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Information technology could play key role in making travel easier, safer and greener

25 January 2010

Eco-driving, videoconferencing and increased connectivity on public transport are some of the ways information technology could help make travel in the UK easier, safer and more environmentally friendly in the future.

A new report published today (Monday 25 January) by the Sustainable Development Commission says innovations in information communications technology (ICT ) could have an important impact on improving fuel consumption and safety, cutting down on the need for time-consuming transport, and making the journeys we need to take more enjoyable.

The Commission’s report Smarter Moves: How Information Communications Technology can promote Sustainable Mobility looks at how ICT could transform the way we choose to travel, and so make both our travel and our lifestyles more sustainable. It concludes that, while not a silver bullet, a concerted Government and business focus on ICT solutions could help provide answers to some of our most pressing transport problems.

Transport currently accounts for 29% of the UK’s total domestic and international carbon dioxide emissions, and is the only major sector where there is still an upward trend in CO2 emissions. Almost 70% of UK transport emissions come from road transport, with more than half of this from cars.

The report finds that ICT solutions could help reduce carbon emissions, congestion, accidents and noise levels, as well as improving health and air quality by reducing the need to travel; making public transport easier and more pleasant to use, and helping people to drive more efficiently. Ensuring adherence to speed limits – particularly through the use of intelligent speed adaptation – would have significant safety benefits, and better use of parking controls, tolls and road pricing could improve transport network efficiency.

However, the report warns if ICT solutions are not developed within a wider sustainable transport framework, they have the potential to encourage unsustainable travel, for example, cars could become more attractive to use if ICT made them cheaper to run.

Stewart Davies, Business Commissioner at the Sustainable Development Commission, said:

“While information technology alone won’t provide all the answers it could go a long way towards making travel in the UK safer, more pleasant and more sustainable.

“Already, eco-driving technology can help motorists spend less at the pumps and reduce their emissions; better information can make using public transport easier, and videoconferencing technology can help business travellers avoid some journeys altogether. It can help provide a better work-life balance, ensure we have more time with our families and as well as more productive working time. Increased, reliable internet connections on public transport could transform journeys into time well spent in a moving office, or for leisure travel – a cinema.

“Government and businesses in the UK must rise to the challenge of working innovatively together to improve the quality and accessibility of ICT transport solutions. The results could help the UK meet a broad range of economic, environmental, and health goals.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Government to form a cross-departmental team to engage with business on developing opportunities for ICT-enabled mobility, including creating a UK network of high quality video conference facilities
  • Department for Transport to work with UK businesses and the National Business Travel Network to increase the number of organisations allowing and promoting home working
  • Further investment in public transport to ensure that improvements in sustainability keep pace with or exceed those of private vehicles
  • Public transport providers to make all service information freely available to third parties to create travel tools helping people make joined-up door-to-door journeys
  • Government to revise transport funding arrangements to allow local authorities increased flexibility between revenue and capital funding to cover ongoing ICT support and maintenance costs
  • All public sector employees who drive a vehicle as part of their job to be given eco-driver training to help drive safely and fuel efficiently.

» Download Smarter Moves: How Information Communications Technology can promote Sustainable Mobility

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