Choose to unlock economic growth, choose a clean city to work in, choose quicker commute times, choose well connected and frequent public transport, choose the bus, choose to walk, choose to cycle, and choose to keep building that wonderful tramline …. I feel like this could be an unpopular soapbox with my colleagues in Edinburgh. Bear with me a minute.

Transport networks are reaching capacity in the UK. When we talk of change in the automotive industry we immediately think of electric vehicles, which is a change we unreservedly support. But if we all owned an EV tomorrow, our commute time wouldn’t change. Ryan highlighted the rapidly decreasing commuting speeds a few weeks back.

This is a problem.

The National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), released earlier this year, highlighted that productivity is too low in too many UK cities and a lack of transport infrastructure is a key contributor.

This is a problem that will get worse.

In 1970 around 77% of the UK’s population lived in urban areas. That figure has increased to 83% today and is predicted to hit 92% by 2030 according to the World Resources Institute. What’s more, the UK’s highest value jobs are found in London and it is projected to grow faster than anywhere else in the country.

It’s all about capacity.

In order to unlock growth within our ever growing cities we will need to increase the flow of people in, out and around them. The NIA measured how our city roads cope during peak hour traffic compared to off-peak traffic. As the size of an urban area increases, the capacity of our roads during rush hour quickly depreciates. Manchester’s reduction in capacity during peak hour? -56%. Greater London? A whopping -76%.

So we need to increase capacity, but how best to do it? Invest in high capacity public transport modes of course!

We have pulled together some data from the Norwegian Centre for Transport Research that gives a clear picture on how to increase travel capacity throughout highly populated areas. Walking and train/ tram come out as clear winners.

Source: Norwegian Centre for Transport Research

The good news is there are organisations out there that are currently involved in high capacity UK infrastructure projects. For instance, Transport for London recently completed Cycle Superhighways 3 and 6, each carrying between 7,000 and 8,000 cyclists during peak hours. The Crossrail 2 project, which would add 10% to London rail capacity and bring an extra 270,000 people into London during peak hours, is due to start work in 2020. NetworkRail are investing to increase the speed and the capacity of the Edinburgh to Glasgow rail line and are also adding 42km of new tunnel in London as part of the Elizabeth line – another significant capacity increase.

So yes, let’s keep choosing to build and invest in higher capacity transport modes to keep our cities moving.

More tram disruption anyone?

About the author

Euan Ker is a sustainable investment analyst. He is responsible for analysing and monitoring environmental, social and governance factors within the Global Sustainable Equity Strategy. Euan joined us in 2014 as an investment implementation analyst with responsibility for implementing macro investment decisions across a number of fund-of-fund mandates, totaling some £13 billion under management. Prior to moving to the ESG Research team in 2018 his responsibilities also included asset class, regional and currency hedging overlays through derivatives. Euan has a 1st Class Honours degree in Management with Economics from Robert Gordon University. He has the IMC professional qualification and has 4 years’ industry experience (as at 30 June).

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