2.5 Setting the objectives:
Innovation and technology

Guidance Tool icon

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

  • Demand management technologies (smart ticketing, road pricing GPS).

  • Autonomous vehicles could allow us to use existing capacity more effectively.

  • 3-D printing could reduce the movement of goods.

  • Real-time traffic management and vehicle automation could increase capacity and reduce parking demand.

  • Digital management of the railway would increase capacity.


  • More deliveries create extra demand for freight.

  • Autonomous vehicles could create demand for extra journeys.

  • Increased amount of energy from biomass would drive up rail freight.

  • Electric vehicles could reduce marginal cost of journeys, driving up demand.

  • Technologies which enable discontinuous electrification of railways could lower their cost.

  • Offsite and advanced manufacturing could reduce costs but also change patterns of movement.

  • Predictive asset maintenance.

  • If drones take off significantly, we might require a network of hubs.

  • If the hyperloop concept is proven this may create demand in the UK.

  • Increased take-up of electric vehicle would increase demand for charging points.

  • Reduced rail freight demand due to phase out of coal.

  • Reduced travel demand due to increases in remote working.

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.

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Key takeaways

Strategic Economic Plans provide a vision for growth and the basis for a coordinated and transparent investment strategy for the local area.

Planning policies should recognise and seek to address potential barriers to investment, including a poor environment or any lack of infrastructure, services or housing.

Local Transport Plans should align with Strategic Economic Plans and Spatial Plans.

Individual projects show be aligned to create a programme of activities and expenditures to lead to sustainable and mutually reinforcing economic, social and environmental outcomes, creating attractive places to live and continue to invest in.

Setting clear economic objectives with aligned transport objectives will provide direction, facilitate planning and improve performance.

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3.1 Introduction