When I received the very first email informing me about the conference, I ran to my managers to ask for funding and permission to attend. They found the topic and the whole conference very beneficial for me, so I did not need to put too much energy into making the business case. As a transport planner, I design, model and build transport systems on a daily basis, which requires me to predict traffic behaviour for the next 10 to 20 years, and sometimes for an even more extended period. They did not hesitate to give me approval, as they are aware that we need to understand what the future brings to be able to do our job. I booked my place, train ticket and hotel. All I needed to do was wait. The emails from CIHT keep coming, announcing speakers and topics which only fired my desire to go even more; literally, I could not wait. I arrived in Manchester the night before the event. I regret skipping the networking event, but I was exhausted from the working day and long travel. On the day of the conference, I got up early with a lot of excitement and huge expectations.
- The fact that the conference had been organised in the Science and Industry Museum already boosted credibility. I came early so that I could have time to look around before it started. “Nice place,” I said to myself. There was no better place for a conference, for discussions about the future of the transportation industry, than on the oldest surviving passenger train station that reminds us of where everything started.
- The reception started at 8:45; I believe that I was one of the first attendees. I left my bag and coat and grabbed complimentary coffee. I searched for a familiar face or anyone else from AECOM. No sooner had I finished my first sip of coffee than I found colleagues with to network. We started chatting before I had even noticed that reception had filled with many young professionals chatting and enjoying their morning tea and coffee.
- We had not been chatting for more than five minutes when other colleagues joined us. Because our chatty group had grown, other young professionals from different companies joined the group without noticing the names and companies listed on our tags. With only a glance, you could tell that great positive energy filled the room.
- It was not long before doors of the Garratt Suite opened. I was surprised by the large size of the room, yet I struggled to find a place to sit. Then, I realised how many young people came; I would say more than 300 professionals were hungry for insight.
- The welcome speech from the organisers was short and sweet, and Professor Phil Blythe from DfT continued with his presentation on how the government invests in a transport future. There was a lot of interesting and useful information. Great programs and presentations continued throughout the day, and I had the opportunity to hear how different people with different job titles and grades advise us on ways we should shape the future of transport, giving us all their valuable experience for free.
- The presentation from professor Julian Anabel was sobering with her recognisable optimistic rhetoric trademark. Her style of presentation definitely left a deep impression. The lesson is that the government’s vision of zero CO2 by 2050 will require a lot of work.
- Between sessions, I used all the available time to mingle. CIHT President Martin Tugwell approached me, and we had a great conversation on the new Health Street approach form and how radical TfL ways will transform transport planning. The break was short, as new sessions were calling, and we shook hands and went on to enjoy the rest of the programs.
- Due to a change in the timetable, I accidentally ended up at Dr Helen Bailey’s showcase session. I am not too much into engineering myself; I have no interest in what percentage of bitumen goes in the asphalt, but this presentation has a substantial philosophy behind it, and I do not regret listening. The way she connects circular economy with sustainability is very impressive, explaining why we think differently from previous generations and how that will reflect on decisions we will make in the future. Also, I found it interesting how she slightly updated Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
All good things come to an end, and so does this conference, leaving me with a tremendously pleasant experience, new connections and a large amount of new knowledge. From Manchester, I brought with me valuable industry insight and direction which I need to have in mind in my everyday work:
- How autonomous vehicles will affect traffic; will we need traffic modelling at all?
- Vision Zero and decarbonisation of the transport industry; is it achievable?
I am slightly disappointed that I was not aware of the conference before. However, now I am proud to be a part of it. I am even more aware of how my decisions may affect the way we design, model and build transport systems to serve the future.
Deni Krevesic (Danny Crew)