A day in the life of Will Fooks, principal transport planner, TfL Surface Transport
I cycle to work every morning normally choosing a different route to see what is happening on the streets. It is truly amazing how much the traffic patterns change each day and the increase in cycling that we’ve seen in London – in previous years it was about dodging vehicles now it is more about keeping an eye out for other cyclists and iPod-wearing pedestrians.
I arrive at work and shower and get a coffee. This morning I have a meeting on a transport planning project investigating the planned impacts on the road network in London; some actions to complete from a meeting with communications yesterday, and an inbox to get through. This afternoon my main task is to find a public inquiry inspector.
I’m due to attend a measures and mitigation meeting this morning for a project looking at the link between planned essential infrastructure schemes on roads in central London and their impact on the road network. These schemes, while having a significant economic benefit for central London, could also have an impact on the capacity of the road network and require a planned and measured tactical response. Not an easy task given the scale of such projects as Crossrail, Tottenham Court Road upgrade, the Olympics and Victoria station upgrades.
The project uses a highway assignment model (VISSIM) to understand the cumulative impact of these schemes. The project is currently at the stage of working with stakeholders, in particular central London boroughs, to design mitigation measures given the preliminary outputs of the model. Once we have identified these potential mitigation actions, the plan is to identify the level of risks and model different scenarios to understand the relative value added from the mitigation measures. This project is in development stages but from the current outputs it is obvious that co-ordination at a scheme level is essential. This integrated approach has proven very successful in the case of Tottenham Court Road, where TfL has worked with all stakeholders to produce an integrated planning solution to smooth traffic flows in the area.
This meeting normally requires significant input beforehand to review detailed modelling results; therefore it is rewarding to have passed another gateway for this project this morning.
Next I focus my attention on pursuing some actions arising from a strategy and communications working group that I attended yesterday. The aim of this group is to align strategy, development and communications to ensure close and collaborative working with our customers. We are committed to working with stakeholders, which are often internal as much as external, to deliver robust policy options in an ever changing environment – we are also committed to communicating the opportunities and issues of policy options.
Sometimes the issues faced in Transport Planning are complex and therefore difficult to explain, for example, the flow of any given link at any one time is different to that of the next due to the weather, behaviour, road works, intelligent signal systems, etc. Therefore, we need to work closely with communications to ensure our stakeholders, including road users and other local authorities, are able to obtain the information that matters to them. The meeting yesterday discussed planning what stakeholders want to know, when they would like to be told, and how we should tell them. Providing a world class level of customer service is essential and at the heart of transport planning decision making and the business.
Breaking for lunch is essential. We have just moved to the Palestra Building in Southwark, which has made a measurable difference to the organisation as now we don’t have to trek between buildings to see someone in the same functional area. The building also, rather interestingly, has a hydrogen fuel cell in the ground floor. Not so interesting but equally important, there is a great sandwich store nearby on The Cut.
My next task is to find a planning inspector. TfL promotes learning and development not only of students in university but also of staff. At the request of the Head of the Department of Engineering at University College London, we are facilitating a series of lectures to introduce engineering students to public engagement and the transport planning decision making process. This meets one of our team’s development objectives of engaging with the profession and promoting transport planning - an important part of this is promoting transport planning to students.
The culmination of the series of three lectures is a mock public inquiry where the students will present their cases both for and against the project. To give them experience of a real inquiry, today’s task is to ‘source’ an appropriately experienced planning inspector to govern it. This small project is part of a wider programme, which includes a large graduate programme run by TfL Surface Transport, to engage with young students to encourage them into transport planning profession.
My days are usually diverse, which is something that I enjoy about my role and the profession. Never is one day, or even one project, the same.