My journey into transportation started after university. I became fascinated by techniques that could be applied to clean vehicle technology as part of my Ph.D. I worked in IT and the financial sector for a couple of years before returning to clean vehicle technology as it rose up the social and environmental agenda. To make a real difference at work, I think it’s important to identify and follow the topics you are interested in. Focus on those areas and see where it takes you – your career, your clients, and your colleagues will benefit if you are doing something you enjoy.
Transport affects everybody
Transport is an industry that affects everybody – regardless of who you are, where you live, and what you do for a living. Operations and behaviour can be influenced in various ways, such as connected vehicles, signage, or the safe running of motorways.
As an Associate in Intelligent Transport Services (ITS), my role is about managing and delivering projects that make transport safer and more efficient for everyone. To make the most impact, we focus on building relationships with colleagues, identifying new opportunities to work together, and speaking to clients, finding out what their pressures and priorities are and how we can apply technology to transport to create safer, greener, and future-ready transport systems.
With an effective transport system, we can deliver economic, environmental, and societal change. We’re helping people and goods to travel across the country, introducing clean air zones, influencing people’s behaviour, and delivering positive change. Whatever part of life you’re looking at, transport affects it in some way.
Starting with social value in mind
ITS can seem quite technical and far removed from the end-user, making it hard to see the social value. As the Social Value Champion for the ITS team, I work with colleagues from different disciplines to define what we mean by social value and how we can capture it.
We’ve identified a need for training to share with colleagues what social value is, where it comes from, why we’re trapping it, and the importance of doing so. With this knowledge, we can incorporate social value into projects from the beginning instead of treating it as an incidental output or the by-product of a project.
A seamless and efficient transport system
An excellent example of using ITS to improve transport efficiency is through data. Often, the quality of data isn’t what it needs to be – there’s too much reliance on manual input, there are missing fields, or it's not trustworthy enough for people to rely on it when planning their projects or journeys.
I’m helping improve this with the Transport Data Hub, a project funded by the UK government through the Department for Transport as part of the Future Transport Zone programme. We are working to encourage transport operators and public bodies to collaborate and share data to improve its quality, extract more value, and ensure that users can trust it.
We are combining technology and knowledge to make this data even more valuable and widely available. Whether they are riding buses, driving on roads, or planning for new transport projects, users and operators of the transport network will be able to use high-quality, reliable data to make informed decisions.
An innovative mindset
Sometimes we have to take a step back and look at the wider picture to see how technology is best applied in a situation. It's not just technology that we need to consider. We also have to consider the people and processes involved to ensure the technology is used in the best way.
Economic challenges are among the biggest obstacles to reaching a better future – how will we fund a net-zero transport system? What are the implications of COVID on public transport? How will we manage the increasing levels of traffic? Environmental impacts need not be an obstacle but an objective that we must address. Both economic and environmental factors will drive the focus on how we deliver transport projects.
We have to think differently, and we have to think long-term. By looking far enough ahead, we can make societal changes on a large scale. It’s not easy to do, but we need to make brave decisions to inspire long-lasting and tangible positive change.
Discover more about digital transformation in the UK transport sector within our latest insights and trends interactive report, which features Transport Scotland’s National Operations Manager, Andrew Davidson, speaking about how people-centric connectivity is changing the transportation landscape.