Climate and transport — what does the future hold?

23 Jun 2009 10:57:00.000

PA 171/09

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.

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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.


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

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Tara De Cozar

Tara De Cozar - Internal Communications Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8560 Location: University Park

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