Thomas Ashworth (Tony Gee and Partners) and Ben Richards (Faithful+Gould) report from the Progress Network's Future of Infrastructure in Wales event focusing on transport.
Following the Progress Network Cymru | Wales event earlier in the year looking at the Prosperity for All national infrastructure strategy, our latest event, sponsored by Arup, explored the role of transport for the future of infrastructure in Wales. We were delighted to be joined by our guest speaker Dr Rosie Hughes, Innovation Lead at AECOM.
How do we revolutionise road transport? How do we choose and design infrastructure? How do we fund and finance infrastructure? These three questions were explored by delegates after a thought-provoking opening by Dr Hughes who posed some challenging questions on maintaining and improving future wellbeing through infrastructure, how can we accommodate the historically vast increases in rail passengers and how can we think outside the box to ensure infrastructure adds value and positively influences people’s lives.
Dr Hughes gave an example of how a train service in India provided Wi-Fi to passengers allowing people to learn and gain qualifications to improve their careers while travelling. Dr Hughes raised the possibility of the wider introduction of “nudge” theory into infrastructure design – emphasising how small aspects of design can lead to giant leaps in user wellbeing.
In the networking discussion that followed, the cross-industry delegates considered the questions and debated solutions, including:
Solving congestion on the M4 around Newport through smarter infrastructure providing data for carpooling through precise traffic analysis and GIS information.
Increasing the broader uptake across public transport through unified payment system. The introduction of a joined-up Oyster card-like system could be rolled out in Wales using proven technology and ensure an efficient and fair pricing system.
Minimising energy usage, which contributes to high infrastructure costs, through domestic and industrial insulation improvements, energy conservation schemes and behavioural change initiatives. These would mitigate the need for increased energy generation.
These are clear infrastructure solutions that could fundamentally change how we use transport in Wales and can be clearly aligned with the work by the Institute for Welsh Affairs (IWA) which is calling for a strategy to decarbonise transport in Wales. Their report, Decarbonising Transport in Wales, uses the sustainable transport hierarchy and works through measures to reduce the need to travel, use public transport and encourage alternatively fuelled cars. IWA explain that decarbonising transport, which accounts for 15% of Wales’ carbon emissions, will make a huge contribution to the country’s success in meeting its projected energy demands entirely from renewable sources by 2035.
What about the other 85% which needs to be accounted for in Wales’ carbon reduction target? The main contributors to carbon emissions in Wales are power generation (35%), buildings (10%) and agriculture (10%). According to a report by the government which highlights a need to discover a “low carbon pathway for Wales” we should ask questions of how we will reduce carbon emissions by changing and investing in cleaner ways of producing energy, transport systems and more efficient ways to live and work.
In a recent report Transporting Our Future Generations, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) identified, “a lack of engagement and exchanges of experiences across public and private sectors is impeding progress” towards positive change in transport which is hindering Wales’ ability to fulfil the requirements of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (2015).
The next event in our series will see us take a holistic view of energy, where our speaker will talk about the generation, use and distribution of energy, how we can enhance these processes and make infrastructure more sustainable in Wales. The Progress Network aims to be part of the wider infrastructure industry discussion breaking down barriers and engaging with the recently formed National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICfW).
Thanks to Robyn Tucker-Jones (Mott MacDonald) for her input.
Find out more about ACE’s Progress Network, the group for emerging industry leaders and you can join, here. The Network is sponsored by Mott MacDonald.