Assessing the consequences for transport demand is also essential in planning any new development. For example, if 1,000 houses are scheduled to be built, how are residents going to get to work or school, how many more cars will the scheme put on the roads and what bus and train connections should be provided?
"Our work spans a huge range from forecasting demand, which is highly mathematical, through to how to persuade people to increase their use of public transport, which takes you into the realms of psychology," says Alan Beswick, a director at transport planning consultancy JMP.
JMP is working with the Highways Agency to introduce high-occupancy vehicle lanes - a bid to cut congestion by giving priority to cars that carry more than one person in rush hours - and with Transport for London on the capital's bus priority system. "Transport planning needs a wide range of talents and we look for people with good analytical and communication skills," says Beswick.
Chris Ferrary, an associate at consultancy Steer Davies Gleave, has worked on Greater Manchester's public transport system, a rapid bus network for Bristol and the public transport demand studies for the London 2012 Olympics. Ferrary began his career as a land-use planner and moved into transport. "It is undoubtedly expanding and the range of work is changing, so there are increasing opportunities in this sector," he reports.
"One aspect is environmental assessments of transport projects and strategic assessment of the impact of local plans on the environment," he says. "Another is looking at the economic effects of transport projects to assess how much investment in housing and new businesses they would generate by improving access to the areas served."
Nigel Millington, an associate at transport planning specialists Phil Jones Associates, works on development plans of all scales to assess the implications for road traffic and public transport. With increased pressure from central and local government to reduce the growth in road traffic, this often means trying to devise public transport improvements.
Millington's consultancy also explores the transport impact of installations such as wind farms and incinerators. "It could be anything from a farmer who wants to expand a composting business right up to projects for 4,500 homes," he says. "It's as broad as it can be."
PROFILE - JAMIE BIRTLES, Consultant, Faber Maunsell
As a consultant at Faber Maunsell's Manchester office, Jamie Birtles provides clients with transport-based advice to progress schemes through the planning system. Birtles took a postgraduate masters course at the University of Manchester following a geography degree. Coping with the unexpected is his favourite part of the job. "As a professional you need the flexibility to deal with issues as they arise and respond with very little preparation time," he says. A career highlight was a scholarship last year to study transport planning in Singapore. "My long-term aspiration is to develop worthwhile values and have the strength to apply them," he says.