The ITC prides itself on its commitment to high quality research investigating the key questions that will shape transport and land use in the years to come. This long term perspective, combined with our independence, allows us to explore many issues which are beyond the scope of most research and development bodies, and permit us to take the lead where government cannot.
Underpinning our research programme is a belief that we need to understand better the fundamental dimensions of movement and travel. We explore both practical questions affecting the industry, and those behavioural, demographic and economic issues which will enable us to better prepare for change in the decades ahead. Our research is constructive, apolitical, well-researched and relevant.
Research Programme 2019
Our research programme is designed to address key long-term strategic challenges in transport and land use of critical importance. Priority research being undertaken by the ITC includes six major projects, as listed below.
Road and Rail Travel Trends
In recent years there has been a marked stagnation in car travel demand in the UK. Research has indicated that this may be an international phenomenon: we are seeing a levelling off in car travel demand in developed countries once GDP per capita has passed a certain level. This project is investigating the reasons behind this phenomenon in the UK, its relation to increased rail travel, and modelling the effects this will have on other modes of travel.
Cities and Transport Infrastructure
Patterns of peak and off-peak travel in UK cities are not widely known or understood. Yet there is some indication that a broader ‘peak’ travel period is related to the size and vitality of a city. The economic contribution of off-peak travel is also not widely understood. Certain kinds of travel purpose are likely to be of greater value to cities than others. Significant growth in off-peak travel has been reported in recent years across many global cities, including London and New York.
There is a tension between the advantages cities draw from a busy peak in terms of justifying transport infrastructure investment, and the problems it causes with congestion and overcrowding. The ITC’s research will allow us to understand what is happening during off peak periods in terms of travel behaviour, and the implications for urban planning and economies.
The UK’s aviation infrastructure is at a crossroads: a number of different models and scenarios have been proposed, depending on whether strategic policy focuses on the development of regional airport nodes, the maintenance of a UK hub airport, or on the reduction of air travel. The ITC research will complement that of the Airports Commission by investigating the UK’s long-term aviation needs, and the economic and behavioural implications of following different options. The aim is to inform policy makers on the issues and potential trade-offs we might face for each of the alternative routes ahead.
Freight and Logistics
Freight is often a rather neglected area of transport policy, yet has critical roles to play in advancing the UK economy, in helping transport meet its carbon emissions targets, and in ensuring that our national infrastructure keeps functioning. Drawing from recent international developments, this work stream is exploring a number of important challenges, including whether improved intermodal freight operations can provide economic, environmental, and logistical benefits for the UK, as well as how to solve capacity problems and developing more efficient usage of freight networks.
Movement is one of the fundamental behaviours that underpin human life and society, yet we still understand too little about its nature, its importance, and how human travel and mobility might be changing in response to technological and social developments. This project aims to research the fundamental motivations to travel using as wide a range of insights as possible.
Technology and Travel
We are currently witnessing a fundamental shift in how we travel, from mobility as a consumer good that we can own, towards mobility as a service. This shift is being driven by rapid communications and technological changes, which allow the provision of transportation through a unified gateway that can be paid for through a single account.
How should we pay for Roads and Road Use?
The ITC has a strong record of research exploring how we might best pay for our road infrastructure, as well as the economic effects of different policy options. The importance of these issues is increasing as we gradually move towards alternative forms of vehicle power, as the revenue from fuel duty declines, and as technology advances. Yet the public acceptability dimensions of such reform still needs to be explored and tested. Supported with a generous grant from the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund, this study is examining the numerous policy options available and the critical issues surrounding their implementation, particularly public attitudes towards how we manage and pay for our roads.
In 2012 the ITC commissioned a report, Pipers and Tunes: Putting the Road User in Charge, looking at ways of reforming the governance of our roads and how we pay for them. The study, initiated by the ITC Steering Group chaired by Steve Norris, and with Phil Carey as lead researcher, recommended a number of ways forward, and explained the need for further work on public attitudes.A scoping report has been completed as well as a study of the European experience of motorway vignette systems. In phase two, we undertook a preparatory study looking at the European experience of introducing motorway charging systems, which showed that these were sold to the public by framing them as a means of taxing foreign vehicles. A relatively small proportion of vehicles using UK roads are foreign, so a different approach would be necessary here.
We concluded by running a major consultation exercise together with Social Research Associates looking at the acceptability of road reforms and a ITC Paying for Roads Technical Report. The data from this research provided new evidence that the public is much more accepting of reform of paying for road use if adequate information is provided about the impacts and benefits from any such changes.