Looking to the Future of Travel & Transport at our Business Breakfast

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Up, Up and Away, our latest Travel & Transport event, gave our members an amazing insight into the future of air travel as well as taking a closer look at more terrestrial problems, such as delivering in the city and tackling congestion.

Formally an old fire station turned community hub providing services for young people, The Station provided a great backdrop to our latest Business Breakfast all centred around the topic of Travel & Transport. With current findings pointing towards Bristol being the slowest and most congested city in the UK, planning for the future of Bristol’s transport network seems to be more relevant than ever.

We can all agree that driving in Bristol is becoming more and more impractical with the city halting to a tedious crawl every morning, turning the daily commute into a sheer practice in endurance. To understand what can be done about it, our members learned about how the city is planning to evolve to meet the demands of population growth, as well as what the distant and not so distant future of aviation may look like, and what will be powering it.

We heard from compelling speakers from a range of travel centred industries, all of whom are responding to the demand for greener transport technology and are excited about sharing their innovative solutions.

Peter Dalby – Phoenix Balloons; Harnessing the Power of the Sun

As a ballooning enthusiast, Peter quickly realised that the wasteful nature of his hobby was not doing his green credentials any favours. Hot air balloons burn a large amount of propane each flight, and if you take into consideration the chase vehicle that often has to cover a far larger distance itself, then you’ll begin to understand his concern.

Searching for a better solution, he and his team started out by testing different sustainable fuel alternatives, finding however that:

Biodiesel – cannot be compressed, meaning it has to be stored in large heavy tanks.

Biomethane – when unburnt is 34 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2.

Bioethanol – is too volatile and unpredictable making it very dangerous for ballooning.

Knowing that all they needed for the balloon to get airborne was to create a temperature difference of about 25°C between the interior of the balloon and the ambient temperature, this is where they started looking at more experimental ideas.

From the name of the balloon, you can probably already guess as to which natural power source they decided to tap into. Whilst not completely new, as the idea for a solar balloon has existed since the late 1970’s with one successful solar balloon voyage already having been made across the English Channel, what the team from Phoenix Balloons set out to do instead was to create the world’s first certified solar-powered balloon.

The black and silver envelope of the balloon (pictured above) is not just for show. The darker part is designed to be pointed at the sun and absorb all its rays heating the air inside, whilst the silver acts as insulation, reflecting heat back into the balloon, stopping it from escaping.

Its maiden voyage during the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which took a grand total of 20 minutes, wasn’t without incident. The emergency propane burner had to be used when a giant Minion balloon managed to block out enough sun for the solar balloon to start descending! However, the balloon successfully completed its maiden flight and achieved its remarkable status as the world’s first certified solar balloon, bringing with it the potential for wide use within hot-air ballooning.

Colin Sirett & Ian Risk – Airbus; The Future of Aviation and Going Electric

Despite the recent drop in fuel costs, fossil fuels are a finite non-renewable resource, the cost of which will render them unfeasible for use in the commercial aviation industry in the future. This is why in 2011, Airbus started work on their very own electric plane called the E-Fan.

The aim of the project is to advance electrical propulsion technology together with developing better power management systems and storage. In the future, Airbus hopes that this progression will help them to develop hybrid technology for use in their commercial aircraft.

Also since completing the English Channel crossing earlier this summer, the E-Fan has come a long way. Now Airbus are focusing their efforts on releasing the second version of the plane, which is due to be released in 2017. The E-Fan 2.0 will be a fully electric, commercially available “industrialised” version of its predecessor, to be used as a training aircraft that is incredibly quiet and economical to run.

Having started small, Airbus hopes to one day scale up the technology to a hundred seat, fully electric passenger plane and in fact some of the power management improvements that have been made are already being used in some of the company’s unmanned aircraft.

Ian Barrett – Sustrans; Meeting the Challenge of a Growing City

The way we choose to commute is an important part of our lifestyle. Opting for more active methods of travel has been proven to increase our overall happiness, keeping us healthier and less likely to miss work through illness. This is why, as part of their Good Transport Plan, Sustrans are suggesting that businesses should promote more active methods of travel for their employees.

Walking, cycling or even using public transport (which typically involves an element of walking) are all great ways to keep fit, as well as helping your organisation to reduce its carbon footprint as well as the demand for on-site car parking. Sustrans has been working hard on developing a plan of how to improve the city’s existing transport infrastructure, as well as showing us what we need to do as a city in order to ease congestion.

Earlier this year, on behalf of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership Transport Group, Sustrans delivered their Good Transport Plan. Aimed at businesses and residents, the plan details what Bristol will have to do in order to cope with the challenges of an ever-growing, vibrant city which they predict will balloon in population by 22%  in the next 15 years.

Another idea that Sustrans hailed as a possible solution to Bristol’s transport problems, is to make better use of our existing roads. With no option to expand or simply build more, the only logical solution is to optimise the existing transport network, increasing its capacity and allowing more people to use the roads at any one time.

