Professional Development for Transport Planners: the TPS PDS

The Society is committed to fostering the professional development of transport planners at all levels to enable them to:

  • obtain the relevant skills, both technical and generic;
  • continually extend their skills over their career, to meet changing needs; and
  • enhance the standing of the profession.

It has supported the development of an apprenticeship for transport planning technicians, and since 2019, a degree apprenticeship for transport planners. It provides the industry standard Professional Development Scheme for graduate level staff.  An overview of the TPS PDS can be downloaded by clicking here.

The PDS fulfils the Knowledge requirements of the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification so successful completers do not have to submit a Portfolio of Technical Knowledge (PTK) to get their TPP.  There are also special arrangements for those studying the degree apprenticeship to undertake the PDS at the same time, putting them on course for the TPP.

The PDS - latest version

Following the recent Review of the TPP, undertaken for the TPS/CIHT TPP Partnership by Professor Glenn Lyons, guidance has been clarified, expanded and updated.  The TPS PDS has also been revised to maintain full compatibility, with the new version (Version 4) taking effect from June 2021. A copy of Version 4 can be found here.

The opportunity has also been taken to incorporate some of the content from PDS Advice Notes, remove duplication, increase clarity, and improve consistency.  The PDS Managers, the TPP’s Professional Standards Committee and the TPS Board who have reviewed drafts and made important contributions as the work has progressed.

Mapping the PDS Units to the TPP is now even easier and includes a closer alignment in the Professional Skills Units, which have always been integral to the PDS.  Travel planning has been widened to include travel behaviour change of all types, modelling and appraisal reflect advice and guidance from both TPP and PDS, and items such as public and stakeholder engagement have been defined more clearly.  Overall the base number of Objective Record Sheets (ORS) required has been reduced from 47 to 37.  The same number of Additional Experience records are still required, depending on the options chosen.

Version 4 should be used from now (June) onwards for new PDS members.  We are suggesting that those already participating in the PDS should have two options:

1)            continue with Version 3.1 and complete the scheme using the existing guidance provided; or

2)            use Version 3.1 for those Units they are close to completing and Version 4 for other Units.

Why follow the TPS PDS?

Progressing a professional career from entry at a graduate level requires a structured personal development plan. A plan designed to guide younger staff in obtaining the breadth and depth of competence in both the technical and generic skills expected of a true professional.

Likewise, there is a need for employers to provide their staff with opportunities to develop their initial career, and then to continually develop their skills over their career, so they have highly competent, professional staff, with a breadth of vision together with a depth of expertise to meet the demands placed on them.

Central to the Society’s commitment to fostering the development of skilled transport planners is the Professional Development Scheme, the TPS PDS, which has become the industry standard since its launch in 2008, with most of the leading consultants using it, as well as a growing number of local authorities.

For the transport planner, the PDS provides a detailed framework within which they develop their technical and generic professional skills over the initial years of their career. For those with a UK Honours degree (or its equivalent) but without a TPP approved transport Masters, completion of the PDS provides exemption from the TPP Portfolio of Technical Knowledge (PTK)

For the employer, use of the PDS encourages their staff to obtain the range of skills required to be able to work effectively as professional. It is also provides a useful performance metric, enabling them to track progress and commitment to personal professional development.

Designed to meets the needs of transport planners, whether recent graduates, career changers or those with an established career, the TPS PDS requires those following it to obtain:

  • the knowledge that underlies both transport planning and key generic skills, including communications and management
  • experience of work in a wide range of transport planning activities, with an ability to supervise others working in some activities
  • an essential set of management and communication competences.

The PDS Structure

The TPS PDS consists of a set of 18 Units, some of which are mandatory, while others are used to provide a set of choices. Eight of the 18 Units are concerned with management and generic skills (such as communicating and inter-personal relations), two are concerned with policies, laws and regulations, and eight with transport planning techniques, such as data collection, assessment, public consultation, plan development and travel planning. Each Unit consists of a set of Objectives. Progress through the PDS is measured by the completion of the individual Objectives of the set of Units selected by the trainee.

The PDS is based on four levels of competence – Awareness, Knowledge, Experience and Proficiency - with Proficiency requiring an ability to work unsupervised or to supervise others. This is only required for the technical unit covering data. 

Assessing Progress through the PDS

Each trainee must be supported by a PDS mentor, a colleague from within the trainee’s organisation who has been trained by the Society. PDS mentors advise their trainees and assess their progress, Objective by Objective.

To ensure consistency between mentors, as well as between licensed users of the PDS, the Society operates a PDS Review Process, in which trained Reviewers meet with PDS trainees and their mentors at least twice while on the Scheme. If the Reviewer has any concerns, they are identified and a programme for their agreed for them ton be addressed. The Reviewer then meets the trainee and their mentor to assess whether the changes have been completed satisfactorily.

