A desire to ‘challenge the dogma’ of our current system of transport decision-making and resulting divisions between central government’s modelling culture and local professionals, have been exposed in a report from a key professional body.
Released this month, the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation’s (CIHT) FUTURES report, paints a sobering picture of a timid transport sector that feels ‘professional impotence’ due to lacking the skills to embrace change or having a national transport plan to direct efforts.
Based on this research - which involved more than 200 CIHT members in 11 workshops across all 12 CIHT regions - the institution called on the transport select committee to launch an inquiry into ‘the processes that inform and influence transport policy and investment’.
‘Transport professionals do not necessarily believe in the approaches they follow but which they feel compelled to follow nevertheless,’ the report found.
It outlined two contrasting positions for the sector. The dominant position was that of being ‘regime compliant’ – typified by prediction, weak planning, cost-benefit analysis and a focus on transport as the principal enabler and consequence of economic prosperity.
This is contrasted with ‘regime-testing’ - typified by scenario planning, strong planning, "real options analysis", which anticipates the impact of later developments on any given intervention; and a focus on multiple enablers of economic, social and environmental prosperity.
Summing up the regime complaint culture of the sector, the report states: ‘The question “Is it DfT compliant?” holds significant sway over the need for local authorities to be following (at least in certain key aspects) a regime-compliant pathway if they are to secure government funding.’
The various problematic issues of this approach are compounded by an apparent lack of leadership from central government, the report suggests.
‘Central government’s lack of a coherent strategy, coupled with a decimated local government capability, was seen by some to offer limited ability to steer the transport sector which may instead be driven by new private sector entrants into the mobility market.’
Professor of transport and society as UWE Bristol, Glenn Lyons, who led the study said professionals there was clear recognition from CIHT members of the need to ‘challenge the dogma inherent in our current system of decision-making’.