A new decision-support tool is being developed which can help provide an understanding of how future changes to long-distance transport networks will affect their sustainability and resilience.
Long-distance transport networks facilitate the movement of goods and people along transport corridors connecting different activity hubs, for example transporting imports and exports between ports and airports and major urban centres. Providing decision-makers with tools to understand the impacts of change, both in socio-economic terms and in investments and interventions in transport systems along these corridors, is an important aspect of future planning.
As part of the HVT Programme, the universities of Southampton and Oxford are co-producing a decision support tool to help decision-makers to understand how future transport interventions and investments (such as upgrading or building new roads or railway lines) might impact the sustainability and resilience of transport networks, especially given the range of uncertainties associated with future change. This tool is designed specifically for use in lower-income countries (LICs).
Future uncertainties are represented by ‘scenarios’, involving factors such as population and economy, as well as vehicle efficiencies and issues relating to policy, planning and governance. The tool enables users either to focus on only one or two major components of future change – such as population change – or to investigate alternative future situations involving multiple components.
These scenarios represent future change depending on three main factors:
- levels of transport demand – largely due to socio-demographic and behavioural change;
- the types of vehicles and fuels and how efficiently they are used in the system; and
- changes to the networks themselves, in terms of new or better maintained road and rail infrastructure.
Enabling decision-makers to measure the impacts of these changes on sustainability is at the core of this project.
One important way to provide insight into the jmpacts of change is through transport sustainability indicators. These indicators provide a means of measuring transport’s impact on environmental, economic, or social systems. They can expolore the impacts of change either through ongoing monitoring of existing transport networks, or through an assessment of possible future change.
There is currently no existing set of transport sustainability indicators designed specifically to assess long-distance transport corridors, so this project has developed a set to assess the impacts of change on these networks. The indicators are based on three main themes:
- environmental factors such as emissions, energy efficiencies and impacts on biodiversity;
- economic factors including transport costs and operational efficiencies; and
- social factors such as mobility, accessibility and safety.
A preliminary set of indicators for long-distance transport was developed and presented to a wide range of industry experts and practitioners in the case study region (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia) to determine their validity and usefulness. This was first carried out via a series of online workshops followed by an online survey, which determined the importance of including each indicator in the assessment of future change.
The results from the 32 survey respondents suggest that the proposed list of indicators is largely correct. None were rated as ‘unimportant’, and therefore all will be taken forward for use in the next phase of this research project.
In this next phase the sustainability indicators will become part of a tool designed to assess and compare different transport-related investment and policy options. Outputs from the tool will be presented in a sustainability dashboard showing the performance of different intervention options against the full range of sustainability metrics, so that the impacts of these interventions can be easily compared.
The sustainability dashboard will form a key component of the stakeholder support tool which will be developed during the final phase of the study. This system aims to provide a fast and consistent methodology for comparing the advantages and disadvantages of different options for long distance strategic land transport projects.
Authors: Adrian Hickford and Simon Blainey, University of Southampton