Opinion Former Article

Industrial Strategy favours future mobility

Britain is poised to become a world leader in shaping the future of mobility, according to the Government’s Industrial Strategy which published on Monday.

A ‘Future of Urban Mobility’ strategy is promised within the next year and the National Infrastructure Commission is set to launch an innovation prize to determine how future roadbuilding should adapt to support self driving cars. A trial of 5G technology on roads for the benefit of autonomous vehicles will also begin next year.

In addition the Government promises to create a “flexible regulatory framework” to assist with the emergence of new transport technologies and business models in support of its aim of seeing fully self driving cars on the roads by 2021.

There is a pledge to consult with industry to “prepare for a future of new mobility services” such as journey sharing and to explore a “blurring of the distinctions” between public and private transport.

The Industrial Strategy also reiterates the Government’s aim of moving to zero emission vehicles through initiatives such as the £400M Charging Infrastructure Fund, promised by the Chancellor in last week’s Autumn Budget.

Government’s aim for Britain to become a world leader in future mobility is one of four ‘grand challenges’ identified by the Industrial Strategy. Each challenge will involve Government working with businesses and academia and for leading figures to come forward to champion new strategies and to work alongside Ministers.

The three other challenges cover the use of innovation to meet the needs of an ageing society, exploring artificial intelligence and data, and a shift to clean growth.

The Industrial Strategy also contains details of four ‘Sector Deals’ where Government will partner with industry to develop future opportunities in the fields of automotive, construction, artificial intelligence and life sciences.

There is mention too of a ‘Transforming Infrastructure Performance’ programme to drive modern methods of construction such as offsite fabrication, and a ‘Rebalancing Toolkit’ to support high value transport investments in less productive parts of the UK.

Previously announced policies that feature in the Industrial Strategy include:

* An increase in the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31Bn to support investments in transport, housing and digital infrastructure;
* a £1.7Bn Transforming Cities Fund to support projects that aim to reduce congestion;
* Funding of a new Major Road Network to support strategically important local authority A roads.

Among those to welcome publication of the Industrial Strategy was CIHT chief executive Sue Percy. “It is good to see the Government set out an ambitious strategy that seeks to address many of the issues CIHT has commented on in recent years, including how we improve productivity in our sector,” she said. “It is consistent with our own strategic plan and we will continue to work across the sector and beyond to contribute to implementing the strategy.”

Transport Systems Catapult chief executive Paul Campion supported the Strategy’s focus on future mobility and said it is “a positive step towards the UK gaining a share of an emerging £900Bn global future mobility market.”

But he warned there are also considerable market failures to address if the full benefits of new mobility solutions are to be realised. “Siloed thinking in our highly complex transport network and a lack of confidence in sharing data will hold us back if not addressed. Breaking down these barriers will be the key to unlocking capacity in our transport infrastructure, reducing congestion, and integrating automated vehicles into our current transport system.”

Consultant WSP’s executive director Paul Tremble commented that Government has “clearly listened to industry in developing this strategy”. He added that the Rebalancing Toolkit approach to investment in transport infrastructure in less productive parts of the UK is a laudable one.

“Beyond the recent focus on cities, it is also good to hear Government recognise the importance of towns and the key role of connectivity in ensuring they are not left behind.”

♦ Also this morning a new vision for the railways bringing together train and track operations has been set out by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

The plans will see the creation of joined up teams and, it is claimed, will make the railway more reliable for passengers. But concerns have been raised by workers' union RMT that the reforms are an effort to privatise the railways, and could lead to the end of Network Rail as a strategic body.

The rail vision also commits to explore opportunities to restore services along several lines closed during the Beeching and British Rail cuts of the 1960s and '70s.

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