your journey to ensure you get the right tickets, pay the right fares and so on. Incentives to pay in advance could instead focus on paying for live demand – offering flexibility on either time or mode accordingly. For the transport sector, surely the time is coming to adapt. As mentioned above, the car manufacturers have quite clearly seen what the future holds and are adapting their businesses now. I predicted in our recent white paper Journeys of the Future that the sector would split into two: one group of companies managing the transport networks, infrastructure and service provision, the other group acting as mobility service providers acting as the broker of capacity for customers and ensuring that the user experience is the priority.

Our debate on Tuesday should be fascinating and I will follow up on this piece with a report of the event.


The follow up article on this topic is now available here.

UK & Europe,

Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Brin, Page. The Silicon Valley hall of fame, the first three are now household names, even on the other side of the world in Britain. But one name who still gets mixed reaction from people I talk to is Elon Musk. Perhaps all that is needed is time, and perhaps he will go down as one of the most influential engineers of the 21st Century. His aspirations of us being a multi-planet species and ending the use of fossil fuels led him to set up companies he believes in. He founded SpaceX, the private organisation ferrying cargo to the International Space Station, Tesla the pioneering electric car company and SolarCity, one of the fastest growing domestic and distributed solar firms in the US. He did this using seed capital from the sale of PayPal to eBay. It’s hard not to be impressed by his vision, determination and ability to come up with (sometimes obvious) solutions to engineering problems in the face of adversity. The world needs a few more big thinkers like this, ones who will create the solutions that, in 50 years’ time, make our problems now seem really easy.

In case you missed it, in 2013 he had an idea and asked a few of his engineers at SpaceX to work up a feasibility proposal for a new transport system called the Hyperloop, essentially a solar powered self-propelled bullet in a big pipe between San Francisco and Los Angeles. For anyone familiar with the west coast of America, you’ll know the geographic circumstances; two major conurbations almost 400 miles apart with a high demand for communication between the two and in between is the tortuous Pacific Coast Highway, or the broad open agricultural heartland of the Central Valley. With poor rail links, a road (‘the 5’) that is well travelled and takes just as long its name and regular flights which are more of a hop and a skip, it is a route yearning for another option. The Hyperloop’s big headline was that it would be faster (less than 1 hour journey time), quicker to develop and cheaper to fund than the recently proposed high speed rail link. While the speed remains to be seen – NASA contributors to the crowdsourcing concept development on JumpStartFund have done some pretty impressive analysis that challenges the original pipe size and headline speeds – the cost and programme definitely seem rather optimistic. Despite low land costs, developing a new form of transport and installing it adjacent to major highways and over active fault lines would make me a little cautious.

However, the concept is bold, daring and a completely different way of looking at a problem that is replicated across the globe. It has also grabbed attention and inspired people to dream. The key however is that they have also identified a gap in the market, less than 100 miles travel distance a car will almost certainly win, and over 500 miles a plane will be quicker and more convenient. It is in the middle ground that an efficient rail system should operate, but does it? Generally, I think Elon has identified a few things that are inhibiting rail, firstly that trains are not fast enough, they carry too many people to be flexible and as such aren’t frequent enough. Solve these three things and suddenly a rail type system is more efficient than waiting at an airport or sitting on the freeway. In this respect, the Hyperloop is a great new way of looking at the way we connect our cities.

Channel Tunnel St Pancras International station
The fit out of St Pancras International was the final stage of the overall high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link project which started in 1999 with a total construction cost of £5.2 billion. The tunnel and its ability to quickly link the major cities of London and Paris may be one of the key obstacles for a UK Hyperloop system.

So this leads me on to thinking, would it work in the UK? Unfortunately there are a number of factors against us here in Britain. Firstly we don’t have two mega cities that are so far apart with almost nothing else in between (sorry Fresno and Bakersfield). London does dominate the UK economy (rightly or wrongly) with the next major city being Paris. This route would be an obvious choice, however we do have a couple of pretty good feats of engineering and politics that have helped in the last two decades, notably the Channel Tunnel and HighSpeed1. Secondly, our topography isn’t quite as predictably flat as the Central Valley and thirdly we’re not a big country and as such land isn’t cheap. Finally, we have some pretty good countryside with plenty of natural variation that generally people don’t like building on. For these reasons, while I’d love to see Hyperloop in the UK, I don’t think it will be any time soon before we start contemplating it.

