Project: Achieving Personal Security in Future Domestic Travel

Reference: STP 19/5/6

Last update: 03/09/2009 12:44:38


The objectives of the project are:
1. to offer an overview of the challenges and opportunities which need to be addressed in the areas of technological developments and user needs in relation to personal security in future domestic travel;
2. to test the robustness of current and prospective future approaches to address these challenges and opportunities against a range of future scenarios;
3. to recommend future approaches, policy actions and research activities to best meet these challenges and opportunities;
4. to initiate and stimulate a network of expertise to be developed for future consultation regarding the relationship between transport and personal security.


Personal security is high on the public agenda and it is likely to be a key consideration in future decades. It could have an important influence on future domestic travel, particularly in urban areas and may affect the degree to which the Department for Transport is able to meet its objective of 'reliable, safe, secure transport for everyone which respects the environment'. Achieving future travel that is both safe and secure and which offers choice and supports personal freedom represents a major challenge and research to support this aim is essential.

The project will examine personal security in relation to technological developments and user needs.

Technological developments in transport present enormous opportunities to enhance the quality and sustainability of travel e.g. public transport services which are better tailored to replicate the convenience and flexibility of private transport including demand responsive, shared and automated systems and services. However, such developments pose formidable challenges to overcome regarding personal security and information security.

The attitudes and perceptions of users to issues of personal security will profoundly influence the shape of future travel and it will be important to consider as wide a range of perspectives as possible to ensure that future policies and services support the travel needs of all sectors of society.

A review will be undertaken of these two key areas and their inter-relationship. This will be supported by the input of expert advisors in the field, primarily through consultation with ITS UK's Security Interest Group and recognised user needs groups, through workshops and scenario planning activities. The project will advance fundamental understanding by offering an overview of the challenges which need to be addressed in this area, recommending future policy actions and research activities and initiating and stimulating a network of expertise to be consulted and developed in future research.


University of Southampton
Transportation Research Group, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Southampton, Hampshire, SO17 1BJ

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £30,978.00

Actual start date: 01 September 2004

Actual completion date: 13 January 2006


Achieving Personal Security in Future Domestic Travel
Author: Dr Mark Beecroft, Prof Mike McDonald and Tom Voge TRG University of Southampton
Publication date: 13/01/2006

Summary of results


    ASSURED research was undertaken through a combination of literature review and workshop activities. In the first work package a review of existing literature addressed current knowledge on the challenges and opportunities which technological developments in transport will be and are posing in relation to personal security. This review was given added value by the consultation of expert advisors in the field. The ITS UK Security Interest Group which includes representation from leading academics, consultants and service providers in the area of transport technologies and security formed the basis of the expert advisors who participated in a workshop, supplemented by additional relevant stakeholders.

    In the second work package a review of existing literature consolidated and analysed current knowledge on the challenges and opportunities which user needs will be and are posing in relation to personal security in travel. This review was enhanced by the consultation of a number of expert advisors in the field. The first two work packages were quite deliberately undertaken as discrete activities in order to enable comparison in the attitudes and opinions offered by the two communities. It is notable that the user needs community has a much greater female representation than the technology experts. This may have consequences for the degree to which gender issues are considered in the development of technological solutions. The absence of user group representation at the WP1 workshop reflected the fact that no organisation could be identified which sought to represent user needs in relation to transport-related technologies. It is important that communication as facilitated by the ASSURED project (see work package 3) continues if user views are to be given adequate consideration by the technology providers and vice-versa.

    In work package 3, Scenario identification and development, a review of existing scenario planning literature was undertaken to inform preliminary identification and development of alternative future scenarios for the UK (up to 2030) and the consideration of their potential implications for personal security in domestic travel. This process was developed through a workshop attended by participants in work packages 1 and 2 which focused on how challenges and opportunities associated with technological developments and the user needs might be addressed in the future.


    Work Package 1: Technological Developments

    Technological solutions in the areas of surveillance, access control and traveller information offer the prospect of profound improvements in the security of travel such as:

    . More efficient and effective tracking of suspicious behaviour and criminal activity.
    . Active monitoring to enable more intelligent, resource efficient surveillance.
    . Technologies to regulate access control will become more sophisticated and rigorous.
    . More bespoke services for traveller information will be developed with the potential to enhance personal security.

    Whilst technological developments point to greatly enhanced personal security in travel there are significant barriers and challenges to implementation that must be considered including:

    . Technological solutions which lead to target hardening may have unforeseen consequences such as displacement or increasing the severity of criminal activity e.g. biometric vehicle access may make the human being the target/weakest link in vehicle theft.
    . Human rights arguments will be used to challenge introduction of technological solutions
    . Data protection will be a key concern as the quantity and quality of information increases.
    . Public perception of effective enforcement means timely intervention to prevent crime rather than accurate recording of crime leading to successful prosecution.
    . Lack of attention to technical standards can cause avoidable delays to implementation.
    . Market reluctance to support whole journey solutions is a barrier to establishing a business case. Service providers have varying interpretations of security requirements
    . Willingness to pay and ability to pay are key issues for technological solutions.

