Message from the Chair: How about some optimism?

September often feels like a fresh start, returning to work and school after summer holidays, the start of autumn and thoughts moving to the winter months.  I hope you have managed to get a break over the summer or have one coming up.  The last few months have been tough for transport planners and we have multiple challenges ahead with the gloomy economic situation, ongoing constraints from the pandemic and then there’s the small matter of Brexit…

So how about some optimism?  I was pleased to be involved in a Local Transport Today online discussion on 31 July where, despite the challenges for our profession I tried to find some reasons for a brighter outlook.

Firstly, transport planners’ skills are needed more than ever to support an infrastructure-based recovery from the pandemic, to deliver the government's bold new vision for active travel and to collaborate with other sectors to support the decarbonisation of the transport network.

Secondly, transport planning has a stronger identity now more than ever, through the Transport Planning Society and the chartered status of the Transport Planning Professional qualification. But we need to keep updating our image and show we are part of the solution.

And TPS supports this, through its increasing range of professional development offers, its professional development activities (events,bursary, new projects, etc.) and by its rapid response to the pandemic (PDS online, Skills Retention Scheme).

The good work and importance of transport planners was again demonstrated last week at the Transport Practitioner's Meeting held online - thus reducing our carbon footprint compared to previous years when typically 200 people travel across the country to a physical event. 

During TPM I was thrilled to be able to give our Transport Planner of the Year award to Sally Gibbons of the Department for Transport, for her work in producing the government's guidance on 'Reallocating road space in response to COVID-19: statutory guidance for local authorities'.  This guidance has played a significant role in supporting recovery from the COVID-19 emergency through encouraging safe and active travel.

I also presented the Award for the Best Paper from a Young Professional at the virtual Awards Ceremony at TPM on 2 September which TPS sponsors. The winning paper was by Sherin Francis and Katie Pearce from Jacobs for their excellent paper : "Reimagining Movement and the Transport Appraisal Process through a Gender Lens: a case study in the United Kingdom utilising a lifecycle approach." 

We need to be prepared, flexible, adaptable and resilient to all the challenges ahead, but let’s focus on the important role we play in society and demonstrate our value in the recovery - and don’t forget your Society is here to support you to do that.

Stephen Bennett

Chair, Transport Planning Society




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