“I’m Paul Campion and I’m angry,”

That’s how moderator Paul Campion the CEO of the Transport Research Laboratory started his keynote panel discussion at the Highways UK conference in Birmingham this morning.

“I’m angry because we are in an industry with some non-negotiable deadlines and our budgets are going down because we are losing our arguments, we’re not telling them effectively,”

Campion opened the discussion by referring to lack of change in the transport industry despite the inundated amount of promise and hope for the future by the businesses within it.

“I’m angry because we tell ourselves it’s going to be different in the future but why aren’t we getting any better?”

The panel discussion was joined by a selection of tech and innovation experts from the transport industry, all probed by Campion with the same question, how can we actually adopt change in transport with innovation instead of continually promising it?

Campion provided rationale for his disappointment, highlighting that the transport industry acquires only 2% return, productivity only goes up around 0.4% each year, and yet 1,600 people a year still die on British roads.

“I think we need a change to the whole model of the transportation system,” commented panellist Mark Enzer a strategic advisor from Mott MacDonald. “The planet is burning and we are not going to achieve Net Zero without a more strategic and joined-up solution,

“We need to unlock the performance of existing infrastructure and not just constantly introducing new stuff,” Enzer added.

The moderator of the panel backed up Enzer’s argument that the system needs an urgent re-model, pointing out the empty chair left by Richard Pedley Chief Officer at National Highways who had to miss the conference due to a train cancellation.

Annette Pass, a scientific adviser at the Department for Transport, contributed to the discussion by pointing out “This isn’t about pouring money into innovation, it’s about creating connected ecosystem that is all about driving towards a de-carbonised future.”

The consensus of the panel seemed to be that change is easily achievable with the systems we already have in place, they just need reconfiguring into a connected ecosystem for transport.

If nothing new needs to be made, then that raises the question of whether innovation is really being leveraged?

Peter Baynham, a director at AtkinsRéais, closed the panel’s opinions by stating that change does not always equal ‘new’.

He said: “No one person or company has the magic solution, innovation and change come from people working together in this industry, not apart.”

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