    In order to address these barriers and challenges implementation must take account of public perceptions, clearly articulating the purposes and potential societal benefits. The ability to anticipate and address secondary effects resulting from technological solutions at an early stage will be critical to successful implementation. Robust technical standards, clear specification and strong regulation of systems and services with emphasis on data protection and individual rights will be essential to allay public concerns regarding technological solutions. A range of payment options may be used to support technological solutions, but social inclusion should be a high priority in decision making.

    Work Package 2: User Needs

    A number of current problems regarding personal security in travel were identified from the user perspective, these include:

    . The fundamental problems of personal security in travel are not fully understood
    . User perceptions of personal security in travel are highly subjective and strongly influenced by personal experience and the influence of the media
    . Given the variable provision for security in travel, taking personal responsibility is essential

    Accurate reporting and coding of transport related crime is necessary to build up an accurate evidence base to assess the real extent of problems. A national statistical database is required to support the coordination and sharing of information. Taking personal responsibility for secure travel requires education and awareness of the risks alongside information provision which supports informed choices.

    Further to current personal security concerns relating to travel, the user groups also identified a series of future issues that were likely to be significant, these include:

    . Maintaining the independent mobility of an ageing population
    . Car dependent lifestyles will mean future generations will have little experience of or inclination to use public transport.
    . The rise of the 24 hour society poses both threats and opportunities to secure travel.
    . Technology is viewed as being a threat rather than a solution for secure travel by some users.
    . Technology is viewed positively when it supports rather than replaces staff

    Strategic decisions may have to be made between supporting car use in older age through technology and encouraging public transport use through demand responsive transport (DRT) services and staff training. Potential longer term market benefits from night travel must not be lost by poor provision in the transitional period and DRT may have a significant role. Education regarding the benefits of technology is important to allay user concerns. Equally, technological solutions must take better account of user needs in design and development.

    Work Package 3: Scenario identification and development

    Scenario planning is a forward oriented approach where alternative scenarios are developed for a desired time horizon from the present situation. The aim is to develop distinctive, divergent depictions of the future. In a scenario planning exercise a number of driving forces are identified. These may be social, economic, political, environmental, scientific, technological, etc. By making different assumptions about these driving forces, different 'stories' are formulated about how they interact. The scenarios are effectively these stories. The ASSURED project employed scenario planning to develop a pair of alternative future (2030) scenarios. The initial scenario descriptions were drawn from a review of scenario planning literature. These descriptions were then developed into more detailed visions in relation to the personal security of travel in these future scenarios "I-Soc" and "Community Future" by the workshop attendees.

    Comparing the scenarios

    Scenario planning based on conflicting responses to key driving forces is likely to produce strongly contrasting scenarios. 'I-Soc' might appear to be a doomsday scenario, whilst depending on your standpoint; 'Community Future' represents utopia or dystopia. Elements of both "I-Soc" and "Community Future" can be detected in the current travel environment in the UK and around the world. The scenarios have taken these elements and pushed them to the extremes of public acceptability and beyond. However, it is difficult to predict future social attitudes or the events that give rise to significant change. It might be that the scenarios are not radical enough!

    The stories depicted have diverged strongly in relation to the role of government and the market and in the relative importance given to social inclusion. A clear divergence has taken place between the scenarios in relation to the role of different transport modes although DRT services have a significant role to play in both scenarios. There are some commonalities as the role of technology is significant in both scenarios and the pivotal importance of information is agreed. Neither scenario is likely to wholly represent the future. However the future may lie somewhere in-between with elements of each scenario forming a more complex and contrary future for personal security in travel.


    When considering the two communities engaged in the ASSURED project some broad conclusions can be drawn in terms of commonalities and differences. Commonalities lay primarily in problem analysis. Both groups agreed that low level, sub-criminal or anti-social behaviour was the most important issue preventing secure travel. By contrast, both communities viewed terrorism as a marginal issue, likely to have a limited impact on people's travel behaviour.

    The greatest difference of views was over solution development. The technology community had great confidence in the ability of technology to deliver solutions. This was tempered by the acknowledgement that technology brought secondary effects such as target hardening and displacement which must be addressed. By contrast, the user needs community gave little consideration to the role of technology in providing solutions. They had little confidence that it could deliver solutions and saw it as a potential threat to personal security in travel. This originated from a view that technology usually involved automation and the replacement of staff who were integral to secure travel. The user needs community placed their confidence in training and education and a key role for staffing to deliver more secure travel.

    The fundamental difference in the perception of the role of technology alone is a significant indicator that there is an important role for ongoing dialogue between the two communities. For technology to provide effective solutions it must pay due attention to user needs. Technological solutions that incorporate a personal element and offer the prospect of a rapid personal response in the event of an incident are most likely to receive public support. For technology to play a key role in providing for personal security in travel it must enjoy the confidence of users. This is unlikely to occur if the two communities continue to operate in isolation from one another.

    For technological solutions to gain public support interaction is essential. Hearts and minds are not won over to the benefits of technology and this will be a barrier to implementation. It would be erroneous to see the task as being solely a propaganda exercise. For solutions to be robust they must take account of user needs. Issues relating to the human/machine interface and information communication require exploration and offer the potential to support more effective, user-friendly technological solutions to support secure travel.