The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) held its 2020 South West Regional Conference at Reed Hall, University of Exeter sponsored by WSP. A registered charity, CIHT is a learned society and membership body with 12 UK nations/regions and a number of international groups. It represents and qualifies professionals who plan, design, build, manage, maintain and operate transport and infrastructure.
‘Rejuvenation and the Economy: Insights into how transport can influence regional prosperity’ was the topic for this year’s annual CPD event. The tightly packed conference programme was well received by a 60 strong audience with eminent speakers travelling from across the region to speak on the future of transportation from planes to trains, active travel to highways and more, followed by lively Q&A and group sessions.
SW regional chair, Nik Bowyer said: ““Links between transport and the economy have been well studied and the impacts of transport on improving economic fortunes are frequently cited as justification for transport schemes both globally and in the South West region. Recently, HS2 has been given the green light by the government in large part due to its expected positive impact on regional economies, so this is a great time to explore the linkages between transport and the economy in the South West.” He adds: “We’ve been incredibly lucky to secure eminent speakers at the top of their profession from across the South West and have the opportunity to debate the impacts of the region's transport – both positive and negative. It’s been pleasing to see people engaging and taking part. I’d like to thank our members for coming with positive, open minds and our sponsors WSP for helping to ensure the conference was a great success.”
President and Chair of the Board of Trustees, CIHT Martin Tugwell’s theme was ‘Shaping Tomorrow Today’. He said: “My Presidential theme highlights the key role that our members have in shaping the future each and every day – whether it’s maintaining our existing assets, delivering new investment or planning for the future. What’s important is to recognise what we do makes a difference to the lives of our communities and businesses.” He adds: “As transportation professionals we must address the challenge that comes with the ambition to support economic prosperity whilst at the same time delivering on the need to achieve net zero-carbon no later than 2050. This cannot be business as usual; we need to apply our skills, insight and innovation to identify solutions that address this challenge and to do so at pace. Transportation professionals need to be not just the advocates of change but the agents of its delivery.”
Julie Gregory Senior Sponsor, South West Rail Resilience Programme at Network Rail gave an update on the future-proofing of the Dawlish railway, saying 134 trains carry around 12,500 passengers along this section each weekday. She went on to emphasise that the railway is a vital artery for the South West and how the Government had underlined this in its statement that: ‘protecting the line at Dawlish is a national priority of the utmost importance.’ Julie concluded: “Every failure has a huge cost to the local and regional economy as well as significantly disrupting residents and businesses that rely on the railway. Doing nothing is not an option!”
Dr Steve Melia - Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning at the University of the West of England presented on ‘Does Transport Investment Really Boost Economic Growth?’. He gave a very different perspective on the theme, contrasting with the other discussions on this subject by giving an alternative view from transport influencing the economy by considering the reverse; that in fact the economy drives transport investment.
Attending as a delegate, Graduate Transport Planner Lisa Thomas – Mott MacDonald said: “I found the event really interesting as the speakers encouraged you to think about topical issues in a new way. It’s very exciting to be part of the transportation profession helping find new and innovative solutions to the challenges society face.”
The conference was followed by a black-tie awards dinner in the evening with 170 guests from the construction industry at the Great Hall, Exeter University and a charity raffle raised £1790 for Freewheelers EVS, a voluntary blood bike charity.