TPS Annual Members Survey 2019/20: what transport planners really think

Every year TPS undertakes an annual survey of its members. This gives an opportunity for them to tell us what they think outside the confines of their everyday work.  It reveals what has changed and what hasn’t in the past year and where their priorities for the future really are.

This year the results were gathered just before the current crisis and we are finding new ways to communicate with our members, especially through the COVID response initiative:

From the annual survey the picture is one where sustainable transport is seen to be at the centre of everything we do, where demand management is seen as the key tool, and that local infrastructure and regional development is more important than national “grand projets”.  Thus environmental taxation and regional airport development is strongly favoured instead of airport expansion in the South East, and the use of national road user pricing for cars and for HGVs to manage demand is strongly supported.  Walking and cycling has been their number 1 priority every year since the survey began in 2012.  On the other hand HS2 and strategic level roadbuilding are consistently very low in their priority list.

Comparisons with previous years’ results

Some key comparative results are set out below, figures for last year are shown in italics thus: (%)

Policy priorities

  • In relation to policy priorities, walking and cycling continue as members’ first choice at 68% (61%)it also achieved top spot each year from 2012 to 2017! 
  • There was also confirmation of members’ priority for Smarter Choices, tackling air quality and non-high speed rail capacity increases at.  By contrast, support for high speed rail and major trunk road schemes remain very low at 12% and 9% respectively(12% and 9% in 2018/19). 
  • Top 5 policy priorities in 2019/20 and 2018/19 were the same but with bus revenue support slightly rising up the agenda to take the number 5 spot, probably reflecting the difficulties in the sector before recent announcements.









Travel behaviour change (Smarter Choices)




Tackling poor air quality




Non-High Speed railway capacity improvements




Bus revenue support




Urban Rapid Transit schemes





Policy drivers and governance

  • In relation to policy drivers, decarbonising transport has risen back up the agenda, followed by using land use planning to reduce the need to travel. 
  • Last year’s move towards demand management to solve airport congestion was continued this year: only 11% supporting more runway capacity in the SE (17% in 2018/19),22% more regional capacity (34%), and implementing tax reform first at 65% (47%).
  • Rising support for reform of appraisal with 53% (33%)choosing “Fails to reflect key policy drivers and requires major reform” but 15% (17%) saying “decisions are always political and appraisal is not required”.  A growing74% (66%) wanted the negative health impacts of car use counted in appraisal, and possibly reflecting recent events 61% (44%)wanted an appraisal against carbon reduction targets rather than using theoretical carbon costs.
  • Strong preference at 81% (80%)for granting new powers to city regions and combined authorities, but serious concerns that these would fail without sufficient funding at 38% (34%).

Respondents and attitudes to qualifications

  • Similar sectoral split to previous years for the survey respondents: consultancies 58% (63%),public sector 23% (20%).
  • In 2016 for the first time we asked about length of time working in transport planning – 57% (62%)of respondents had 10 years or more experience and 21% (22%)less than 5.
  • Place of work showed London and SE rising (50%) (36%) and W Mid falling from 11% to 4%since last year. Other regions were stable: SW 9% (9%);NW 10% (9%);Yorks/Humber 8% (8%);and East of England 8% (7%). 
  • Continuing concern and sometimes trenchant responses to the open ended question on differences between local authorities and the private sector in developing skills – there is serious and continuing concern from both sides
  • Very high awareness of the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification at 99% (98%)but still a significant number with no plans to apply 42% (47%).  However, this has been falling slowly over the last 3 years.

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