Transport Planner

The Job and What's Involved

Transport planners make sure there is a safe, economical, reliable and environmentally friendly transport system working within a particular area.

The work of a transport planner varies widely, but may involve:

  • Preparing strategic transport plans for local authorities.
  • Designing and implementing congestion charging and parking control schemes.
  • Helping teachers and parents to develop school travel plans.
  • Calculating the economics of major rail schemes.
  • Assessing the environmental impact of major new road and rail schemes.
  • Preparing transport impact studies for airports.
  • Evaluating solutions to traffic problems.
  • Managing projects and contracts.
  • Writing reports, and presenting options and recommendations to clients.
  • Devising strategies for public consultation and involvement.
  • Assessing the impact of new developments on all forms of transport.
  • Encouraging walking, cycling and public transport.

Using simulation models, transport planners may also attempt to manage travel demand and change travel behaviour in line with government guidelines on issues such as the reduction of car use. They may, for example, recommend which area in a new development should be used for car parking, and then liaise and negotiate with different parties such as planning and highway authorities, resident groups, councillors, developers and transport providers.

Working hours are usually Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, although transport planners may occasionally have to work longer in order to meet deadlines.

In local authorities, attending meetings of the council or special interest groups can involve regular evening work. It may be possible to work flexitime.

The job is normally office based, although transport planners also make site visits.

Starting salaries for transport planners may be around £25,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Jobs are available throughout the UK, and planners are typically employed by central and local government, and firms of professional consulting engineers and planners. They may also work for bus and train operating companies, freight companies, universities and research establishments, and large companies with transport problems. Self-employment is also possible.

The transport planning profession is currently facing a serious skills shortage. It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 planners active in the industry and there is a need for an additional 500 extra planners each year. Taking into account retirements and career changes, a total of around 900 new planners are required each year.

Vacancies may be advertised in the professional journals of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, the Institution of Highways and Transportation, and the Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers. They also appear in Local Transport Today. Local authority websites and the Transport Planning Society (TPS) website, www.transportationopportunities.org.uk also lists current vacancies.

Education and Training

Most people enter transport planning with a degree or equivalent, although it is also possible to start work in a planning department and obtain vocational qualifications. These include NVQ's at Levels 3, 4 and 5 in Civil Engineering or Transport Engineering/Planning. Relevant national certificates and higher national certificates (HNC's) are also available.

The most common degree for entry to this job is civil engineering. However, a growing number of transport planners have obtained first degrees in transport, geography, mathematics, environmental studies or town planning with a transport option.

A summer placement scheme of six to eight weeks' work experience, often paid, is offered to undergraduates by a range of private and public sector organisations. The TPS website gives more information and details of how to register for the scheme.

Postgraduate qualifications in transport planning, management and engineering are also available. The Universities' Transport Partnership (UTP), is a group of eight UK universities that provide Masters degree-level education in transport. This is in the form of full Masters degrees as well as short Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Many of the larger planning and engineering consultancies and some local authorities offer graduate training schemes, typically lasting two years. These aim to ensure that entrants acquire a wide range of knowledge and experience working with a variety of clients.

During this time, entrants are required to keep a log to ensure that they are completing a range of tasks to support each aspect of the training scheme. Some parts are practical and directly applicable, while others are broader, covering subjects such as transport economics and environmental impact assessment.

In other organisations, training is on the job, covering a similar range of subjects, but in a less structured manner.

It may be possible to study for a Masters degree part time whilst working.

CPD courses are available for qualified transport planners to keep up with developments in the field.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A transport planner should:

  • Have an understanding of the movement of people and goods.
  • Have practical skills to be able to assess plans and proposals.
  • Be able to oversee the implementation of agreed plans.
  • Be confident in dealing with clients, councillors or local groups.
  • Have good problem-solving skills.
  • Have good team, negotiating and interpersonal skills.
  • Have an up-to-date knowledge of relevant legislation.
  • Be able to find a range of solutions and make recommendations.
  • Be able to put across proposals clearly and accurately.
  • Be able to interpret data and use computer models.
  • Be politically aware.

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Your Long Term Prospects

It may be necessary to move to a post in a different public sector body or consultancy to achieve promotion. This may involve moving to another part of the country. However, with shortages of qualified personnel at most levels, promotion prospects are currently very good.

Transport planners may choose to move between the public and private sectors during their career.

There may be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

The Chartered Institute of
Logistics and Transport (CILTUK),
Logistics and Transport Centre,
Earlstrees Court, Earlstrees Road,
Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 4AX
Tel: 01536 740104
Website: www.ciltuk.org.uk

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE),
1 Great George Street, Westminster,
London SW1P 3AA
Tel: 020 7222 7722
Website: www.ice.org.uk

Scottish Executive Development Department (SEDD),
Transport Department, Victoria Quay,
Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
Tel: 0131 556 8400
Website: www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Transport

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI),
41 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL
Tel: 020 7929 9494
Website: www.rtpi.org.uk

Transport Planning Society,
1 Great George Street, London SW1P 3AA
Website: www.tps.org.uk

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