European Transport Conference 2022 - how are you getting there?

August 30, 2022

The Association of European Transport’s annual event is known as the European Transport Conference and its 50th year will be celebrated in Milan this September. It will be the first time the event has been held in person since 2019 (ie before COVID-19 came along and before we had a considerable transport presence)…

Business travel and Net Zero

City Science has made a commitment to be net zero by 2024. But this is only possible if we make a concerted effort to minimise emissions due to travel. As an organisation, we have long since adopted working from home, restricting travel to meetings for when being there in person really matters and then looking to take the lowest carbon options we can. But how should we approach an overseas conference?

Is it acceptable to travel overseas for a conference?

We’ve had to think long and hard about this one.

There are many reasons why we’d want to have representation at the event, but we also believe we have to practice what we preach and that means minimising unnecessary travel. It’s a dilemma and one of many we will confront now that face-to-face events are back on the agenda.

In the end, we decided to prioritise the European Transport Conference as an event we will attend. Why? We see this as the leading forum for bringing together researchers, policymakers and practitioners for the transport sector. It’s an excellent opportunity to share learning, make connections and understand the latest thinking. So three members of the City Science team will be attending: me (Gav) who is co- presenting with Grace on Local Cycle Walking Implementations plans and their impact, resourcing the City Science booth and stewarding for the organisers; Aoife to present a paper - Planning for Future Mobility Trends: A Case Study and Grace to get a European perspective on best practice in technical transport planning disciplines (e.g. active travel modelling). The question then becomes how do we get there creating as few emissions as possible… ?

Our challenge - how do we travel to Milan in the most sustainable way?

As a team, we have embraced the challenge of working out the most sustainable way of attending the conference. City Science’s carbon team undertook a series of calculations on our behalf, using BEIS GHG emission conversion factors and distance data from Google. These were the outputs:

Distances

  • Average air distance (return) from UK to Milan – 2112km
  • Average rail distance (return) – 2912km

Emission factors (uk gov emission factors)

  • Air emission factor – 0.15 kgCO2e / passenger kilometre
  • International rail – 0.004 kgCO2e / passenger kilometre
  • Car – 0.1683 kgCO2e / km

Results

  • Air per person – 324.3 kgCO2e
  • Air team total – 972.8 kgCO2e
  • Rail per person – 13.0 kgCO2e
  • Rail team total – 39.0 kgCO2e
  • Car per person – 158.7 kgCO2e (average car – would be lower for hybrid / electric)
  • Car total – 476.1 kgCO2e

Analysis

  • Rail = 96% lower than air for the team
  • Total saving (rail vs air) return = 933.8 kgCO2e
  • Per person saving (rail vs air) return = 311.3 kgCO2e

If you want to run an analysis like this for your travels without having to do all the calculations, have a look at the website Ecopassenger, which will give you a quick comparison between air, train and car.

So the decision was simple - we would avoid flying and instead go as far as possible by train, thereby reducing our emissions by 96% and saving 933.8 kgCO2e.

By train it is, then

For us, that means the main journey that we will share will be London to Milan as follows:

  1. St Pancras to Paris by Eurostar
  2. Metro across Paris
  3. Paris to Milan by TGV

This is going to take longer than flying, probably a total of 10-12 hours, but by the time transfers and getting through airports have been factored in, it’s probably not that much longer. It is a compromise or consequence of reducing emissions, and that’s a cost we have to pay (and we will work on the train, so the time isn’t really lost at all). We will each make our own journeys to and from London with the lowest emissions by using the train.

But there’s more we are doing to reduce emissions

Beyond our travel, we’ve also used a website called staze.com to review our hotel eco credentials before making our booking in order to minimise the carbon consumption as a result of our stay.

But we aren’t the only people travelling to the European Transport Conference in Milan from the UK. At Modelling World a few of our fellow conference goers also pledged to travel by train... so our three became seven. That’s more like 2,179 kgCO2e emissions saved – it all adds up!

Come and join us on the train…

We hope by sharing this with you now, we can maybe start a domino effect and encourage even more people to travel to Milan by train for this conference. And if it is too late, perhaps you will think through your options next time you make travel plans, balancing the environmental impact alongside the more traditional metrics of time, money and convenience. Individually it's not a big difference, but starting a behaviour change across the industry can bring big savings and benefits!

We will share updates and a discussion of the actual experience on LinkedIn and afterwards, we’ll add an update blog on how it all worked out in practice.

If you’re going to be at the European Transport Conference, do come and say ‘hi’ and find out how we got on.

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