Whilst it is difficult to forecast what will happen in the future, especially when looking at the medium to longer term, it is clear that economic and technological innovation will impact on the amount and type of transport infrastructure that we will need. We therefore need to recognise that change will happen and try to cater for it in strategic planning.
Table 2.1 shows a selection of technological trends, produced by the National Infrastructure Commission, which could:
- Reduce the need to build new infrastructure.
- Create demand for additional infrastructure.
- Lower the cost of supplying infrastructure.
- Create demand for a new infrastructure system.
- Drive a decrease in demand for an infrastructure system.
Setting objectives for transport over the longer term will need to take account of technological trend in transport and across society more generally.
Table 2.1 Potential impact of current technological trends on transport
Technological change can…
|…reduce the need to build new infrastructure||…create demand for additional infrastructure||…lower the cost of supplying infrastructure||…create demand for a new infrastructure system||…reduce demand for an infrastructure system|
In addition to potential changes to transport systems, broader economic and societal changes could lead to very different demands being placed on future transport networks. The population is getting older, younger people are no longer acquiring driving licences in the same way as they did before, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will disrupt employment in the majority of industrial sectors, additive manufacturing means that production locations could be closer to consumption locations, new business models and greater acceptance of a sharing economy could dramatically reduce the cost of all forms of transport, and increased digital connectivity could both reduce and increase the need for physical connectivity.
The potential increase in risk and uncertainty arising as a result of exogenous change means that it is now even more important than ever to make use of ‘scenario planning’ methodologies to identify and mitigate risk. Investment planning needs to be agile with the flexibility to adapt to a rapidly changing external environment.