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As Scotland prepares to undertake a review of its National Transport Strategy ICE Scotland will ensure that the collective expertise of its members is fed in throughout the process.
What should Scotland’s future transport system look like? How should new technologies be accommodated? What outcomes should be delivered over the next 20 years? These are the questions the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland are asking at the outset of their National Transport Strategy (NTS) Review.
Running over two years, the NTS Review will update and build on the existing strategy and shape transport governance, planning and investment for the future.
The Review is ambitious in its own right but will be undertaken alongside interdependent reviews of planning and energy strategy, as well as existing economic, skills and climate change policies. Realising transport strategy outcomes which harmonise with potentially competing policy objectives is no small task and was a major theme of ICE’s recent National Needs Assessment.
The majority of transport policy is devolved but some remains with Westminster – cross-border transport, shipping, aviation and energy – which have a direct bearing on how Scotland might realise its transport objectives. Questions about the implications of Brexit and a second independence referendum, and what they mean for skills, funding and jobs – further complicate matters.
Some of the biggest unknowns are the impacts of new technologies on transport patterns and demand. Autonomous vehicles, the growth of electric vehicles, a ‘smart’ electricity grid, and 5G mobile technology - and future technologies to come – have implications for transport infrastructure and how we use it. However, data gathering and analysis is beginning to help us understand some of these changes and will become increasingly important in informing better decision making.
Understanding how these technologies might play a role in meeting the objectives of the strategy and building in sufficient flexibility to avoid getting locked into old or obsolete technologies will be a priority. It is an incredibly difficult judgement call. The Review will need to look to the experts, the data and the research for decisions based on fact rather than guesswork. ICE’s State of the Nation: Digital Transformation report and ICE Thinks programme are already focusing on these issues.
With such a broad scope it is vital that professional knowledge and experience is at the centre of the strategy. ICE Scotland will gather evidence and feed into the strategic review throughout. A short-life working group of Members and Fellows will shape key messages and help ensure that infrastructure investment, sustainability and resilience remain top of the agenda.
Getting the strategy right will be challenging but doing so will help ensure the resilience of Scotland’s transport networks, the strength of the economy and the sustainability of its rural and urban communities.
As the people who design, build and maintain Scotland’s transport infrastructure ICE Scotland members will deliver that strategy for the benefit of everyone who lives in Scotland. It is vital therefore that we ensure that all our voices are heard.