Technology and Travel

Image courtesy of Anne-Sophie via Flickr Creative Commons

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. Ride-sharing, bike-sharing, car-sharing and on demand services are all part of this phenomenon. This has profound implications for how we use and pay for our transport networks, from passenger transport to roads. New forms of mobility pricing also offer an opportunity to improve transport behaviour, increase network efficiency, reduce costs to travellers, and reduce emissions.

The Independent Transport Commission believes that the time is right to explore how changes in mobility pricing in the UK will develop in the coming decades, and what this means for our transport networks. The reasons for doing so are compelling:

  • First, it is clear that, with new mobile and contactless technologies mobility access and pricing is easier to achieve than ever before. This includes the case for comprehensive road user charging, which is now cheaper to implement than at any time in the recent past. We also now have the ability to charge across transport modes and wed revenue to need in certain cases.
  • Second, it is evident that policy makers have not yet grasped the implications of radical changes to mobility pricing, nor, in the case of paying for road use, do they consider this yet to be publicly acceptable.

Against this background this project will assess the future possibilities for fully customised mobility access and pricing, as well as the practical economic, technical and political barriers that will need to be overcome. The research will offer guidance to policy makers on the implications for transport policy and investment. Key objectives of this study include:

  • To examine the technical and economic feasibility of full mobility access and pricing, including particularly for road and rail use, and what forms this is likely to take.
  • To explore how such mobility access and pricing can be made equitable and acceptable to the public. o To identify the policy challenges that this raises, and how policy makers should respond and seize the opportunities that mobility pricing offers.

This research is likely to be of keen interest to a wide audience, including national and local government, transport infrastructure providers such as Highways England, operators and technology companies. The objectives are also likely to chime with DfT objectives to reduce congestion, reduce emissions and encourage smarter travel behaviour.

Neil Ridley of Transport Genesis was appointed to work on the first phase of research on behalf of the ITC. Mr Ridley undertook detailed desktop research and has conducted a series of interviews with key industry representatives. The information he has gathered was further refined during a workshop hosted in June 2017 at the Cubic Innovation Centre. Initial findings from Phase 1 of the project were compiled into a summary report. It is expected that Phase 2 in 2018 will focus on exploring case studies of pilot projects of Mobility as a Service and how this is applicable in the UK.