Thank you for that welcome.
I’m delighted to join you today for what is set to be a fascinating event.
And what better place to host a smart travel conference than Milton Keynes - a city with a growing reputation for transport innovation.
Not only home to the Transport Systems Catapult centre.
But also recently confirmed as one of our ‘Go Ultra Low’ cities.
That means we’ll be providing £9 million to boost the use of green vehicles here through measures like free parking and priority lanes, and to support a new Electric Vehicle Experience Centre.
So it’s a real pleasure to join you today.
Smart travel is about getting us to think about the transport choices we all make.
It’s also about considering how those decisions impact on families, communities and the environment we share.
And making use of new technologies and ideas to keep our towns and cities moving efficiently.
Our ultimate objective is to make all transport ‘smart’.
So everyone takes for granted the smarter travel options we are discussing today - to reduce congestion on our streets, cut pollution and CO2 emissions, and make transport as safe and affordable as possible.
So smart travel becomes the norm - wherever we live.
Admittedly, we’re some way from achieving that at the moment.
While most people acknowledge that the growth in car ownership we’ve seen in recent decades is unsustainable, many drivers are resistant to alternatives, or have no other choice.
So the challenge we face is not just to make vehicles cleaner.
And build environments that make it easier to walk or cycle.
It’s also to encourage behavioural change by developing attractive and affordable options.
And show how that will meet people’s travel needs, while benefiting our society and economy.
Certainly, we are a nation of car lovers.
Often owning 2 or more vehicles in 1 family.
Many local journeys are taken by car, often with just 1 occupant.
Clearly, this isn’t a ‘smart’ use of precious road capacity.
In fact it’s the opposite.
It causes congestion.
It makes parking spaces very challenging to find in many towns and cities.
And it contributes to poor air quality.
Never mind the cost.
It’s not our job to tell people how to travel.
But what we can do is give people real alternatives to car ownership.
In fact we’re already seeing a shift in attitudes, particularly among young people, with the growth of car clubs, and other services which give people the opportunity to share rides.
Many companies now have schemes so staff can drive to work together.
While other demand-responsive projects combine vehicle sharing with more personalised and tailored options.
The DfT has invested £1.5 million in a car clubs programme since 2014, helping clubs launch and expand, supporting demonstration projects, and developing better links between shared transport and public transport.
Since 2014, we’ve funded 23 schemes.
And we are sponsoring a feasibility study into a new initiative in Manchester called Simply Connect, which aims to help local people and businesses make smarter travel choices by improving data and information about different forms of transport.
This is via the Transport Technology Research Innovation Grant.
New technologies are also helping us change the way we use the road network.
Smart motorways are reducing congestion, and improving journey times by smoothing traffic flow.
In fact, during this Parliament, Highways England will add over 400 lane miles of smart motorways.
There’s a huge array of technologies which will profoundly change the way we drive and manage traffic.
And we’re only just starting to test their potential.
While it’s difficult to predict the future of technology, we know further change will come.
Being in Milton Keynes and sharing a stage with Steve Yianni from the Transport System Catapult, I have to mention the groundbreaking work that’s being done in this country on autonomous vehicles.
The projects range from autonomous shuttles and pods to vehicles carrying visually-impaired passengers using advanced sensors and control systems.
All of which will benefit from the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund.
Trials to test driverless cars on the streets are being carried out in several locations around the country.
And autonomous vehicles are also being used in Heathrow to move passengers before real world tests start in Greenwich this summer.
Roads, bridges and tunnels are also starting to join the ‘Internet of Things’.
Indeed, wireless connection between vehicles and the wider environment is already helping warn drivers about hazards, weather and traffic patterns.
The systems we use today to bring music and entertainment and GPS information into our vehicles will help us build a smart vehicle network.
For example, if a car ahead hits congestion, it will immediately alert other cars so they can take another route.
Autonomous vehicle technologies will profoundly change the way we travel, transforming our roads by making travel a simpler experience for drivers, reducing accidents and helping traffic flow more smoothly.
The UK is a world leader in this field.
And the publication of the Code of Practice for driverless cars reconfirms the UK as the best global location for safe testing without placing additional regulatory burdens on industry.
Alongside the exciting developments in autonomous vehicles, we are also seeing the market for ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV) grow significantly.
I’ve already mentioned the latest developments in Milton Keynes, but there’s tremendous progress going on across the country.
Plug-in vehicle registrations reached a record high in 2015, as 29,972 new ULEVs arrived on UK roads, more than the past 4 years’ totals rolled into one.
That’s a success story the government wants to see continue.
And that’s why in the last Spending Review we increased our support for the British ULEV market to £600 million over this Parliament.
Since 2011, around 70,000 plug in grant claims have been made, and with the continuation of the grant a further 100,000 people will get financial support when purchasing ULEVs.
The UK is one of the largest markets for ULEVs in the EU and the fourth biggest in the world.
And we now have the most comprehensive rapid chargepoint network in Europe.
All this keeps us on track for all cars and vans on our roads to be effectively zero emission by 2050.
We are also encouraging our bus operators to go green.
The government will provide £30 million of funding for low emission buses and associated infrastructure from 2016-2019.
And I hope to announce further details soon.
This scheme builds on nearly £90 million of funding provided through the Green Bus Fund to support the purchase of over 1,200 new low carbon emission buses.
So we have a fantastic opportunity over the next few years to transform the way we think about and use transport.
With huge investment going into cycling and walking.
And £560 million allocated through the new Access Fund.
We are starting to see real change in transport planning.
Both at local and national levels.
Partnerships are springing up to take advantage of those opportunities.
And that’s what Smarter Travel LIVE! is all about.
So can I finish by thanking you for listening.
And thanking Landor for organising a wonderful event.
For bringing us all together.
So in partnership, we can all shape a smarter transport future for Britain.