Digitally enabled infrastructure

Our transport system needs to be viewed as part of a wider system of connectivity – one that embraces both physical and digital access when identifying future infrastructure requirements.

Digital infrastructure allows us to ‘connect’ with a service, be it to better plan a journey through the use of intelligent transport systems, journey planning technologies or removing the need to travel at all.

Our modelling shows that a realistic pathway to decarbonisation includes a highly connected transport system – one that provides better transport information to the user, enables better management of the network and supports rapid deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Travel is a derived demand. What we have seen in response to the COVID-19 is the extent to which our demand for travel can be shaped and changed. We have seen how the assumptions underlying our approach to transport planning need to change to reflect wider changes within society. This creates the opportunity to do things differently when it comes to the planning, development and delivery of our transport system.

We need to plan for improved digital connectivity being integral to the way companies operate and services accessed. Planning for our future transport needs must factor in the ways in which the shape and scale of travel may be changed by investment in digital connectivity. Our transport system needs to be viewed as part of a wider system of connectivity – one that embraces both physical and digital access when identifying future infrastructure requirements.

The transformative potential of improved digital connectivity to reduce the need to travel is particularly strong in rural areas, where digital services have traditionally been poor (for example, according to Ofcom, only 44% of rural premises in England have access to 4G, compared to 87% in urban areas), yet where there is often a high reliance on journeys by private car (according to census data, 64% of residents living in the Heartland’s predominantly rural districts normally drive themselves to work, compared to an average of 55% across England and Wales).

Our approach will ensure the Heartland seizes the opportunity for change – change in work patterns, change in travel patterns, change in our approach to connectivity.

What we're doing

Long-term vision

EEH is working with Satellite Applications Catapult and our partners to create a long-term vision for a 5G and satellite-enabled digital strategy.

Impact of remote working

EEH is working with City Science to identify the potential to release capacity on the transport system as a result of greater use of remote/hybrid working. The work, which draws on EEH’s previous work related to personas (which underpins the First Mile/Last Mile toolkit) is being combined with information held on sectors within the economy to quantify the scale of changes in working patterns.