A fond farewell – reflecting on my time at Urban Transport Group
As October draws to a close, so does my time at Urban Transport Group. So, I’m taking this opportunity to indulge in reflecting on some of my personal highlights of the last six and a half years and to recognise how much the world of transport and urban policy has shifted over that time, from the increased presence of digital technology in transport, to the sharpened focus on the need to decarbonise transport and the profound impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Work on taxis and bringing together the international conference on taxis
One of the first areas I worked on was taxi and private hire vehicle policy. At the time, apps like Uber were just entering the market and authorities were unsure of how best to approach this. And the legislation was wildly out of date for this digital age. So, wading into the weeds of this regulatory framework, I explored the needs of authorities in relation to the taxi market and the potential changes needed so that taxis could support wider public policy goals. The recommendations made in our report have been reflected in subsequent government consultations and will hopefully lead to changes in legislation as part of a transport bill in the near future. As part of this work, we also worked with UITP and Transport for London to organise an international conference on taxis, bringing together experts from around the world to share knowledge and best practice on taxi policy and operations.
Raising the profile of freight and logistics
Freight and logistics are certainly not the sexiest of transport topics. But freight does represent a significant proportion of traffic on our roads and source of carbon emissions. We often take the smooth movements of goods for granted, but the elevation of delivery drivers to key workers during the coronavirus pandemic gave us a clearer focus on their critical role in keeping our country supplied and serviced. And the disruption experienced with fuel supplies during the Autumn of 2021 sharpened that focus. My work on freight and logistics over the last six years has elevated its prominence in transport planning - including recognising the impact of increasing van traffic on our urban areas and highlighting the need for urban freight to become safer and greener.
Supporting our members to decarbonise transport
When I joined Urban Transport Group in 2016, I was fresh out of my PhD in sustainable transport. And sustainable and inclusive transport was my big passion. But authorities were still reeling from austerity and cuts, and sustainability had become a bit of a ‘nice to do’, rather than central to transport planning and provision. Fast forward six years, transport decarbonisation is pretty much top of the agenda and rightly so. In 2018, most authorities and regions declared a climate emergency and set ambitious targets for achieving net zero carbon emissions. This has accelerated action on addressing the climate crisis and decarbonising our transport systems. And nowhere is this clearer than the visit we had just this month to see progress on Coventry All Electric Bus City. I couldn’t have imagined six years ago that my home city would be making such significant progress to having a totally zero emission bus fleet, and I’m proud that we are sharing the knowledge and learning from this work across our network.
Navigating the coronavirus pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, the Urban Transport Group quickly pivoted to supporting our members in navigating this extremely challenging time for transport authorities. In particular, gathering information on managing virus transmission on board public transport and sharing experiences on keeping services running for key workers were ways I was involved in supporting the response. And working with our Organisational Development group, which brings together leaders in HR from across UTG members, to support staff, both those working on the front line and those managing the challenges of working from home and balancing other responsibilities. It felt so positive to be useful during such difficult times, and I feel sure that the connections I have made with staff in our members will be part of my network for many years to come.
I have had the most wonderful time working at the Urban Transport Group. It has been a privilege to work with our member network of transport authorities and in particular supporting them through the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021 and on transport decarbonisation. Thank you so much to my colleagues, it’s been a wonderful team to be a part of. And I’m glad that I will still be a part of the network in my new role at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Together we’ll continue to do great things.
Clare Linton is Policy and Research Advisor at Urban Transport Group