But hang on, does that mean our rail system is adequate for the 21st century? The appetite for HighSpeed2 between London and northern cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds clearly has identified a demand and desire to modernise. Atkins is also supporting the electrification of the Great Western Route from London which with Crossrail will be great for routes west of the capital. We’re also part of an alliance with Heriot-Watt University to support research into future rail technology.

But is this enough? The developments in automotive transport, that I wrote about in a recent Angles opinion piece, a world where we hail an Autonomous Electric Vehicle on our smartphone, really puts pressure on us to think more carefully about how our collective transportation systems interface with personal transport systems. Are there any of Elon’s ideas that we could steal and use to adapt our existing infrastructure? Can we re-engineer our rail vehicles to be more compact, hold fewer people and run closer to the track to travel faster and be more efficient? Can we re-engineer our stations to facilitate more non-stop services and the different rail vehicles? And with these improvements, can we provide more flexible and frequent services to provide a truly integrated system? These are the big questions on my mind at the moment, the perspective of an engineer looking from the outside in to our rail network.

UK & Europe,

There is much debate as to the ability of bus based rapid transit systems (BRT) to attract car users, particularly in comparison with rail based systems. Most of this discussion is based on assertion rather than evidence – but whilst limited, that evidence which is available shows a consistent picture.

Direct comparison of the attractiveness of bus and rail based systems is generally not possible, as bus systems are rarely delivered with the range of features, in particular segregation, provided for rail systems. Research by Ben-Akiva in the US, reported in 2002, examined bus and rail systems using preference research techniques to remove the effects of differing characteristics and concluded that ‘there is no evident preference for rail travel over bus when quantifiable service characteristics such as travel time and cost are equal’. This conclusion is reflected in the ‘Affordable Mass Transit Guidance’ published by the Commission for Integrated Transport in 2005, which considered evidence from LRT and BRT experience in the UK together with the Ben-Akiva research. The guidance advises that bus and rail based alternatives ‘where service levels are similar’ should be tested with the assumption that modal attraction is the same for both modes.

Thus a key difficulty in understanding the relative attractiveness of BRT and LRT (light rail transit systems) arises from the lack of systems with equivalent characteristics and contexts. There is one very useful case in Nantes in northern France which does enable direct comparison between BRT and LRT. Nantes has LRT operating on three corridors, but the patronage levels on a fourth corridor did not justify the cost of LRT and BRT was provided instead. Importantly, the BRT was designed to replicate the service characteristics provided in the LRT-served corridors, with similar speeds, frequencies and stop patterns and support by a similar level of quality attributes. Patronage research by the municipal operator showed that the proportion of BRT passengers who were former car users was the same as in the equivalent LRT corridors in Nantes. Subsequently more detailed user research has been undertaken in Nantes and this has shown that there is a slight preference for the BRT services over the LRT, due to a higher comfort rating for BRT, thought due to higher seat provision.

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway
Cambridgeshire Guided Busway connects Cambridge, Huntingdon and St Ives in the English county of Cambridgeshire. It is the longest guided busway in the world, overtaking the O-Bahn Busway in Adelaide, South Australia. Source: Wikipedia

What of experience in the UK? There are relatively few BRT systems in the UK and only one of these, the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, has been the subject of detailed user research. The Busway opened in 2011, with ridership quickly exceeding the levels forecast for the early years of operation. User surveys were conducted in 2012 in order to better understand the characteristics of the Busway users. The surveys showed that more than 60% of Busway users had a car available for their journey and more than 30% had previously travelled by car and had thus changed mode. Interestingly, frequency of use of the Busway increased with income, with the most frequent users being those with incomes of more then £40k.

So the evidence, whilst limited, is both clear and consistent, where system characteristics are equivalent BRT and LRT will provide similar levels of attraction of car users. The challenge for BRT is to understand the key characteristics that drive patronage and modal attraction and ensure that these are embedded in BRT system design and delivery.

