Martin Tugwell's Presidential blog - 24 July

25th Jul 2019

Last week, the third Regional Conference was held by England’s Economic Heartland, the Sub-national Transport Body that occupies the rest of my week when not engaged on CIHT business.

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This year’s event was something of a milestone: the launch of our Outline Transport Strategy. This marks the start of a period of engagement with people and businesses on the challenges and opportunities that exist across the Heartland.

At the heart of the Strategy is its vision – ‘connecting people and places with opportunities and services’ – supported by the ambition to achieve a zero carbon transport system by 2050.

Eschewing the traditional approach of looking at transport as a series of modes, the Outline Transport Strategy puts the focus of the conversation on the user.

The Outline Transport Strategy acknowledges the challenges we face: doubling the region’s economy whilst realising net environment gain is not something that is going to be achieved if we simply follow ‘business as usual’. And if we stop for one moment and reflect on our own expectations of the transport system then we’d quickly realise that ‘business as usual’ is not what we’re looking for in our own lives.

The Heartland economy is teeming with innovation, fed by the power of our universities and research centres. The four Grand Challenges set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy act as catalysts not just for supporting economic growth but also in finding solutions (at least in part) to the need to achieve net environmental gain.

The date of our conference coincided with the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, arguably the greatest journey made by humanity; the culmination of a programme that began 8 years previously with a simple vision – to land a man on the moon and return him safely. That vision galvanised a nation, led to the creation of new materials and industries, all with the expressed aim of delivering on it. Wider society still benefits from the advances made in that period.

I sometimes hear colleagues express frustration at the time it takes to achieve things. 50 years ago we showed that we are capable of achieving great things in what are comparatively short periods of time.

The Outline Transport Strategy looks forward to 2050 – equivalent in time to 3.5 ‘Apollo 11 programmes’: time enough indeed to rise to the challenges we face as a region, as a profession and as individuals if we but give ourselves the chance to look beyond what we’ve always done and dream of what might be.

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