Open and close mobile menu


Insights The UK’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan: creating a hub for green transport technology

At the start of Q3 2021, the UK government announced their transport decarbonisation plan, which is ‘a blueprint for the transport sector to achieve Net Zero by 2050’. It covers all modes of transport, with a greater focus on roads, railways and aviation.

In a reference to the plan, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps outlines a vision to ‘build back greener’. New sustainability regulations like these are just one example of the top trends driving the global transportation industry, but how are they creating a hub for green transport technology?

image of a motorway surrounded by green space

It’s time to take action

Just weeks after the plan was announced, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their Climate Change 2021 report. Since publication, the report has been labelled a ‘code red for humanity’, simply because we can’t delay taking action any longer. If governments and industries work together and act fast, we’ll be able to avoid catastrophe, and that’s just what the transportation sector is doing.

Creating sustainable economic growth

Covid-19 dealt some tough blows for all sectors, few more so than transportation. Restrictions and local lockdowns caused major supply chain issues, and many projects were put on hold with no real vision of when they could resume. But the transportation industry is on the road to recovery, green recovery in fact.

According to the UN, green recovery could cut carbon emissions by 25% over the next few years. This will help bring nations closer to the Paris Agreement and prove that sustainable economic growth is the only path to take. Nations can no longer continue growing without taking into consideration the wider social impact. Instead, governments have a responsibility to set a growth rate that supports sustainability.

Highway engineers, project managers, transport planners, and other transportation personnel have the opportunity to help nations rebuild and eliminate any negative impacts that the transportation sector has on the environment. In return, they get to work with cutting edge technologies and be at the forefront of the green transport revolution.

Getting rail back on track

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass the Net Zero emissions law, stating that by 2050, carbon emissions would be offset by removing equal measures of carbon from the environment. While rail only accounts for 1.4% of all transport emissions, railway companies admit that there is a lot more to be done if the industry is to become Net Zero.

Investing in battery and hydrogen is expected to put green recovery on the fast track, but to decarbonise the sector, the rail network needs to undergo a huge electrification transformation. The good news is that the technology already exists. Where the challenge lies is rolling this out on a scale that we’re not yet achieving. As we edge closer to the deadline, demand for professionals with the relevant experience will ramp up - just one of the reasons to consider a career in transport engineering.

How highways will put us on the road to recovery

Highways and roads have already come a long way in terms of reducing carbon emissions. Smart highways are already using traffic management systems, such as variable speed limits, to cut congestion, and they’re getting even smarter. As more electric vehicles enter the market, electrified roads will become commonplace. The first electrified road opened in Sweden in 2018, proving it possible to charge cars while they drive.

At AtkinsRéalis , we’re helping Highway England create a ' naked road network' which will improve the safety and efficiency of highways, and ensure ‘shorter journey times, with less congestion and pollution’. But to deliver this, we’re looking to use both new and emerging technologies, meaning there is a long road ahead.

Providing low emission travel is only half of the battle. The transportation sector will be under increasing pressure to question carbon output in all forms, including the maintenance of highways and roads. Putting more vehicles on the road to monitor the highways and roads that stretch up and down the UK will only exacerbate the emissions problem. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, give experts a clear picture of what is happening on the ground, without them needing to step into a vehicle.

Do you want to help us build a greener transport system?

Whatever transport subsector you’re looking for a job in, whether it’s highways, railway, bridges, tunnels, ports of aviation, we might just have a job for you.

If you choose to work with AtkinsRéalis – and its Atkins and Faithful+Gould businesses – you’ll get the opportunity to work on some of the most exciting projects that will put you at the forefront of the green transport revolution. We’re known for combining our traditional engineering knowledge with new technologies to find intelligent solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges.

If this sounds like a revolution that you want to be a part of, start your job search with us today. Browse our latest transportation jobs and discover how we can shape the future of transport together.