Optimising air quality and health benefits associated with a low-emission transport and mobility revolution in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Institute of Applied Health Research


The Government's 'Future of Mobility' and 'Road to Zero' strategies outline a second UK transport revolution, characterised by rapid decarbonisation, increased automation and enhanced connectivity. This radical transformation presents both opportunities and challenges for improving air quality over the next two decades, occurring in the context of disruptive changes in transport technology, increasing public environmental awareness and evolving transport behaviours. In this context, actions taken during the emerging transition phase will influence air pollutant sources and exposure patterns across indoor (i.e. vehicle, rail/bus) and outdoor (i.e. pavement, platform, bus station) land transport environments, with profound future implications for public health.

We recognise this critical opportunity for encouraging policy foresight, cultivating scientific advancement and stimulating citizen engagement at the air quality, climate and health nexus.

Our vision is to establish a diverse interdisciplinary network, connecting researchers across nine UK higher education and research institutions with >20 network partners, comprising commercial, public sector and non-profit organisations. We will establish sustainable connections to undertake co-definition of issues and opportunities and co-delivery of innovative, evidence-based solutions. We will deliver a varied portfolio of network activities including TRANSITION summits, problem-solving workshops, hackathons, discovery studies, site visits, policy engagement events and creative outreach activities at transport locations. Thus the network partners will achieve the ambitious but achievable goal of directly shaping future air quality, climate and transport policy, reflecting the ambitions of the UKRI SPF Clean Air Analysis and Solutions programme.

Planned Impact

The impact goals of the TRANSITION network are to:
* Establish a multidisciplinary community spanning academic commercial, not-for-profit, local government, consumer and international partners with the skills, knowledge and experience to address indoor and outdoor air quality (AQ) challenges associated with the low-emission transport revolution.
* Provide a sustainable focal point for aligned interests in a diverse stakeholder network, enabling knowledge sharing and collaborative activities across a range of disciplines, institutions, sectors and geographies.
* Provide network partners and the wider stakeholder community with new knowledge, skills and evidence to:
A. Predict changes in indoor and outdoor pollutants mixtures and associated health, social, environmental and economic impacts across land transport, over the next two decades.
B. Understand transport demand changes, behavioural responses to technological advances, environmental awareness and policy initiatives, how they impact upon AQ, health and mobility,
C. Identify the necessary technical advances, innovation priorities and regulatory frameworks for land transport in the context of decarbonisation targets, which optimise co-benefits (e.g. health inequity, social inclusion) and mitigate harmful impacts of air pollution.
D. Rethink and redefine prospective national, devolved, and local government policies to consider implications for transport derived AQ at the appraisal stage and generate possible new policy solutions to address the challenges.
* Define new AQ research priorities aligned with the UKRI Clean Air programme, at the intersection of transport, climate change and health.
* Increase public awareness and understanding of AQ and health, including the role of behavioural choices for reducing emissions, exposure risk and improving quality of life.
*Generate creative and innovative technical and policy solutions which address these challenges and identify the relevant stakeholders necessary to replicate at scale.
Based on our stakeholder analysis of the Road to Zero and Future of Mobility strategies, those groups who may contribute to and gain from the TRANSITION network are: the general public and users of transport (including civic and user groups); policymakers in national government, public agencies, devolved administrations and local authorities; commercial organisations (e.g. auto manufacturing, freight/package distribution, rail/bus operation, energy supply, consultancy, service provision); public transport operators; transport operation and financial regulators; health organisations and researchers; professional bodies; research organisations (e.g. universities, public research institutions); occupational groups (e.g. bus/taxi drivers, transport operators); marketing and communications agencies.
The expected outcome is that, within or shortly after the network lifetime, one or more new transport-derived AQ priorities will be identified and funded for UKRI or other research investment (e.g. Research Councils, charities); one or more national/local Government policies or regulatory mechanisms will be refined or reformulated (BEIS, DfT, Defra, Office of Road and Rail) ; one or more commercial partners (e.g. HS2, FirstGroupPlc) will develop and implement a novel technical AQ solution; and one of more public sector partners (e.g. local authorities, NHS England) will practically implement a newly defined, transport focused AQ policy action.
At the conclusion of the project, TRANSITION will have fostered a collaborative, coordinated and evidence-based approach to AQ, climate and transport focused policy, thereby reducing duplication and mitigating adverse impacts of potentially conflicting policy decisions. It will provide a transferable exemplar of the application of UKRI-funded research to deliver multiple environmental, economic, health and societal benefits, supporting the delivery of UK Clean Air Strategy and associated policy ambitions.


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