Speech

Intelligent mobility summit

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Discussing ideas for the future of mobility and UK transport systems.

Opening remarks

Thank you for that kind introduction - and I’d like to thank the Automotive Council for all the work that you’ve put in to organise this summit.

It is a real pleasure to see so many experts and distinguished professionals from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines come together to share ideas on the future of mobility.

This is a debate with massive implications for the future of our economy, and the future of our country.

So I’m honoured to be here and to be taking part in today’s (25 April 2012) event.

Transport and its impact on the UK

As a nation we are placing seemingly ever-increasing demands on our transport system.

And that’s because transport is a great enabler.

As individuals, it helps us live our lives; enjoy our leisure time; achieve our goals; and expand our horizons.

But it’s also key to economic growth.

Providing the arteries through which commerce flows.

Linking commuters with the workplace and goods with the marketplace

Consumers rightly want transport that is safer, cleaner and greener. They want less congestion and more reliability. And, however they are travelling, they want transport that is seamless, truly integrated and makes the best use of their time.

‘Intelligent mobility’ can make this a reality.

Not merely by delivering a more dynamic, efficient and integrated transport system… but also by transforming the travel experience, and increasing the value of time spent on the move.

It offers a huge opportunity to provide a step change in delivering a quality service for customers, by building transport around the user and around the passenger.

The challenge

The positive potential of intelligent transport cannot be exaggerated. But neither should we underestimate the challenges ahead.

Boosted by continued population growth, a rise in GDP, more prosperous consumers, and more affordable motoring, we estimate that road-user demand will rise by around 35% over the next 20 years.

In one sense, this can be seen as a positive because rising demand means our economy is continuing to grow.

But, at the same time, sustaining the performance of our road systems will become increasingly difficult.

To achieve the economic growth that is so crucial to Britain’s future prosperity, we cannot afford to allow our transport arteries to clog up.

So we must be prepared to accommodate rising demand for road space while hitting our carbon reduction targets.

We need to base our strategy around the multi-faceted expectations of the customer.

And at a time of limited public resources, we need to explore new and innovative ways of funding improvements to road transport.

What government is doing

So we are clear that Britain needs a modern road network fit for the 21st century - one that drives growth, jobs and prosperity.

That means investing in parts of the infrastructure where we can deliver the best value and benefits to businesses and road users.

We’re already investing over £1 billion to tackle areas of congestion and improve the national road network, and spending £500 million on local schemes. That’s on top of the £2.3 billion planned investment in major roads announced in the Spending Review.

And my department is working with the Treasury to look at new ways to fund roads in the longer term - such as attracting more private sector involvement through new ownership and financing models.

But a fresh approach to investment is only part of the solution.

We also need a smarter road network - one that can adapt to future changes in society and technology. A more intelligent system to make better use of capacity, both on roads and public transport.

And again, our priority here is not only to improve the way that transport networks are managed, but also to build change around the user, transforming the travel experience.

New technologies offer enormous opportunities to address both concerns.

There are also huge gains on offer for UK-based businesses if we get this right.

We are already a recognised global leader in developing transport technologies. We have the knowledge, facilities and experience to lead the world in making intelligent mobility come to life.

To take advantage of this capability, we need to foster strong links between different parts of the transport industry with technology providers, academia, and the engineering sector.

Looking round this room today (25 April 2012), the Automotive Council is an excellent example of how you are working co-operatively to deliver a shared vision for the future.

And I see our role in government as very clear.

We have to free you up to do the job you’re best at - focusing on your customers, understanding their changing needs and innovating.

We have to provide the right support structure for the private sector to deliver.

And that’s something we are working on across the coalition, as highlighted in the recent Budget, where the Chancellor set out plans to make the UK the technology hub of Europe.

For instance, by establishing 2 new catapult centres for transport systems and future cities - which can create a critical mass for research - we will support collaboration between leading UK businesses, innovators and academics to bring new technologies to market, attract inward investment, reduce congestion, and support economic growth

Industry leadership

But we depend on industry expertise to deliver this work. And I am proud to say that the UK is well-placed to drive forward the Automotive Council’s vision.

We are home to one of the most diverse, efficient, innovative and high-tech motor industries in the world.

I’m proud that Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, and BMW - among others - all have major manufacturing facilities here.

But we also have a thriving motorsport industry; perhaps the most sophisticated fleet sector in the world; and a strong supplier base.

Our country’s history shows a magnificent motor industry heritage. But the real strength of Britain’s modern motor industry is that it’s looking forward, not back.

And that gives me confidence that we here in the UK can lead a global revolution in smarter transport and intelligent mobility.

Industry is already stepping up to the challenge in many ways:

  • improving the way traffic is managed - and we’re already using some of this technology as part of our Olympics transport programme
  • bringing low carbon passenger and commercial vehicles to market
  • exploiting the opportunities offered by digital technologies to change the way you communicate and interact with the consumer.