Kurt Scheibl – Travelwest; Big Commuting Challenge and Travelwest Business Travel Awards

Travelwest was also there to update us on the amazing success of the last Big Commuting Challenge, in which Bristol companies took gold in four of the categories! Around 4,500 people replaced 23,296 car journeys by trying new ways of travelling, including running, walking, cycling, car sharing and public transport over the nine weeks of the challenge this summer, burning the equivalent of around 67,300 doughnuts in calories!

Go Green members Sift, were the stand out star of the challenge, they took first place in their category pushing Sustrans, one of the organisers of the challenge, to second place.

Travelwest has also been very active in providing grants, with their last round of funding being the biggest and most successful yet. Out of the 47 applications, 20 were accepted, sharing the available £90,000 in funds between them.

Now with the winter months fast approaching, they are looking at providing support for commuters to help them brave the elements and keep them travelling sustainably. To do this, in November they will be launching their Winter Commuting initiative, running road shows and providing support and information through their website.

At around the same time, Travelwest will also be holding their prestigious Business Travel Awards, which will be celebrating the successes and contributions that businesses across the West of England have made towards sustainable travel.

Colin Rees – Bristol City Council; Freight Consolidation Centre

Launched in 2004, the urban Freight Consolidation Centre seeks to reduce the number of large delivery vehicles entering the city centre by providing a facility on the edge of the city, close to strategic road networks, where goods can be consolidated for onward dispatch in smaller, electric delivery vehicles.

Retailers who are members of the Freight Consolidation scheme, have cut down on 80% of deliveries, reducing the number of large delivery vehicles entering the city centre, improving congestion, air quality and noise for the residents. It also means that deliveries can be made at off-peak times and at more precise times agreed in advance with the retailers.

The Bristol and Bath Freight Consolidation Centre accepts supplier deliveries 24 hours a day and is the first in the country to service two cities.  It has an estimated annual saving of about 1,100 journeys, which translates to a 14,000 kg reduction in CO2 every year.

Local Case Studies:

Ann O’Driscoll – North Bristol SusCom; A Case Study

Made up from a number of the major employers in North Bristol, the North Bristol SusCom project promotes sustainable commuting for their 40,000 employees and 30,000 students. They work collaboratively to improve and influence local transport provisions and combat traffic congestion.

North Bristol SusCom has two main focuses:

1. Strategic Development

Working closely with other businesses they hope to influence long-term strategic decisions by articulating collective business needs as well as providing input and engaging with local transport authorities.

2. Sustainable Transport Activity

As well as looking at the future, North Bristol SusCom are also running many programmes and initiatives which are designed to promote sustainable commuting. The initiatives include car clubs, personalised travel plans, behaviour change programmes and much more.

Mark Newman – Mark’s Bread; Mark’s Award Winning Delivery Bike

Delivering in the city can be a real challenge, especially when dealing with fresh goods that need to make it to their destination in the busy, early hours of the day. This was exactly the problem that Mark’s Bread artisan bakery ran into when their expanding business meant that the delivery bike trailer that Mark Newman initially bought and retrofitted, was no longer fit for purpose.

The original pedal bike could only fit 5 racks and took a considerable amount of effort from the rider when navigating its delivery route. It was fine for delivering down the road, but reaching other parts of the city was tricky.

Teaming up with Rob Bushill from Really Useful Bikes, Rob and Mark worked together to come up with something that better suited the bakery’s business needs and that Rob could also enter into The Bespoked Constructors’ Challenge 2015, which showcases bespoke handmade bicycles.

The result was an electric, Dutch style cargo bike which is strong enough to deliver bread, whilst increasing both its capacity and range for deliveries, negating the need for a van. “The bike is not just a gimmick, it’s a business decision because it really does work” says Mark.

At the Constructors’ Challenge, the Rodford bike was awarded the runner-up prize – impressive!

"This is not just a Bicycle, this is a story of two businesses, both set aside from the mainstream yet very relevant to the future of our inner cities"

Rob Bushill , Rodford Cargobikes

Jacob Pryor – The West of England Office for Low Emission Vehicles Bid

Finally, Jacob Pryor highlighted us to The West of England Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) bid. Bristol is competing with 12 other cities for funding which will be used to encourage the uptake of low-emission vehicles.

We need to show OLEV that we have the backing of the business community!  Show your support for this bid by completing the pledge form.  Or you can email Jacob for more details: jacob.pryor@bristol.gov.uk

Travel & Transport Stallholders:

We had a great array of stallholders all promoting various aspects of sustainable travel.  Our stallholders were:

Co-Wheels Car Club – Talitha Burnett

First Group – Sue Arrowsmith, Amie Coppin, Shalando Williams

Velopost – Jeremy Field

Lombard – Paul Jenkins

Nissan GB – Clare Collings

Sustrans – Jamie Edwards

Bristol Ferry Boats – Philippa Bungard

A big thank you to all our speakers and stallholders and to everyone who attended and of course to The Station for hosting us. We hope you enjoyed the presentations and we would love to see you all at another event soon.

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