Sharing ideas in an age of uncertainty

In his latest article for Passenger Transport Magazine, Jonathan Bray reports back on last month’s UITP gathering in Montréal which considered bewildering change, and convergence on transit’s role in making better places.

Read ‘Sharing ideas in an age of uncertainty‘ here.

2016 in transport

2016 has been a rollercoaster year in politics, entertainment and sports. We’ve had a referendum, a change of government, and a US election, to name just a few things. For me, this has been my first year at UTG (I joined in May), I’ve learned so much and lots of interesting things have been going on. So, I’m going to try and wrap up the big things that have happened in transport into this post.

Internally, it’s been a big year at UTG. In January 2016, Transport for London became full members, and what had been pteg became the Urban Transport Group. And since then we’ve gone from strength to strength, drawing in new policy areas such as taxis and private hire vehicles, and tackling big questions, like the value of emerging data for transport and the role of transport in delivering inclusive growth.

The Buses Bill

The Buses Bill has been a big theme in transport this year, with its passage through the House of Lords, and looks set to move into the House of Commons next year. The Buses Bill will make it easier for local transport authorities to franchise networks of buses, allowing bus services to be provided as they are in London elsewhere. This will deliver improvements for passengers and integration of ticketing. You can find out more about our work on the Buses Bill here including our Bus Services Bill FAQs.



Big data, open data, transport data, it’s all in vogue! On my second day at UTG we held a workshop with the Future Cities Catapult to discuss emerging data and transport, to try and tease out the opportunities and challenges around maximising the potential of transport data. Following this, we produced our ‘Getting Smart on Data’ report, which offers some recommendations of ways to overcome some of these challenges and barriers in order to utilise the wealth of emerging data.

Air Quality

Air quality has been making headlines this year, particularly as the health implications of NOx and particulate emissions become ever more apparent. Some European cities have been making bold statement to address air pollution, with Paris banning cars and making public transport free to use during high pollution events. Sadiq Khan has made significant promises to tackle air pollution in London, including doubling funding to tackle the problem and Clean Air Zones are being imposed on a number of English cities, so this issue looks likely to remain at the top of transport agendas for some time to come.

Inclusive growth

Theresa May has made it clear that her government intends to deliver inclusive growth, including through the establishment of the Inclusive Growth Economy Unit in October 2016. Inclusive Growth has been on the agenda for other organisations, with the RSA opening the Inclusive Growth Commission. Inclusivity and transport is an area that UTG have been exploring for a long time, including examining the role for transport in accessing employment, the importance of transport for young people and the role transport plays in economic development. Check out our response to the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission to find out more.

Party conferences

As UTG, we attend both the Labour and Conservative party conferences. This year, we asked people to share their priorities for transport in cities, and you can read these blog posts to find out more about what came up at Labour and the Conservatives. There were many common themes across both conferences, with people asking for better cycling infrastructure, improved public transport and raising concerns about air quality, amongst many others.


What’s clear is that there are many different challenges facing the transport system, but transport also offers wider social and economic opportunities. Let’s see what 2017 has to offer.

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.