Read this year’s ITS (UK) Apprentice Essay winning entry in full
The UK’s Intelligent Transport Society has recognised creative thinking amongst its early careers professionals, honouring an apprentice and a student member who have won the 2020 ITS (UK) Essay Competition.
The competition asked candidates to imagine their speech at their retirement ceremony. They were asked what impact and influence on the industry they would like to envisage, and what would be the legacy they would like to leave behind.
Lynsey Michelle Turner of AECOM was awarded the prize in the Apprentice category. Her full essay is republished below:
Leaving school at 14 with no GCSEs and no idea what the future held I could never have predicted that 23 years on from that day I would have been in the position of having to choose between two apprenticeships, transport planning and a civil engineering, this decision paved my future, in the world of transport.
Looking back, I had always advocated for the improvement to sustainable modes of transport, I had a fondness for train travel thanks to my late grandad and the stories he told about working on the locomotives, my youthful experiences of sustainable travel included rambling on the Yorkshire Moors, days spent on the Keighley and Worth valley steam trains, living on a canal boat and walking the tow paths to and from Secondary school.
The one Scheme that stuck with me was from the mid 1990’s, a traffic calming scheme was put in place after several fatalities between on the route between Flanshaw First School and St Michaels Primary School, as well as new street furniture and the introduction of a one-way system, the scheme was the conception of the walking school bus, unfortunately for the time the idea of the walking school bus was short lived and was one of the most undervalued schemes that quickly fell into disrepair after the notion of multicar households became the norm.
However, around the year 2020 our everyday lives, as we knew them were about to change, it became a world of uncertainty and for all any of us knew we could have found ourselves living underground hiding from Covid-19 and Brexit, with the London Tube connecting all the way to Birmingham and beyond underneath the defunct HS2 lines.
As luck would have it those challenging times that the country found itself in during the Coronavirus Pandemic, were in some instances a blessing in disguise which lead to a large percentage of the population working from home and a nationwide restructure of the existing transport network, and being a transport planner during these trying times put me in the fortunate position of being able to be a part of several major projects, the most memorable being the reclaiming of the several disused roads and highways for the benefit of the natural habits and the return of the once again popular walking school bus with a modern twist towards a greener country.
For most, access to private vehicles was once seen as needed in order to have a productive work life and as a means of travel for essential shopping and access to medical care. However, the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic struck the world with thunder and brought a new way of life with increased popularity of remote working, e-learning, online shopping and virtual medical appointments, this made several major roads fall into disuse, giving us the opportunity to think beyond roads and highways and make a lasting difference. People were not stepping out of their homes to go to their offices anymore, schools and other educational institutes switched to online classes, and many companies opted for online service. We had to think outside of the box, come up with more innovative ideas than ever during these challenging times.
Taking lead from the ideology behind the twenty-minute neighbourhoods of Melbourne, Australia and the fifteen-minute cities of Paris, France, we aimed to reduce the current local trip distance to a comfortable commute for towns and cities across the United Kingdom, so people would be encouraged to step outside with the reassurance of a less time-consuming journey. This included rolling out more schemes with segregated cycle ways, highly pedestrianised areas in town and city centres. Such segregated spaces would facilitate individual bikers, while at the same time, prevent possible accidents from happening. Areas for pedestrians such as town squares, courtyards, and other public realms with larger spaces as the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, people would need some fresh air without the worry of having people in close proximity to them.
Public transport was once again back under the ownership of the public purse with regional combined authorities running tailor made bus and tram services for the individual needs of each area under their authority. While the responsibility of the national rail services came under the twelve regions of the United Kingdom, to continue to provide accessible local and long-distance connectivity.
The new outlook on commuting included the school run which as a knock on effect brought victory for the long-forgotten walking school bus to make a triumphant return as an alternative to the pre Covid-19 commute and as a blessing in disguise for recreating a greener environment and a healthier, more productive way of travel.
This increased activity in families’ routines and acted as a boost for mental health and overall well-being by providing energy and positivity, and it created a sense of awareness for the planet’s environment by reducing air pollution created by cars. Children were made more aware of road safety, activities like cycling and walking became safer and more appealing due to the existence of these runs, which made the people closer to nature; they would spot small animals and notice the change in seasons by the colour of the leaves of trees. This served as a great way for humanity to build connections with nature.
That’s when it dawned on me, I could be the person who led the conversion of the neglected highways that had fallen into disuse, I sold the ideas of turning former service stations into wildlife information centres and the roads themselves into pedestrian, cyclist, and horse-riding corridors using the same theory behind the schemes that came from the aftermath of Beechings cuts to the railways in the 1960’s, where the former lines became pathways such as the Trans Pennine Way and also using the success of the once industrial canals that became leisure waterways and now hold host to residential boats and water taxis.
The roll out of this project took several years to complete, with multiple setbacks and revisions of strategies but the end result not only improved the natural environment and helped the country to surpass the target for Co2 Emissions reduction but also had a lasting impact on how I as a member of the public and as a transport planner saw the future of our country and the vast improvements made by undoing the unconscious mistakes of our forefathers, from a time when they would not bat an eye for the planet’s well-being, and bringing life back into a world that was hidden in plain sight.
The sense of accomplishment I felt after the completion of this project is still of no match, commuters are now able to learn about wildlife while they make their way to and from work and people can also take a moment to look at the tips that we display on information boards for a better environment and healthy planet. We are spreading awareness at every given chance and hoping that one person that decides to read the information we display will act on those tips and in turn can make a huge difference in saving our world.
It should be noted that I can’t take all the credit as the outcome of this was a combined success, I found myself working alongside the likes of Heritage England, The National Trust and Highways England, organisations who combined their best resources and ideas to help us pursue the project further. It was a perfect example of a charitable partnership full of trust and the power of innovation.
However, with all of these accomplishments being said, I would not be here without the support of my family and friends as there were many instances in my journey where I didn’t think that I was good enough and almost gave up, but they picked me back up and encouraged me to keep going and eventually I got to a point where I felt I had made it and of course with the help of my colleagues who have displayed outstanding results and continue to work diligently, inspiring me along the way. I would like to thank them for their continuous hard work and support. They have shaped a big part of my journey and will continue to do so, despite my retirement and looking back at the challenges I have faced and conquered give me the impression that I have done something for the world and although I am satisfied with the legacy I will be leaving, I must admit that I will undoubtedly miss working as a vital part of the transport planning world and alongside the people I hold so much respect and gratitude for.
Regardless, I wish you all good luck with your future endeavours and I know without a doubt that you will help the world even more than I ever did or could even imagine to and for that I thank you all in advance.