ITS alumni

Emma Roberts

For the past 5 years I have been working as an Associate for Fore Consulting Ltd. Fore is an independent transport consultancy that works with a wide range of public organisations and private companies to solve transport problems, deliver schemes and achieve planning consents.

My main role has been to lead work in relation to strategy, policy, appraisal and the development of business cases. This has involved developing effective partnerships with clients to help projects move from the formulation of policies and plans through to the delivery stage, including funding bids, business case development and reviews, project management and monitoring and evaluation. I have also been the Framework Project Manager leading Fore’s work for Stockton on Tees Borough Council under the transport planning workstream of the Economic Growth and Development Services Consultancy Partnership. This has meant managing and undertaking a variety of projects including parking studies, Transport Assessments, transport modelling and infrastructure design projects.

Before working for Fore I held roles in a number of much larger consultancies such as Arup and Mouchel (now part of WSP) that allowed me to work my up the career ladder.

The ITS MSc Transport Planning course gave me a solid grounding in the principles of transport planning across a broad range of subject areas. As I was working part time whilst studying the course provided me with the academic and theoretical knowledge to support the practical work I was undertaking for my employers. However, more than this it has strengthened my ability to interpret, analyse and explain data or concepts to clients. The breadth of the course content has meant I have been able to work on a diverse and interesting variety of projects building on the course content to expand my skills and become a well-rounded transport professional. The course also gave me the confidence to seek out further career opportunities.

I chose the ITS MSc Transport Planning course as I had already undertaken an undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Leeds and chosen to do some modules provided by ITS. I found the transport modules applied much of the teachings in Geography in a context that I could easily relate to. I enjoy the interplay between spatial planning, economics and behavioural science. My undergrad experience at ITS helped me get some transport planning work experience at my local county council (Suffolk County Council) and following graduation I was fortunate enough to secure a graduate researcher position at TRL Ltd. This role exposed me to a wide variety of academic research and it was whilst working here that I become aware of the quality of the research and teaching provided by ITS and the high regard for the academic staff within the wider transport planning community. When I decided to move back to Leeds to be closer to friends and family, I applied to do the Masters course part time at ITS to support my further career progression (and partly as I like the idea of becoming a student again!).

I would say there have been several key achievements in my career so far including:

  • Getting to work in a small way on the London 2012 Olympics by developing transport strategies for venues outside of London in the early stages of planning for the event.
  • Being a Transport Planning Society Board Member, assisting the society with increasing participation in events within the regions outside of London and raising the status of and developing the transport planning profession.
  • Being involved at the embryonic stages of creating Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan, the statutory document for the first sub-national transport body in England.
  • Being part of the team that produced the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive Local Sustainable Transport Fund Bid within three months, which was then granted £30m of government funding.
  • Getting to work in Dubai for a short period, experiencing the professional and cultural differences that working in another country brings.

There are three main areas of advice that I would give to students entering a career in transport:

  • Embrace diversity

Make the most of learning about all the different aspects of transport that are offered by your course even if you know certain parts do not play to your strengths or do not interest you. The knowledge you gain will put you in a strong position when you come to the workplace and allow you to pick up and understand a variety of information and skills quickly and with more assurance. It will also help you to realise what does interests you and what you'd like to do in the future.

When you start working in the profession don’t cut yourself off from other disciplines, both within and outside of transport to concentrate on your specific role. You will achieve more and stay more engaged with projects if you take the time to understand how the elements you are working on fit with those of the wider transport and, if appropriate, multidisciplinary team. Don’t work in a silo as doing so can mean the end product is not fit for purpose.

Make the most of working with students, lecturers and colleagues from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. Appreciating a diversity of perspectives, knowledge and experiences is important as transport impacts upon the whole of society and understanding and managing contradictory views will remain a constant throughout a career in transport.

  • Focus on people

Whatever aspect of transport you are working within I think it is important to never lose sight of who it will affect and how. Transport users and the communities that are supported, and affected by transport, should always remain at the forefront of your mind. The user perspective should never be something that is forgotten even when you are knee deep in civil engineering drawings or strategic model runs! As a transport professional it is your role to consider the range of impacts, utilise the information available to present options and then listen to what stakeholders and the public have to say before rethinking/challenging the plans to drive the development of the best solutions. You can never satisfy everyone but you can ensure everyone understands the reasons for making certain decisions so there is transparency.

  • Respond to change and innovation

You will need to learn and adapt in the profession, not only in relation to the challenges presented by individual projects but also to keep abreast of the evolution of the wider industry. The way things are done now may well not be the best way to do things in the future, so embracing change and innovation has never been more imperative. For example, as access to larger data sets becomes more open it will become easier to understand travel patterns in greater depth and refine modelling techniques in ways that have not previously been possible. So seek out opportunities to keep your knowledge up to date and utilise the Master’s course as a stepping stone to achieve professional recognition such as Transport Planning Professional or Chartered status.