What now for the public transport?

As we gradually start getting back onto trains, buses, trams and tubes how will we get safely from A to B? What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for the future of transport? And where might the opportunities lie for new innovations that could make these unprecedented disruptions more manageable?

In this Connected Places Podcast transport episode, Professor Greg Clark speaks to TC Chew, a globally renowned transport expert who leads Arup’s global rail business. We’ll meet Ben Plowden, Director at Transport for London who’s coordinating TfL’s COVID-19 Restart & Recovery Programme. We’ll also meet Nicolas LeGlatin, CEO of Open Space whose AI-enabled technology is helping rail operators monitor social distancing, and Alby Miller, Software Engineering Team Lead at the Catapult who’s helping businesses like Open Space develop potentially game-changing innovations in mobility.

Music on this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions and Phill Ward Music (www.phillward.com)

Show notes

TC Chew leads Arup’s global rail business where he specialises in rail transit systems, including high speed rail, metros, light and heavy rail. TC oversaw the delivery of Asia’s first fully automated underground heavy metro system in Singapore, several new railway lines on Hong Kong’s MTR, and the London Underground Victoria Line upgrade.

Ben Plowden is the Coordination Director for Transport for London’s COVID-19 Restart and Recovery Programme and has extensive experience of the workings of both national and local government. Ben overseas TfL’s surface transport, the Mayor’s air quality programme, and major projects including the Silvertown Tunnel, the Rotherhithe/Canary Wharf river crossing and the London Overground extension to Barking Riverside.

Nicolas LeGlatin is the CEO and Founder of Open Space; a company aiming to use digital twin technology to put people at the heart of the built environment. Nicolas is an experienced director who has worked in the architecture, engineering, construction and operations sectors. He specialises in developing and applying people modelling and simulation platform technology for the use of asset owners and operators.

Alby Miller is Software Development Team Lead at the Connected Places Catapult. With a background in aeronautical engineering, he specialises in visualization-based software systems built around 3D environments and immersive technologies. Alby has led projects as diverse as BIM model management and federation, the development of GIS platforms, mobile games and the creation of city-scale VR environments.

To learn more about Arup’s insights, as well as the ideas and issues shaping the future of rail and mobility around the world, check out what they are doing on Transformative railFuture of Rail 2050 and the Future of transport.

Transport for London has published a number of publications and reports about how it’s responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including briefings for a range of different businesses. For more information, click here.

To learn more about what the Catapult is doing to support innovators and place leaders rise to the challenge of COVID-19, check out our Post-Pandemic Places Hub which explores the market opportunities the pandemic is creating or accelerating. If you found this episode on the future of public transport helpful, then you can also learn more in our briefing on Post-Pandemic Mobility.

To find out more about what we do at the Connected Places Catapult, please sign up to our newsletter!

Discussion points

Total systems approach to rail and mobility
  • Modelling and sensing data is being used by transport operators around the world to understand new modes of mobility
  • Hygiene and public health guidelines have also had a significant impact on transport operations
  • The SARS pandemic has positioned many east Asian cities to better respond to COVID
  • The need for human connectivity is likely to mean that connectivity will not decrease in the long run
  • Demand could be boosted by a demand for lower carbon travel
  • The railway, including freight, will be key to achieving net zero carbon emissions
  • The total systems approach to rail is not a revolution, but the evolution of rail within wider systems
  • Investors are focussing beyond build phase to the entire lifecycle of the asset
  • We have to think beyond rail when thinking about mobility – station arrangements, road facilities etc. working in harmony with other modes.
  • Digital technologies allow us to understand our assets in a better way and to also enhance both our asset management and our operational performance
  • Place making requires an open mind to adapt to external changes using intelligence and data
  • Integrated thinking about the needs of a greater city area and the transport requirements are critical – and this requires leadership across business, industry and local government
Transport in London – COVID and beyond
  • Mayor of London’s transport strategy, London’s mobility priorities and TfL’s business plan
  • TfL’s restart and recovery and rebuild programme
  • Restoring public trust and confidence in the public transport system
  • Working with Boroughs, schools and communities across London
  • The affect of COVID on different transport modes in London
  • Avoiding a car-lead recovery
  • Substantial reduction in transport authority income – closing the financial gap
  • Reconfiguring the physical environment to enable social distancing
  • Working with Boroughs to rethink the utilisation of public space, footways, cycle routes
  • Predicting what will happen longer term is genuinely too difficult
  • Innovation has two aspects: internal innovation within a transport authority, and enabling external innovation in the services they provide
  • Mayor’s Transport Strategy very much guides the kind of innovation that TfL encourages
  • For many cities the goals are still the same are they were 6 months ago – cutting carbon emissions, achieving equitable growth etc. and innovators need to respond to that.
  • Most world cities are now broadly pursuing the same goals around sustainable transport, energy and economy.
  • Optimising resources of a city and utilisation of assets is critical for innovation – how can we optimises scarce resources?