Finally, on a related note, you may be interested to read an associated article written by a colleague of mine – Arafat Ahmad – about the Lahore Metrobus project.

UK & Europe,

Twenty years ago, the Middle East opened its doors to an influx of people and investment. Towns and cities grew in line with development. So too did the road networks and, inevitably, traffic congestion. In Saudi Arabia, older cities like Jeddah and Riyadh can come to a standstill during peak hours, while the current management solutions in Doha in Qatar are struggling to match the rapid rise in the number of cars on the road.

Better connections

To ease the pressure, billions of dollars are being allocated to new rail and metro projects. According to the news and business intelligence service, MEED, every country has announced plans for a scheme. That, it says, equates to more than 33,000km of mainline routes as well as 3,000km of metro. The Middle East is embarking on what Atkins’ Roger Cruickshank describes as a “transport transformation”.

“We’re about to see a huge shift from roads to rail in many of the major cities,” he explains. “And the change is likely to be relatively sudden. If they were being constructed in Europe, large-scale infrastructure projects such as these could take decades to build. Here, they can come to fruition in as little as three or four years.”

One of the most ambitious projects currently underway is the Riyadh Metro. It has six lines (Atkins is the lead designer for three) and 85 stations, and it’s due for completion in 2019 . The metro will link parts of the city that haven’t even been built yet and could open up others that have traditionally been too onerous to reach with ease. This is all part of a wider scheme that also includes a new bus system.

Through their investment, authorities are hoping to get people out of their gas-guzzling vehicles and on to public transport. But forming better connections also helps them achieve wider sustainability aims.

All change?

As the stations take shape, developers throughout the Middle East are being encouraged to seize the opportunity to integrate them into strong, vibrant communities via transit-oriented development (TOD) – the creation of residential and commercial space around transport hubs. It offers attractive development opportunities while delivering benefits for residents, and it’s inherently sustainable.

TOD is well established in places like Hong Kong and Singapore but there are additional challenges to realising the potential of this approach in the Middle East.

“We have to appreciate that some parts of the cities are still in the early stages of development,” says Cruickshank. “That means we need to be flexible and allow for change because the demands of today are not the same as those of tomorrow.”

Cruickshank emphasises the importance of careful planning and balancing the desire for an immediate return on investment with the ability to deliver long-term benefits: “The economy of a nation or a city will change over time. If you create flexibility within a masterplan, particularly in relation to transport, you’re giving developers an opportunity to react when sectors and markets rise and fall. Spaces can be converted to match the shift in demand, without having to start building from scratch. It helps avoid boom and bust scenarios and creates cities that have the resilience to withstand volatility in the market.”

Cruickshank gives the example of a residential tower that is designed with the future in mind. The internal structure and layout would be flexible. If the demand for homes in the area decreases, while office space is at a premium, the building can easily be reconfigured to accommodate a change in use.

This forward-thinking approach allows developers to maintain the viability of their portfolio while the benefits to the city are increased because the schemes are consistently responding to local conditions. On a city-wide scale, flexible design around transport hubs translates into the benefits of development being shared, which helps modulate rental prices and balance construction and investment across a number of areas.

A phased approach

Another city being transformed through its investment in transport infrastructure is Doha. The first phase of the Doha Metro, where Atkins is the lead designer for the Red Line South and Gold Line packages, is currently being constructed. It includes 35 stations, more than 100km of track and has an expected completion date of 2019. The new service will keep the crowds moving during the 2022 FIFA World Cup but the longer-term objective is for the creation of an even bigger network that will stimulate economic development and bring communities together.

The dramatic change in capacity requirements pre- and post-event presents a challenge for planners. But authorities are increasingly looking at the infrastructure they’ll need to help them realise their long-term vision for their countries and improve opportunities for their citizens.

According to Cruickshank, the Doha Metro offers an ideal opportunity to use phased construction to their advantage. People’s response to the first 35 stations and surrounding developments can be gauged and the response used to inform the second stage of metro works, which include another 50 stations.

