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Tim Strong

Transport Innovation Director & UK New Mobility Solutions Lead

So, the dust has settled on the Highways UK 2022 conference and what a whirlwind it was!

For the second year in a row, Arcadis exhibited, shared hundreds of cups of coffee and sponsored the EV (Electric Vehicles) and Alternative Fuels Theatre. As well as talking with clients and partner organisations about their challenges and our solutions, the event was also a great opportunity for Arcadis and IBI colleagues to get to know one another, following the completion of Arcadis’ acquisition of IBI Group a month ago.

Our focus for the event was on decarbonising transport which is the major challenge and opportunity for our industry. We will only achieve this by radically changing travel behaviour and by changing the fuels we use to power our vehicles. Here are my 5 takeaways from the conversations I had and the sessions I attended.

“What gets measured, gets managed”, Peter Drucker

A recurring theme picked up by many speakers, including John Larkinson, Chief Executive Officer at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) was that the very act of measuring drives National Highways’ efficiency improvements. Danny Parr, Head of EV Strategy at Arcadis and Tom Evans, Transport Planner at Carmarthenshire County Council both talked about how the SMART targets agreed in Carmarthenshire’s EV strategy give Tom the ability to hold his senior management to account to better implement the strategy.

Move over ‘range anxiety’, ‘EV chargepoint anxiety’ is hot on your heels

Developments in EV batteries means that for most drivers and journeys, vehicle range is becoming less of a concern. EV Database states that the average real-world range is just over 200 miles. However, a number of speakers, including Katherine McGowan-Downey, Senior Policy Advisor at Transport Focus, commented that drivers are telling them that a lack of reliability in chargepoint location is a growing concern.

Publish your EV chargepoint utilisation data

We need to find a way for EV chargepoint utilisation data to be published. Chargepoint operators’ commercial interests will make this challenging, however, local, regional and central government, as well as investors need this data to underpin EV chargepoint strategies. Simon Swan, Global New Mobility Director at Arcadis asked “how can we make decisions to invest in EV charging infrastructure without having a good grip on actual utilisation data?”

Breaking habits to change behaviour

How can we make it easier for people to make different travel choices and help decarbonise transport? As always, there were the obligatory references to ‘carrots and sticks’. Drivers are telling Transport Focus that cost and convenience are far more important to them than sustainability when making travel choices. Chris Boardman, National Active Travel Commissioner at Active Travel England, reflecting on his time as Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner, argued that bikes and buses are the only answer with the time available.

Horses for courses, hydrogen for coaches

There was a great discussion in the panel session ‘Electric vs. hydrogen – which is the best for public transport?’ with learning from deployments shared by Lisa Dipnarine, Senior Business Development Manager Bus Operations at Transport for London and Pete Bond, Director of Integrated Network Services at Transport for West Midlands. There were so many takeaways for me, including how can we ensure energy resilience for electric fleets so vital public transport services can continue to operate if there is a power outage? While there’s the potential of battery swap for buses, the case for hydrogen is perhaps stronger for longer distance buses and inter-city coaches.

It was fantastic to see just how much great work is being delivered across the sector, and everyone I spoke to was in agreement that there’s still so much to be done to decarbonise transport and that it needs to be delivered faster than ever!

What key points did you come away with?