The promise of intelligent mobility

New technology is helping people travel more efficiently - the Transport Systems Catapult will keep the UK at the cutting edge.

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

Robert Goodwill MP

Good morning.

The brilliant engineer Nikola Tesla wrote that there was no:

thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success.

That’s why I was delighted to have been invited this morning (12 June 2014) and I’d like to thank Will Whitehorn and Steve Yanni for their kind introduction.

I am sure you are all keen to begin the tour of this fantastic new facility so I will keep my remarks brief. I’d like to say just a few words about why making more efficient use of our existing transport network is needed and why we are backing this great, new Imovation Centre.

The promise of intelligent mobility

The most inventive period in our history was from 1700 to 1850, when the Industrial Revolution changed the economy of this country and then the world. Alongside dramatic improvements in manufacturing and chemical processing - transportation was transformed. It became possible to move huge numbers of goods and people at speeds that were previously unimaginable. By speeding up journeys and reducing the time to move people to jobs and goods to market this drove economic growth and increasing prosperity.

To be successful, our economies still need quick, reliable and safe transport links. However, the challenge we face today is different. An increasing and better off population has meant the demands on our transport network have increased.

By 2012 the overall volume of traffic on Britain’s roads was more than 10 times greater than in 1949 and our railways carry more passengers than any time since the First World War.

The result has been increasing congestion.

Already 1 in 4 journeys across Europe is marred by traffic jams and congestion. Congestion that, if we do nothing, could cost business over £10 billion a year by 2025.

Now, I realise that traffic jams have been causing frustration for some time. In 1846 Richard Kelsey, who was then Surveyor of Pavement to the City of London, asked:

whether it was really in the public interest, given the dreadful grid lock on London’s roads, for people to use private carriages rather than take the omnibus.

Traffic jams on London’s streets in the nineteenth century inspired the creation of the Underground we know today.

And we are making a £100 billion investment in expanding and improving our infrastructure and are building Crossrail and High Speed 2.

But, unlike in the nineteenth century, there is now much greater scope to do things differently. To make much more efficient use of the networks we have now. That will help provide the capacity we need for increasing demand tomorrow.

Let me explain.

Prior to the industrial revolution, the primary inputs into transportation had been either wind on water or hay and oats on land or indeed human leg power.

From the opening of the Stockton to Darlington railway in 1825, the most important resource was coal and then oil.

We now have the prospect of another revolution in transport.

The most important resource used in the 21st century transport network will be data.

The potential is there for smart networks that connect vehicles, infrastructure and passengers.

We can already see some of the opportunities emerging.

Collision sensors have saved thousands from bumps and scrapes while parking their car and indeed we are now in the era of autonomous braking, convoying of brakes and driverless cars.

The Highways Agency are making journeys more reliable by deploying Smart Motorways.

Smartphone apps, like CityMapper, are using geolocation and open transport data to help passengers plan seamless journeys between different transport modes in London.

And more than one billion hours of travel time and 3.5 billion litres of fuel are being saved globally each year due to improved navigation using social mapping.

By making more efficient use of existing networks intelligent mobility could cut traffic congestion by up to 30%, increase vehicle speeds by a quarter, cut fuel consumption by 10% and cut CO2 emissions by a similar amount.

Transport Catapult

So the potential is there. Intelligent mobility can improve the UK’s transport network but at the same time, we want Britain’s transport industries to be at the cutting edge of development.

The estimated size of the future world market is huge – I’m told around £900 billion by 2025.

The UK has all the ingredients to succeed. World-class academic research, world beating industry and a commitment to innovation. That’s why we are investing £17 million in this Transport Catapult.

Now it’s often said that necessity is the mother of invention. If that’s the case then Steve Yanni and Will Whitehorn have a very good case to be described as the midwives. Because under their guidance, the Transport Systems Catapult will bring together the best and brightest minds, from business, science and engineering to work hand-in-hand. It will transform brilliant ideas into practical developments, that will mean safer, quicker and more reliable journeys, that will ultimately grow our economy.

Take just 2 examples that are already well under way.

First, the Transport Systems Catapult has helped us increase the incentives for train operating companies to keep on innovating. In the East Coast, Trans-Pennine Express and Northern Rail re-franchises we will be ring-fencing 1% of revenues to reinvest in innovation. That’s nearly £50 million over the pilot period which will benefit passengers for years to come.

Examples of the kind of thing we might see are battery powered trains, passenger trains making use of any spare space to carry high value freight and improvements to security at stations. But what actually happens will be down to the creativity and ingenuity of the operators.

In total, we expect that for every £1 pound invested there will be £4 pounds of benefit created.

The Catapult are also working in partnership with the National Air Traffic System and Civil Aviation Authority. They are linking with the Europe-wide flight information network. Better Departure Planning Information will provide immediate real-time departure data – integrated with other modes of transport.

This will put the UK at the forefront of intelligent data handling and, by improving the efficient use of our airspace, reduce fuel costs and cut emissions. That will make the UK a more attractive place to fly to and from. That means more choice for customers, lower emissions and boosts our economy.

These are just 2 examples of where the Catapult is already leading the way.

So, to sum up.

Intelligent mobility has the potential to cut congestion, cut emissions, improve safety and save money. This fantastic Imovation Centre has state-of-the-art facilities. It will bring together brilliant thinkers, developers, engineers and builders. It will put Britain at the forefront of global innovation. And I’ve every confidence it will be a huge success.

Thank you for listening.

Published 13 June 2014