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 2020
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
Since the dawn of the 21st century we have seen marked changes in land based travel trends. In the UK these changes have included a stagnation in per-capita car travel demand and substantial growth in rail travel that has exceeded earlier forecasts. Such travel trends have important consequences for transport policy and demonstrate the need to upgrade current assumptions. This ITC project is investigating the reasons behind these phenomena in Britain and also whether they will continue.
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’s research is focused on understanding the aviation needs of the UK and also the future shape of air travel. We are currently working with the CAA on a new study to explore the policy and regulatory impacts of new aviation technologies.
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. Look out for our major new book on this subject which will be released in early 2021!
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.
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.
The Spatial Effects of High Speed Rail
There is considerable uncertainty over the spatial effects of High Speed Rail on our cities and regions. It will be important to understand these economic and social effects more clearly if we are to ensure that High Speed Rail investment brings optimum benefits for the areas it serves. This ITC work stream commissioned research that drew from case studies in Europe as well as the UK’s experience of High Speed One, in order to offer fresh expert guidance on these spatial effects.
The research work involved a Call for Evidence, city workshops, and international study visits to collect evidence on the experience of HSR investment in NW Europe. The ITC’s report covering the research and the lessons applicable to the UK was entitled Ambitions and Opportunities, and was launched in late 2014 by the Secretary of State and Sir David Higgins. The ITC’s work was widely praised has also been quoted in Lord Deighton’s Growth Task Force review. The concluding phase of this study took the lessons from the research out to the major English city-regions through a series of day workshops. The result was a major report covering the city regions released in Summer 2016 and the establishment of an HS2 Cities Forum.
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.