Gowling WLG transport report calls for greater public-private collaboration to keep cities moving

20 February 2018

International Law firm Gowling WLG, in collaboration with the London Transport Museum, Arup and Thales UK, has brought together more than 60 leading thinkers and decision makers in the transport industry to consider the challenges and opportunities facing city transport systems and infrastructure in the UK.

The findings, published today in Rethinking Urban Mobility: Three questions that will shape the future of transport in cities, have highlighted the following priorities and actions for policy makers, city leaders and built environment professionals to achieve sustainable urban transport systems.

Over the course of 2017, three roundtable discussions were held at London Transport Museum as part of its Interchange thought leadership programme. The topics included changing transport user demands, autonomous and intelligent technology and strategic policies needed to achieve change.

Report highlights include:

Greater public-private collaboration

New forms of collaboration between the public and private sectors are needed to achieve a legislative framework that is responsive to user demand and new technology. To be successful, cities must treat demand responsive transport (DRT), such as ride-sharing schemes, as part of the public transport system. The report calls for the public sector to create frameworks to work with private mobility companies to deliver efficient services. Data sharing agreements between public and private bodies will enable new services and create more efficient infrastructure.

Enabling bold local decision-making

Bold and capable city leadership is required to drive innovation. Central Government should devolve transport strategy and funding decisions to city authorities to improve local transport networks. Cities have unique challenges and city authorities need to develop innovation and financing models that are adaptable and resilient to the demands of the population and the needs of private mobility companies. More locally elected mayors would increase the visibility and legitimacy of local decision-making power and enable the development of interdependent urban transport systems. The Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy, for example, sets policies and proposals to reshape transport in London over the next 25 years demonstrating clear leadership for the city.

Seamless journeys and new technology

Seamless multi-modal journeys will only be possible if cities take an open approach to both transport providers and mode of travel; the user must come first. Cities must create strategies to engage with DRT and ridesharing services, or plan to provide more seamless journeys with their own new services. Significant technical and regulatory barriers to autonomous vehicles (AVs) exist, to overcome these cities should promote local investment in research and development and encourage central government to invest and work on rolling regulatory reforms concerning the legality of AVs, product liability, insurance, data protection and cybersecurity.

Contributing to lower carbon emission targets

The findings highlight that cities must commit to low or zero emissions targets and incorporate related policies into their planning cycles. The Government must use economic incentives to reduce energy consumption across the transport network to help the UK achieve its decarbonisation targets. Transport is the largest consumer of energy in the UK with 74% of energy consumed through road transport. Vehicle and engine efficiency improvements and the growth of electric and alternative fuels are reducing carbon emissions, as well as reducing the cost of transport.

Affordable public transport

Low income households are disproportionately impacted by public transport accessibility and safety implications, including air pollution. Cities must create affordable and sustainable public transport to support social and economic mobility. The findings also highlight the need for public transport authorities and private enterprise to work together to ensure city transport systems can provide equity, privacy and safety for all users.

Health and wellbeing

Cities should enable and promote active modes of travel to ensure physical and mental wellbeing of the urban population. Transport is responsible for 32% of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK and is the greatest cause of noise pollution in cities and towns. Cities must invest in the public realm to support and encourage active transport, including walking and cycling. A walkable city relieves pressure on public transit, as well as improving health and wellbeing. City authorities should incentivise a reduction in private car trips and ownership, which would also improve air quality and reduce noise pollution.

Gowling WLG Housing Development and Regeneration partner, Giles Clifford, said "There are opportunities to be grasped, questions to be answered and lessons to be applied from the past, to enable our cities to make the best use of the current revolution in transport technologies and ensure that it is used to the best advantage of their inhabitants, present and future. This creates a huge challenge for the leaders of our cities, those working in transport, technology and the built environment, our lawmakers and all those citizens whose opinions, choices and democratic rights will determine whether or not this is achieved."

Sam Mullins, Director for London Transport Museum, said: "From the arrival of the first horse drawn bus in 1829, to the Oyster card in 2003, to using contactless payment today, London and other UK cities are constantly being transformed by new technology".

As part of our Interchange thought leadership programme London Transport Museum held a series of heated discussions on a range of pressing issues such as how technology will impact the way we travel in our cities and the need for bold local government. This new report is a culmination of those ideas.

"Read it, share it, like it, or dislike it. Ultimately we hope that the public and private entities can work together to make all our journeys better."

The report was produced by Gowling WLG as part of the Interchange programme at the London Transport Museum, in collaboration with Arup and Thales UK. The views of over 60 transport regulators, academics, data providers, and consultants around the complexity of changes in the transport sector were gathered to produce the findings.

Download the report.

Media contacts

Ben Griffiths Senior Corporate Communications Executive Birmingham