Lessons learned

The Middle East already has a track record in transit-oriented and sustainable development. Cities that are now planning their metro schemes are looking to Dubai Metro as an example of what could be achieved – six years after its completion, it’s being hailed as a major success. More than 14.8 million journeys were made on the red and green lines of the metro in January 2015 alone. That’s an increase of one million on the same period the year before.

“The success of the metro there has demonstrated that sustainable cities of the future will have public transport schemes at their heart, but the challenge will be ensuring that any new network integrates into the urban environment,” says Cruickshank.

In Dubai, for example, the metro links major destinations, population centres and amenities and services are being expanded to more closely match users’ requirements. The real value of the metro however is arguably that it has made well integrated development with strong public transport connections, attractive public spaces and clear access an expectation, rather than an aspiration.

Imagining a greener future

The incredible level of investment in infrastructure across the Middle East creates opportunities for authorities and developers to build sustainable communities, as well as transport schemes. And Cruickshank believes there is value in thinking big and looking outside the region for inspiration.

“Atkins has worked with clients and partners in China to bring about remarkable change in this area. Our ambitious approach to low carbon development has resulted in state and national planning laws being adapted so sustainable design is being put at the heart of policy.”

Around the world authorities are being forced to consider how their cities will respond to the increasing number of challenges we’re facing. Rapid urbanisation, the need to diversify economies, find alternative energy sources, and address climate change mean that action is needed now if we’re to create the successful cities we desire.

Middle East & Africa,

While not a shocking fact to most Americans, traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death in the US for people under the age of 45. What might be surprising however, is that traffic fatality rates in the US are three times higher than other industrialized nations. Which begs the question—what can be done to improve what is now one of our nation’s most significant public health issues?

Putting global best practices to work

Extensive research has been conducted throughout the globe on the most effective strategies for preventing traffic crashes. The measures we can take to improve safety are well documented. For instance, the Federal Highway Administration identified nine countermeasures that have been proven to reduce traffic crashes. This includes the key attributes of “complete streets” that allow safe travel for various modes of transportation, types of road users, and play a role in the development of livable, attractive communities.

The benefit of having offices around the world, is that we’ve been able to work on traffic safety initiatives implemented in countries with some of the lowest fatality rates, and are able to share that knowledge and lessons learned across the company. For example, our redesign of Oxford Circus in London—one of the most congested intersections with more than 80 million pedestrians crossing each year—was inspired by Tokyo’s famous Shibuya crossing. And currently, our safety experts are collaborating to apply ISO 39001 for road traffic safety management on a variety of projects around the globe. By sharing and collaborating internationally, we can identify and implement positive changes more quickly and effectively.

Deploying cutting-edge technology

We are now witnessing a true disruption in transportation in the form of connected and automated vehicles. Vehicle data transmissions (both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure) will help inform us about roadway hazards and dangerous situations that we can’t see from the driver’s seat. In fact, according to the US Department of Transportation, connected vehicles have the potential to eliminate more than 80 percent of unimpaired traffic fatalities, saving tens of thousands of lives each year. However, as my colleague Suzanne Murtha details, careful planning and collaboration with experienced teams, as well as effective communication with stakeholders and the public are essential to realizing its full potential. We are actively working with public and private sector clients across the globe to help deploy this cutting edge technology.

The power of data analytics

In just the past few years, we’ve greatly increased our ability to apply analytical techniques to enhance traffic safety. Predictive methods such as the AASHTO Highway Safety Manual (HSM) and the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP) provide a framework for implementing data-based safety measures. The HSM applies advanced statistical techniques to help transportation professionals predict how safe a roadway will be when improvements are implemented. iRAP predicts safety using a risk-based approach and is extremely effective at predicting safety performance for pedestrians, bicyclists and in particular large scale complete streets programs. These methods allow agencies to analyze different scenarios to make informed financial decisions on traffic safety investments.

New data sources have also become available, including probe data that captures vehicle position and time. This information is collected from cell phones and GPS, and can provide real-time and historical data on congestion and vehicle speeds. As speed is a significant factor in many crashes, access to this information will allow transportation professionals to make more informed decisions related to safety. By harnessing “big data” transportation professionals can better pinpoint the specific locations and contributing factors of safety issues.

