The industry needs to play a vital economic and societal role in supporting technological progress and shaping the communities of tomorrow. Our respondents share a willingness to embrace challenges and develop fresh approaches to longstanding problems.
There is a clear desire for collaboration and knowledge sharing. This includes a desire to work with other stakeholders, to learn from the industry’s successes and failures, and to take inspiration from elsewhere. But this must be done sooner rather than later.
In 1990, less than 15 percent of the global population lived in cities with populations of more than a million. According to forecasts by The Economist, that number is projected to rise to more than 27 percent by 2030. By then, nearly nine percent of the population will live in mega cities of 10 million or more.1
The European Environment Agency (EEA) expects Europe’s urban population to reach nearly 575 million in 2030, an increase from approximately 547 million in 2015.2 North America’s cities will experience similarly brisk growth, with the number of urban dwellers on the continent growing from 300 million to 345 million during the same period.3
The problems aren’t unique to the developed world. In China, for instance, 100 million rural workers are expected to move to cities between 2014 and 2020.4 How do we provide current and future infrastructure for this growing population?
New tools to deliver infrastructure faster, smarter and better
The emergence of new technology will certainly help the industry respond to the demands of societal change. Recent years have seen some hugely exciting developments.
Transportation is being completely transformed by digital railways and autonomous vehicles. Hyperloop transportation systems — high-speed “pod” travel between cities — will follow.5At the same time, beyond transportation, we have entered the era of the smart city. The pioneers of high-tech, intelligent urban environments, such as Chicago, Amsterdam and Singapore, are using emerging technologies — from data analytics to sensors and the internet of things (IoT) — to govern better, increase environmental sustainability, and improve the networks and systems that support the everyday lives of residents.67
And yet, to make the most of the new tools available, the industry needs to learn how to overcome some significant emerging challenges.
It's 16 years before High Speed 2 is fully open to Leeds and Manchester. That’s a long time. If you go back 16 years, Apple had just launched the iPod. It seems a lifetime ago. So I think the issue for us is around thinking, ‘Well, what would a railway look like in the 2030s?’ We can’t predict what’s going to happen but we are giving this consideration into the way we design the railway system as a whole.
Mark Thurston, Chief Executive Officer High Speed 2
Managing external pressure
For many industry professionals, their ability to adapt to a changing society will be reduced by external factors.
Meanwhile, respondents question the industry’s resilience to a growing range of modern-day threats, including climate change and cyberterrorism.