Just consider the extraordinary range of services that an organisation like Transport for London is able to offer through its website and smart-phone apps today compared with a few years ago.

Travellers in the capital can:

  • access live traffic and Tube information
  • top up their Oyster Smartcards
  • check their Boris Bike availability
  • pay for the congestion charge
  • get directions to the nearest parking space; book a taxi
  • perhaps best of all - find out when their next bus is arriving

Rail users can now get a first app with real time train journey information down to each station and even each platform.

Over the next few years, web-based technologies will increasingly give individuals the ability to start tailoring their journeys as they like. That’s going to change the way that transport providers see the market and deliver their services.

And actually, that’s something we’ve seen in other areas of the business world.

Take an early innovation that has become routine - the Tesco Club Card… an idea that has changed shopping and supermarkets for good.

This piece of simple but effective technology empowered the shopper. But, by allowing Tesco to analyse shopping behaviour, it also enabled them to develop strategies that could best exploit customer segmentation. In other words, it worked for the business too.

Another good example of industry taking the lead was the SatNav summit - run by ITS (UK) and ADEPT - which the DfT hosted in March.

While the SatNav has transformed the way we navigate around towns and cities, there is clearly potential to further improve the flow of information to customers over the next few years.

Nevertheless, as we become increasingly reliant on SatNavs and smartphones to find our way around, so the consequences of any glitch in the technology, or in the information fed into the system, become more serious.

So the information going into SatNavs must be accurate and up to date. But the places they help us navigate to, our towns and cities, are not places that never change.

New retail and housing developments alter the street network. New traffic lights are built. New weight and height restrictions come into force on a road. So the information needs to be supplied as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

The reputations of the SatNav supplier, or even the car manufacturer, can’t help but be linked to the flow of information provided by a wide range of sources… from local councils to the Highways Agency.

And there are SatNav user groups who also have a critical interest in the debate… freight companies, for example, taxi firms, and fleets.

So here again, collaboration between different public and private sector organisations is absolutely key to improving the customer experience.

To make the most of the opportunities that technology can offer, industry cannot deliver this vision alone. You need to work in partnership with government if you’re to thrive.

We can open up new sources of data, and that’s exactly what we are doing with our transparency agenda - from providing information on MOTs to streetworks and road accidents.

We can also create incentives, such as the £30 million Plugged-in Places programme, offering match-funding to consortia to encourage the development of plug-in vehicle recharging infrastructure across the UK.

And we can improve access to European research funding, and work to lift the burdens of red tape on business.

Roads strategy

This is a timely debate, because the department has recently started work on a new roads strategy, to be published towards the end of the year, as recommended by Alan Cook’s independent review of the strategic road network.

Our objective is to set clear, long-term goals for the network and help deliver a ‘horizon shift’ in our aspirations for such a key, significant national asset.

Our focus will be on maintaining performance to support economic growth; to reduce environmental impacts; and to support the safety and security of road users.

Technology will influence and sometimes transform the way we approach each of these issues, and will therefore be of critical importance in the development of the new strategy.

Your thinking on this will be invaluable, and we hope that over the coming months you will engage with the department and help us shape our plans.

Today (25 April 2012) is a perfect opportunity to start thinking about this. So before I finish I’d like to suggest three challenges that I hope will help focus your thoughts.

First - in terms of challenge and opportunities, what are the long-term outcomes that we want to achieve? Where are users and consumers going to be? It’s not just about capacity, as you know, it’s about the quality of journeys and provision too. what are those needs?

Second - looking at the range of solutions, what are the technologies that will drive economic growth and help make the most of capacity, but deliver the best experience too on our transport network and how can we better understand their benefits?

And finally - how can we take forward momentum from today’s (25 April 2012) event, to improve collaboration and actually deliver meaningful results?

Looking ahead

If I can sum up, together, government and industry have made great progress towards addressing problems of safety, pollution and fuel consumption.

We have helped make Britain’s roads among the safest in the world. And we are on the cusp of a further transformation in road safety with the development of virtually un-crashable cars by 2030.

And we’re making great headway on the environmental impact of road transport. Improvements in fuel efficiency and the development of hybrid and electric vehicles mean that, despite an increase in traffic, CO₂ emissions are set to fall significantly over the next 25 years.

But perhaps our biggest challenge, given its economic, environmental and social cost, is making sure we tackle congestion.

That means we all need to focus on solutions - be they managing demand, enabling travellers to make more informed decisions about their journeys, and making the best use of existing networks and capacity.

But despite the complexity and size of the task ahead, I’m convinced that we are on the road to an exciting future - one in which innovative solutions can make a huge difference.

At a time when technology is changing so rapidly - perhaps faster than at any time since the invention of the internal combustion engine - we have a tremendous opportunity to develop a more intelligent road transport strategy.

To grasp this opportunity, we have to exploit our shared know-how and experience. We have to invest in areas that offer the biggest potential benefits. And we have to put the customer at the heart of our work.

Follow these principles and I’m convinced that we can meet our shared objectives.

Thank-you.