Labour Party Conference – What’s your number one priority for improving transport in cities?

At the recent Labour Party Conference, we asked attendees to share with us their number one priority for improving transport in the cities. And lots of people took up the challenge, as you can see on our board below! We’re going highlight some of these here and direct you to some of the work that we’ve done in these areas. Our Policy Futures document showcases the directions for policy across transport, with more specific work highlighted below.


Lots of people highlighted buses as an important area for improving transport in our cities, from synchronisation across operators, greater regulation and more frequent and reliable services to encourage people to move away from cars.


Buses are vital to our city regions, with over 80% of public transport trips in metropolitan areas being made by bus and contributing £2.5bn of benefits in the metropolitan areas alone. You can find more in our Bus Policy briefing, where we argue the importance of buses to public transport. The forthcoming Bus Services Bill will devolve more powers to city regions over their bus networks, and you can find out more about the bill in our Buses Bill FAQ. And there is lots more work on the value of buses to our city regions here.


Many people made suggestions around the accessibility of buses, the need for audio-visual announcements on buses and priority for wheelchair users. This is clearly important and UTG’s work has recognised the value of buses in supporting those with greater accessibility requirements. The Guide Dogs are currently leading a campaign for Talking Buses, take a look to find out more.


Digital innovation is an area that UTG are increasingly looking into. Ticketing is an area that we have worked on a great deal in the past, see Smart Ticketing for more. We held an event earlier this year looking at emerging data and transport authorities, which broadens out our examinations of digital innovation, you can find more on our Smart Futures pages and a blog post about the event too.


Freight transport was an area that came up and something that UTG have worked on. You can find out more on our Freight Hub and read our Vision for Urban Freight. We also held a Last Mile Challenge Conference in 2014 asking people to share innovative ideas for last mile deliveries in cities.


Lots of people highlighted cycling as their number one priority for improving urban transport. Our Cycling Hub shares our work on this area, as well as providing direction to other organisations who are delivering evidence on the case for cycling investment.


And, we couldn’t have a transport priorities board without someone mentioning POTHOLES! UTG has examined the economics of national and local road maintenance, and you can find out more in our Bumpy Ride report.

Hopefully, for those of you who shared your transport priorities, this is a useful way of finding out more about our work on these areas. We’ll also be at the Conservative Party Conference and hopefully we can share transport priorities from there and look at some of the similarities and differences between them.

Ten thoughts on very large ports

In particular Teesport after our visit this week

  1. Ports are shape shifters – they adapt to changing patterns of traffic (with the application of large amounts of investment that is). Car import terminals become container terminals, steel terminals switch from exports to imports, coal unloading to biomass unloading.
  2. There’s no jobs in logistics sheds per se in the future – at one of the vast Tesco’s distribution sheds at Teesport we were told that they don’t bother to have the lights on because there are no human beings in there.
  3. Ports are fascinating, important but…invisible (as in nobody knows what’s going on behind the fences). Teesport couldn’t have put on a better visit for us but prior to this we found it difficult to organise a visit to a port in the north. Compare and contrast with Rotterdam where tourist boats regularly tour the docks… Don’t see why something similar wouldn’t work in England.
  4. Teesside is used to thinking big. If it hadn’t it wouldn’t be here. First through private sector port and industrial development and later through good old 1970s industrial policy – with a new Teesside authority working with big nationalised industries and big private sector corporations to make it happen. Where now stands chemical works and port facilities there was nothing but mud flats. There’s a great twenty minute documentary ‘Planning Teesside’ 1970 which shows a drive to develop the area’s industrial base but shot through with tensions around environmental impacts and the suspicions of local people around the transfer of powers from local towns to the new authority.
  5. Teesside matters but because it doesn’t fit the current template about regional development being based on agglomeration of white collar employment in core city centres and its population isn’t huge – it tends to get missed out of thinking about the regions. But what’s wrong with being industrial?
  6. Mayors are seen by some as an all purpose governance panacea. Not sure I would go that far however you could see it working well in Teesside given the nature of the economic and political geography and the need for the area to punch its weight
  7. From what we heard the most significant shift in ports policy in recent decades continues to gather momentum. For decades we have been concentrating the biggest ports in the most crowded south eastern part of the country (and the public sector paid vast amounts for the road and rail infrastructure to take the goods to the rest of the country while clogging up key rail and road arteries in the process). The balance in port traffic is now beginning to shift northwards.
  8. If this was Germany, Teesside would have electrified railways with frequent local services joining up its multiple urban centres but also with the capability to handle the freight traffic to and from the port and industrial base. With the decline of the local steel industry and the port’s big ambitions an overhaul of the area’s rail network looks more of a no-brainer than ever.
  9. When you can get invited beyond the fence, ports give you a window into how the wider economy is changing (who knew imports from the Baltics were on the increase?) as well as how technology is enabling mind boggling things to happen with very few people involved (vast container ships with tiny crews for example)
  10. Recommended longer reads on modern ports and shipping: Rose George – ‘Deep Sea and Foreign Going – inside shipping, the invisible industry that brings you 90% of everything‘ and chapter three (‘port statistics’) of ‘The View from the Train: Cities and other Landscapes‘ by Patrick Keiller.

What I discovered on Planet Freight

Freight containers being lifted. Picture:

In his latest column for Passenger Transport magazine, pteg Director Jonathan Bray asks if freight is from Mars, is public transport from Venus? He presents ten key lessons for the inhabitants of Planet Public Transport from his trip to Planet Freight and argues that if it often seems like the two are world’s apart, they certainly shouldn’t be. You can read ‘What I discovered on Plant Freight’ here.