What should the 2016 transport manifestos say?

What sort of future will Scots vote for? The democracy of transport markets increasingly dominate the democracy of the ballet box for influence over the future, and the internet of things is creating a vast social machine that will look very different in five years. If our policians are not putting intelligent highways, smart grids to manage transport energy, and reform of transport taxation in the manifestos then they may find they increasingly lack the capability to establish socio-democratic control over aggregated information and to prevent its misuse.

There are many big changes going on that require strong policy responses. There is no scenario that suggests that business as usual in Scottish transport will be successfully perpetuated into the future. New collaborative control systems enabled by technology are changing the economics of transport, intelligent and low carbon transport opportunities require new types of infrastructure, social attitudes are changing, and demographic trends affect who and how transport is being financed.

Contribute to the debate about what changes are needed to transport governance in Scotland. What needs to happen? Who should lead the change? How should it be paid for?

Come to our Round Table on 13th October 2015.


  • Transport Round Table Edinburgh 13 October

    I have just completed a comment on transport funding and strategy issues affecting Scotland in the immediate future (to 2020) and possible changes beyond that. It is available by email on request to thstsg@btinternet.com. It touches on the possible impact of changing technology and taste but concludes that this may affect how we commission and pay for travel rather than bring about major changes in the volume of movement. Trends over the past 15 years show that the volume of internal movement per heading is tending to stabilise with indications of a continuing rise in rail use and a probable slight fall in car use per head of population. For more localised travel cycling and walking is likely to show increases. Surface rail-based public transport is likely to have a rising share of ‘intermediate’ movement (up to 1200 kms) and of city transport (including automated and segregated rail operation). Some issues do arise for conventional bus operation but the expectation is that this will see some shift to rail, some loss to cycling and some loss to various forms of demand responsive transport (including low speed automated pods). ‘Newer’ cities may see development of higher speed automated pods on a segregated network – or their use for some short ‘connecting’ trips.

  • The 2006 NTS set out key objectives one of which was to increase social inclusion and quoted research showing the extent of the disadvantage, especially for people with reduced mobility, and the many barriers to travel. In the 10 years since there has been no attempt by the Scottish Government to update that research and assess whether or not the objectives have been realised. It has no new strategy or action plan for the years ahead although it has recently done some consultation and says a plan will be produced. But it is slow to come out and its relationship to a refreshed NTS will be key to its implementation by the wide spectrum of transport providers which is essential.

    The Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance (SATA) drafted a strategy and action plan earlier in 2015 but as yet there is no evidence as to its impact on Scottish Government thinking. A copy is on the SATA website http://www.scottishaccessibletransport.org.uk

  • Each time audits have been undertaken of government transport spending they have shown that transport spending is regressive; governments are using transport spending to make the rich richer. Policy has therefore moved to require audits of transport change to check that government spending is fair and progressive.

    New analysis by Professor Tom Rye at Napier University highlights the surprising lack of measurement of the impacts of transport policy in Scotland despite the policy rhetoric. Far from detailed and regular audits being undertaken, even progress against the strategic national indicators are rarely reported. Tom conludes that it is hard to see how transport policy in Scotland could be promoting social inclusion. The lack of data on the imacts of policy for the poorest in Society is of concern. Read his recent presentation to Transform Scotland here (http://stsg.org/wp-content/uploads/Rye-National-Transport-Strategy-October-2015.pdf).

  • Are Scots concerned about their privacy when they move around? There are more connected ‘things’ travelling around with people than there are people travelling. The connected thing could be a watch, a car, a mobile phone, a sat nav system or many other similar devices.

    Yet in 2015 not all travellers in Scotland yet realise that the trips they make are being monitored and analysed by many large commercial organisations. The only way for the so called ‘Internet of Things’ to reach its full potential is with the trust of travellers. David Connolly recently pointed out the dangers even to topics like transport modelling of failing to get to grips with consumer protection. (https://www.transportxtra.com/publications/local-transport-today/news/46575/big-data-can-revolutionise-transport-modelling–if-we-can-crack-the-privacy-problem)

    New regulatory frameworks are needed on what could be considered to be unacceptable use of data mined from travellers’ phones and other devices. Companies should be required to notify consumers and give them real choices about how their information will be used, particularly when the use of the data is beyond consumers’ expectations. Some devices have no consumer interface and there are no regulations to tell people they are being tracked. Rather than exploiting customer lack of awareness, service providers should view building customer trust as being more important.

    Despite consumers being widely tracked for commercial benefit at present, the buses and other public vehicles they travel in are not yet tracked by the regulatory authorities to check they run on time and as advertised. The new technologies can be used to check up on sevice providers to ensure they deliver what they have promised. Then customers will know that the regulators are on their side and may trust them with their data.

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