The economics of safety

Traffic safety also impacts our nation’s economy. The cost of traffic crashes in 2010 was $871 billion, equivalent to nearly two percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). To put this in perspective, during the recent economic downturn which started in 2008, the US GDP declined by about four percent. In making significant improvements to traffic safety, we will not only prevent serious injury and fatalities, but will also benefit our nation’s economy.

Integrating safety in all we do

With infrastructure and transportation funding currently at all-time lows, safety can sometimes fall to the bottom of the list when perceived as a stand-alone task. But by making safety the absolute priority in all we do, we raise the bar in all aspects of transportation design, planning, and engineering. After all, it is our families, clients, and friends traveling the road with us—nothing less than our best is acceptable.

North America,

Whilst we don’t usually talk about our internal structure with the outside world, I wanted to mark the fact that today we are bringing together our UK Highways and Rail businesses into a single Transportation division. This is a significant change not only because it will enable Atkins to be more flexible in the way we work with our clients but it will also enhance our ability to offer a much wider range of expertise.

This is a new era for the transport industry. Customer expectations and travel solutions are rapidly changing therefore our sector must be agile and forward thinking to better meet market demand. Companies throughout the industry are refocusing their business models favouring a more customer-centric approach. Although this might not sound like the profound ‘light bulb’ moment, it is important to bear in mind that this is a model many companies have lost sight of in previous years.

A prime example of this shift is the recent move by Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency). Today it also launches its new structure with an enhanced customer focused strategy at the core of its operations in order to deliver its long-term modernisation programme. And it is expected that their supply chain will be fully engaged to support this five-year £11 billion investment scheme. The same is also true of Network Rail and the numerous local authorities we work with.

Every day we are faced with new technological advancements which impact on the way we work and deliver our services. To ensure transportation remains an engine for growth, we need to look at how we can marry traditional engineering approaches with new technologies, behavioural-led design, big data and the growth of digital engineering. As consultants, we are required to be on the ‘front foot’ at all times. We must be responsive and collaborative but most importantly, we need to ensure we have the widest perspective.

Indeed, tomorrow we are launching a new white paper on intelligent mobility which challenges traditional transport solutions and considers mobility ‘as a service’. It explores the impact of technology on commuter behaviour patterns and the way transport systems operate. Ultimately, it also considers a new way of commuters purchasing transportation services which will be very different to the way they buy them today.

This all sounds really exciting and full of opportunity doesn’t it? But I think it also presents a very real challenge in a sector that already has an acute skills shortage. For me, the key is going to be attracting the most diverse range of skills, an active approach to innovation and an open door policy when it comes to sharing best practice.

Today is a marker in the future of our business, as we challenge our own assumptions and business models – and the future may be a bit tricky to navigate at times – but as a sector we must be prepared for rapid change whilst ensuring that we do it all safely. I believe the steps we have taken to reposition our business will allow us to better respond to the needs of our clients and the challenges of the wider industry. Through improved productivity and efficiency– the new Atkins’ Transportation division is well positioned to help shape a transport network fit for the 21st Century.

UK & Europe,

This could be considered by some as quite a radical question, particularly, for those that are like me that have been involved in the sector for many years! So, is asking this question a bit like career suicide?

It is quite clear that ITS as a sector has had a challenging few years, and I would argue this was in part was of its own making, we have struggled for too long to explain the benefits and outcomes that ITS can deliver.

That said we are now seeing some growth return and technology is key to some solutions e.g. Smart Motorways, but is this recognised across the board? It still feels that we haven’t learnt the lessons from the past and we run the risk as a sector of not fully realising our potential

I am still passionate about ITS, it needs to punch its weight, be recognised for the value it can add but it needs to change. There needs to be a stronger connection between the role of technology as an enabler across the modes of transport and a focus on the customer experience underpinned by a discipline of formal behavioural change techniques.

There is an opportunity ahead of the ITS sector in the context of Intelligent Mobility, and whilst Intelligent Mobility is not ITS, ITS does have a key role to play.

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UK & Europe,