I've always found transport infrastructure fascinating - my years as a local journalist reporting on various proposals enabled me to indulge this, and last year I landed the perfect communications role with England's Economic Heartland.
What catches my imagination is the way transport can open up new horizons and opportunities for people and change the places it serves – physically, economically, and culturally.
Highways UK was clearly designed for me! I visited for the first time last year and was bowled over by the depth and breadth of the exhibitor stands and sessions on offer – even as someone from a non-technical background.
This year's conference, from November 7-8 at the NEC, promises to be even better. The four sub-national transport bodies (STBs) will be located together and have their own 'theatre'. The really good news is we're avoiding death by Powerpoint. Two joint sessions with Transport for the South East, Midlands Connect and Transport for the North – on the rise of STBS and the Major Road Network - will be panel-based, without a presentation in sight. And England's Economic Heartland's own two sessions – on innovation in our Transport Strategy and looking ahead to the Spending Review - will only be half-an-hour long. In my opinion this is the right length before audiences (no matter how interested) inevitably start to fidget in their chairs.
I'm already planning my 'must sees' from the conference programme. No-one will want to miss the ministerial address from Jesse Norman and our chairman Martin Tett is giving the opening address on day two.
I'll be heading to the Meridian Innovation Zone to find out more about the impact of connected autonomous vehicles – for example how we will need to adapt existing infrastructure, change traffic regulations and use the technology as an economic and social 'enabler'.
The presentation in the Safety Theatre regarding the use of VR for safety training looks interesting (I recently experienced Jacobs' powerful VR video to promote safety to young people and could see its potential). Then there's the session on the road to electric vehicles and ...too many things to see, not enough time!
We're located in the English Regions Hub, stand H12. See you there!
Adam King, communications executive, England's Economic Heartland