The PDS and the Transport Planning Technician Apprenticeship

A Level 3 apprenticeship scheme for transport planning technicians has been developed under the Department for Business, innovation and Skills’ Trailblazer programme. The apprenticeship is designed to provide a work-based route through the apprenticeship qualification as a technician, then through the Society’s Professional Development Scheme to the TPP qualification.  With the new degree apprenticeship now in place, the PDS can be undertaken at the same time to provide springboard to the TPP.  The apprenticeships, the PDS and the TPP are all mapped to the same technical and behavioural content so should be completely consistent.  This provides school leavers as well as graduates with a well defined route to a career as a professional transport planner. For further information, contact the Society at

COVID 19 and the TPS Skills Retention Scheme 

The TPS PDS operates consistently across all Stakeholder organisations and as a result transport planners who move between employers can maintain their progress on the PDS.  However, in the current Covid situation, some PDS trainees have been furloughed and others may unfortunately find themselves without a job.  To ensure that trainees are able to continue their professional development in transport planning, the TPS will offer a package of support so that they can continue to progress through the PDS (and possibly complete) until such time as they find new employment in the industry. 

Trainees who are furloughed

Trainees who are furloughed by their employer may continue with the PDS, recording their learning and recent experience to keep their records up to date. If they have learning objectives to complete, they may read around those topic areas, listen in or participate in web-based events, write up their records as normal and submit them to their mentor for feedback or sign off.  This also applies to those that record their evidence through Quarterly Reports or Supplementary notes.

If their mentor has also been furloughed, the mentor may not be permitted to support them and the trainees should contact their PDS Manager to see if another mentor is able to take over the mentor role.  If this is an issue, trainees should contact TPS via

Trainees who find themselves redundant

Trainees who are made redundant should notify the TPS via providing basic details including their employment and PDS mentor on the form which can be found here.  They should also provide a summary of their progress on the PDS chart if at all possible.  The TPS will review their details, add them to the Register, and find a volunteer from their pool of trained mentors to support them so they may continue on the PDS.  Their current mentor may be able to adopt this role, but outside work time.  TPS will continue to support the mentors and trainees, especially in regard to first and interim reviews which will take place without trainees having to be employed by a licensee. These will be conducted remotely and possibly in small groups. 

Trainees may have difficulty in gathering new Experience in the technical units while they are not employed, but there are a range of opportunities to acquire Knowledge.  For example, there are a far greater number of webinars and other web based events being held in the current situation and many are likely to continue.  There are also well established schemes with courses mapped in whole or in part to PDS.  TPS will set up an information exchange as a next step in this process. Although most of these events will contribute to their Knowledge it is also possible for them to acquire Experience, particularly in the M and CCE Units which also cover skills outside transport planning. In addition they may be able to find work outside paid employment, such as volunteering.  Overall TPS will continue to give advice and support to help trainees continue their professional development and complete the PDS.

The benefits for trainees are clear.  Not only will they be able to continue to progress their professional development and work towards IncTP, they will be able to demonstrate to prospective employers their commitment and motivation to pursue a career in transport planning and hopefully will be able to make an easier.

Completing the PDS

The time required for completion of the TPS PDS varies between individuals, depending on their knowledge when they commence, their prior experience and the frequency with which they are able to move between projects, to gain the necessary breadth and depth of experience. Most of those starting as new entrants to transport planning will need about three years to complete the PDS, although it might be possible to complete it within more quickly for those with exceptional opportunities to gain the necessary breadth and depth of experience.

What do transport planners think of the PDS?

As clicking below demonstrates, many leading transport planners see the TPS PDS as being of great benefit to those in the early stages of their career, as they explain in response to a series of questions.

Progressing from the PDS to a Professional Qualification

Those completing the PDS will have obtained much of the breadth and depth of skill they need for award of the TPP, the key professional qualification for transport planners provided by the Society together with the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT). Those with an accredited engineering degree and who wish to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng) should have many of the competences required, although they are likely to need additional skills in engineering principles and health and safety. Completion also satisfies the experience requirements for Chartered Membership of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT). 

The Availability of the TPS Professional Development Scheme

The TPS PDS is available under licence to any Stakeholder member of the Society.

Local Authorities are eligible for a bespoke arrangement to join the PDS. 

There is no charge for individuals participating in the PDS other than standard membership of the TPS.

Further Information

An overview of the TPS PDS can be downloaded by clicking here.

For answers to some frequently asked questions about the TPS Professional Development Scheme and the TPP qualification please click here.

Click here for a leaflet for younger transport planners thinking about joining the PDS through their employer.

Watch the latest webinar introducing TPS for potential new trainees by clicking here.

If you would like to contact TPS for further information on the TPS PDS, please e-mail


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