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IT Can Make Travel in Northern Ireland Easier, Safer, and Greener

25 January 2010

Eco-driving, videoconferencing and increased connectivity on public transport are some of the ways information technology could help make travel in Northern Ireland easier, safer and more environmentally friendly in the future.

Aeroplane over MotorwayA new report published today (Monday 25 January) by the Sustainable Development Commission says innovations in information communications technology (ICT ) could have an important impact on improving fuel consumption and safety, cutting down on the need for time-consuming transport, and making the journeys we need to take more enjoyable.

The Commission’s report Smarter Moves: How Information Communications Technology can promote Sustainable Mobility looks at how ICT could transform the way we choose to travel, and so make both our travel and our lifestyles more sustainable. It concludes that, while not a silver bullet, a concerted Government and business focus on ICT solutions could help provide answers to some of our most pressing transport problems.

Emissions from road transport represent 30% of the 2007 Northern Ireland carbon dioxide total, with emissions having risen by 49% since 1990, compared with an 11% increase for the UK over the same period. Today’s report finds that ICT solutions could help reduce carbon emissions, congestion, accidents and noise levels, as well as improving health and air quality by reducing the need to travel; making public transport easier and more pleasant to use, and helping people to drive more efficiently. Ensuring adherence to speed limits – particularly through the use of intelligent speed adaptation – would have significant safety benefits, and better use of parking controls, tolls and road pricing could improve transport network efficiency.

However, the report also warns that if ICT solutions are not developed within a wider sustainable transport framework, they have the potential to encourage unsustainable travel, for example, cars could become more attractive to use if ICT made them cheaper to run.

Commenting on the report, Jim Kitchen, Head of the Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland, stated:

“While information technology alone will not provide all the answers it could go a long way towards making travel in Northern Ireland safer, more pleasant and more sustainable.

“Already, eco-driving technology can help motorists spend less at the pumps and reduce their emissions; better information can make using public transport easier, and videoconferencing technology can help business travellers avoid some journeys altogether. It can help provide a better work-life balance, ensure we have more time with our families and as well as more productive working time. Increased, reliable internet connections on public transport could transform journeys into time well spent in a moving office, or for leisure travel, a moving cinema.

“Government and businesses in Northern Ireland can rise to the challenge of working innovatively together to improve the quality and accessibility of ICT transport solutions. The results could help us to meet a broad range of economic, environmental, and health goals.”

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