How will climate change affect when, where and how we travel? And how should this influence those planning the transport systems of the future? These questions are being addressed by The University of Nottingham as part of a consortium of UK universities in a new four-year, £1.5m research project — FUTURENET.This innovative project will ask how we can make the UK’s transport system resistant to climate change, starting with what the system will look like in 2050.
Academics at the University’s Institute for Science and Society (ISS) will examine the future shape of demand for transport. For example, how will climate change affect the way we travel, and how will this affect the assumptions currently being made by planners? NHS facilities are being concentrated in larger units — could this create extra demand for transport not being addressed by NHS planning? If European holiday patterns shift so that large numbers of tourists from Germany or the Nordic countries come to the south of England instead of travelling to the Mediterranean, could our transport infrastructure cope?
“We need to think about why people travel,” said Professor Robert Dingwall, Director of ISS. “At the moment research and planning mostly looks at transport from an economic perspective, assuming that it is only important for getting people to work or moving goods around — making mobility very sensitive to cost.
“But we suspect that people also travel to maintain social relationships with family and friends, as well as for leisure purposes. This may be less sensitive to cost, while bringing important benefits in social solidarity and mutual aid that are not captured by conventional economic thinking. For example, do we want to make it more difficult for adult children to visit ageing parents if the consequence is greater dependence on local authority care?
“Most research looks at the contribution that transport makes to climate change — from CO2 emissions for example. FUTURENET asks what transport systems will have to do to adapt to climate change. ISS will work with transport planners and engineers to describe the social and economic needs that transport networks should be designed to serve.”
The FUTURENET consortium is led by the University of Birmingham. Other members include Loughborough University and the British Geological Survey. Network Rail and the Highways Agency are also involved. The project is jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the ‘Adaption and Resilience to a Changing Climate’ programme.