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Transport and accessibility
Craig Childs is a Research Fellow in UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering. His main research interests relate to transport and accessibility in the Pedestrian Accessibility and Movement Environment Laboratory (PAMELA).
He undertook a three-month secondment in the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology and produced a POSTnote on transport and accessibility.
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Why were you interested in the UCL Public Policy secondment scheme?
Although I have great respect for people who do blue sky research, for me, the outcomes of my work must be directly and practically relevant to how we live now and in the near future. Through our work in the Accessibility Research Group there are further research topics of scientific interest, but it is not always clear to me how these questions benefit the country beyond advancing knowledge. Through the secondment I wanted to hear what politicians and industry thought were limiting factors in how people access public transport: what the challenges and opportunities are and additional research questions that we may not have thought of yet. This would help us focus future research questions and raise their potential impact. In addition, through the interview process I would be able to build a network of people to make sure that our results reach the right people.
Where did you undertake your policy secondment?
What did you learn from your secondment?
In terms related to my work, legislation is in place to make public transport accessible, but there are still areas for improvement. There are barriers where people have implemented solutions that do not conform to the legislation; and elsewhere some older infrastructure cannot be accommodated. However, the framework is there, once acknowledged and understood by the industry (and money found to implement…) much can be improved within the timescales dictated by legislation. Improving information (measuring the right data and getting it to the right people in an understandable format) can help people avoid obstacles and complete journeys where infrastructure cannot be modified.
In general terms, I realised that although our politicians get a lot of negative coverage in the press, I think we can have more confidence in our political system than is generally perceived. It is a difficult job to cover so many different topics, legislate on them and hold those responsible to account. Parliament helps this happen; in part through All Party Parliamentary Groups and the Select Committees.
What did you find most valuable?
The opportunity to increase my network of contacts.
What surprised you most?
How helpful everyone was in giving me their time to help with this POSTnote, not just those in Parliament, but all the people I interviewed. Oh, and that ‘they’ let me wander round the Palaces of Westminster unescorted…
What do you think the benefits were to your host organisation?
Showing the high standard of work in UCL and that there is probably someone here that can deal with future questions.
How has the secondment changed the way you work?
It is helping me to refocus research questions and look for other collaborators for projects and proposals.
What would you say to other UCL researchers considering a policy secondment?
It is a fantastic opportunity: POST is a great place to work with some really interesting people covering a wide range of topics. It is an interesting challenge to write your work to make it as easy as possible for policy makers to understand.
Craig was keen to gain an overview of both the technological status and the political background to public transport, in order to provide a broader context for his research. Realising that POST had not previously undertaken work on the accessibility of the UK’s public transport network, he identified an opportunity to make a contribution to the work of POST and to develop useful contacts that could support policy engagement of his research.
Craig says: "The Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology is
a great place to work: interesting and encouraging people; interesting
conversations and full of opportunity. At one level, it was good to get an
overview of the political mechanisms for instance the difference between
parliament and government. As everyone is well aware, the government sets
legislation (laws) that civil servants in government departments work out how
to enact. Parliament scrutinises the creation and amendment of the legislation
and the government’s success or otherwise of enacting it. This secondment
allowed me access to parliamentary debates (both in the main chambers and
elsewhere), select committee meetings, and All Party Parliamentary Group
"The position gave me reason to contact a wider range of people than I otherwise might get to speak to. … From that perspective my aim to get contacts to increase the impact of future work was achieved. Through these interviews I gave everyone the opportunity to raise questions about what was missing. As might be expected, many of the issues each person raised tended to be what others should be doing, or that they were not given enough money to do what was needed. And of course, some views were contradictory. … From this I have created a wish list of possible research topics that I'll be discussing with our group (ARG).
Craig produced a POSTnote on the accessibility of public transport, which is due to be published in November.
Page last modified on 02 aug 13 16:11