About the project

CIHT FUTURES explores the implications of different future scenarios for transport policy and practice. It engaged members around the UK, drawing on the diversity of their geographical, professional and personal characteristics.

In recent years, traditional assumptions about population, prosperity and traffic growth have been challenged. Experts are uncertain over the extent to which recent trends reflect fundamental underlying changes. Recognising the limitations of traditional quantitative forecasting techniques in unpredictable times, the FUTURES project draws upon scenario planning as a technique to explore critical variables shaping transport choices, divergent alternative future possibilities and the consequences for policymaking.

CIHT members’ input has been central to the FUTURES project with over 200 members particpating in workshops held across the UK. Their insights were gathered and have helped shape the report.

For more about the CIHT FUTURES project, and to contribute directly, please browse the linked pages, or contact the project team.

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The very nature of transport and society is that they co-evolve.

Transport behaviour is shaped by wider economic, social, political and environmental trends. Change in these wider conditions is inevitable, and the extent to which it can be anticipated - or influenced - has important consequences for today’s policymaking and investment.

Established transport and travel assumptions and patterns have come under serious question in recent years. Despite greater prosperity, the average individual person made fewer trips in 2013 than in the mid-1990s - 16% fewer in England. Car trips per person were 12% fewer in 2013 than 2003, with business and shopping trips down almost one-fifth*.  Increasing population has offset reducing trip rates per person in terms of total distance travelled on our road networks. Changes in total distance travelled by road type over time are shown below.  In the latest three year period, traffic growth has resumed.

Questions remain concerning the long-run link between economic activity and road traffic activity. The ‘traffic intensity’ of economic activity has been in a period of decline – particularly attributable to large urban areas where economies have grown as traffic mileage fell in absolute terms.

The project

The February 2015 CIHT Council meeting debated work by Professor Glenn Lyons (UWE Bristol) on the uncertainty over future demand for transport and the implications for policymakers. Council agreed a CIHT project involving more members in such debate would be worthwhile.

CIHT FUTURES has subsequently been taken forward with the following objectives, namely to:

  1. provide a meaningful initiative that draws upon the new regional structure of CIHT

  2. engage the CIHT membership in forward thinking, reflective of CIHT’s status as a learned society

  3. draw upon the diversity of experience and expertise of CIHT membership to critically examine the outlook for transport and to produce insights concerning the approach that is now needed when addressing transport policy and investment in the face of uncertainty

  4. provide a resource and catalyst for wider engagement nationally both within and beyond CIHT in addressing future uncertainty.

FUTURES report

CIHT asked Professor Glenn Lyons to carry out a wide ranging series of workshops around the UK, involving over 200 CIHT members. Glenn’s report is a fascinating picture of our members' view of how we should deal with uncertainty and has some key recommendations as to how CIHT and others should respond.  The final report has been a catalyst for further work by CIHT.

Uncertainty Ahead: Which Way Forward for Transport?
FUTURES in practice - Smarter thinking for a better future 

Related Information


Profession voices unease over transport appraisal practices - article in LTT

Got a question?

For more about the CIHT FUTURES project, please browse the linked pages, or contact the project team.


Get ahead with CIHT Membership

Join other savvy professionals just like you at CIHT.  We are  committed to fulfilling your professional development needs throughout your career

Find the right membership for you