Careers: Travel and transport

Some people are drawn into transport planning by their enthusiasm for shiny new trains or buses.

But Nick Vaughan's motivation is to change people's lives for the better by promoting better transport systems for Greater Manchester.

Vaughan believes he has achieved this during his 18 years at the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, where he is now head of project development. Seeing the results of many years' work on a scheme that has progressed from the "good idea" stage to construction and operation is one of the chief rewards of being a transport planner, according to those in the profession.

Part of Vaughan's work revolves around transport policy, on which he responds to and where necessary seeks to alter people's travel habits. He is developing proposals for a congestion charge, part of a package of improvements designed to boost movement around the conurbation.

The other side is project delivery, obtaining consents to build infrastructure such as Manchester's Metrolink light rail system. "When I first saw the wasteland of Salford Docks on a desolate winter's day, I wondered whether we really were going to bring Metrolink here and help create a new townscape of offices and flats," he admits. "But after years of hard graft, we've done it."

Transport planning is anything but a desk-based job. Steve Bowers, an associate at transport planning expert JMP Consulting, says it involves getting out and about, visiting sites and meeting other organisations to discuss proposals or seek their agreement.

Bowers works out ways of ensuring that people can travel easily to and from developments, whether they are driving, using public transport, walking or cycling. This input is critical to the success of new developments, he says. "It's a stimulating and creative job. Each project has its own unique challenges. There is no single transport solution that you can simply pull off the shelf for every scheme."

Projects such as a commission to advise on transport links to a 1,200-home extension to Northwich in Cheshire can become "personal quests", says Bowers. "It's not unusual for a project like that to take five years or more and involve a lot of negotiation. But you know it's worthwhile when what you are doing ultimately improves what's built."

PROFILE

TOM RICE

Transport planner, Transport for London

MSc in Transport Planning and Management, University of Westminster

- What attracted you to planning?

I wanted to do something that would bring tangible, lasting benefits to people.

- What are your main duties?

To ensure that athletes have reliable journey times to the Olympic venues in 2012.

- What do you enjoy about your job?

Every day brings new challenges, new people to meet and new things to learn.

- What has been your career highlight?

A secondment to the Greater London Authority's transport team.


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