Project: Visioning and Backcasting for UK Transport Policy

Reference: STP 19/5/10

Last update: 02/09/2009 17:17:20


Two main objectives are set for this project:

a) To test the visioning and backcasting methodologies as a means to assess challenging new environmental targets for UK transport policy;
b) To produce a set of images of the future that represent different alternative visions for the year 2030, and to determine alternative policy packages that it would be necessary to introduce to achieve those images, together with the policy paths that highlight when change has to take place.


This project will examine the possibilities of reducing transport emissions by 80 per cent in 2030 through a modified backcasting scenario building approach. It will examine a range of policy measures (i.e. pricing, regulation and technological), and assess how they can be effectively combined to achieve this level of emissions reduction. The intention will be assess whether such an ambitious target is feasible, identify the main problems (including the transition costs), and the main decision points over the 26 year time horizon.

There are three main elements in this innovative research project. The first is to set targets for 2030 and to forecast the business as usual situation for all forms of transport in the UK over that period, so that the scale of change can be assessed in terms of achieving the emissions reductions. The second is the description of the transport system in 2030 that will meet the reduction target. This will take the form of two alternative visions of the future that will push the technological and the pricing/regulatory options, separately and in combination. The third stage is the backcasting process, where alternative policy packages are assembled to lead to the image of the future, together with their sequencing in terms of when implementation should take place.

The benefits of scenario building are that innovative packages of policy measures can be developed to address emissions reduction targets. It allows trend breaking analysis, by highlighting the policy and planning choices to be made by identifying those key stakeholders that should be included in the process, and by making an assessment of the main decision points that have to be made (the step changes). It also provides a longer term background against which more detailed analysis can take place.


University College London
The Bartlett School of Planning, 22 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0QB
020 7679 7456

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £50,000.00

Actual start date: 01 October 2004

Actual completion date: 24 November 2005


Looking over the horizon - Executive Summary
Author: Robin Hickman and David Banister
Publication date: 27/01/2006
Source: Bartlett School of Planning, University College London
More information:

Summary of results

  1. The initial aim of VIBAT was to establish whether a 60% CO2 reduction target in the UK transport sector could be achieved by 2030. The analysis has concentrated on the domestic UK travel modes, which means that the actual target for 2030 is 15.4 MtC, or a 60% reduction on the 1990 level of 38.6 MtC. This target needs to be set against the expected increases in travel, with levels of carbon emissions increasing to 52 MtC by 2030.

    The two images developed generate less travel than the business as usual: with image 1 (New Market Economy) increasing car-based travel by 35%; and image 2 (Smart Social Policy) having slightly less car-based travel than now (-10%). In addition, there will be a population increase of 9% in both images, and this adds to the levels of travel and carbon emissions.

    The overall conclusion reached is that the 60% CO2 reduction target (in 2030) can be achieved by a combination of strong behavioural change and strong technological innovation. But it is in travel behaviour that the real change must take place, and this should be implemented at the earliest possible occasion. Changes in the built environment will become effective in the medium term (over 10-15 years), whilst the major contribution of technological innovation will only be effective in the period after 2020. However, it is not possible to achieve the 60% CO2 reduction target (in 2030), with the expected growth in travel (image 1 or business as usual), as the increase in CO2 emissions from this growth outweighs many of the possible savings from behavioural change and technological innovation.