Managing a network of public and private transport is a tough challenge. Transport planners face this enormous challenge on a daily basis, as they aim to monitor, plan and develop the UK’s transport systems.
In order to do this effectively, these guys need to take a range of factors into account, such as current travel trends, expected future growth, environmental and social impact, the availability of critical resources and existing transport infrastructure.
Transport planners tend to be employed by consulting firms in the private sector and by local, regional and national transport authorities in the public sector. If you break into this profession, you’ll be responsible for preparing surveys to collect data on transport use and travel habits among different areas of the public, and then analysing the information that you gather with the help of mathematical and statistical modelling.
Following this period of research and analysis, you’ll be writing reports and making recommendations about potential solutions to current problems, suggesting how and where improvements can be made to the transport systems in your jurisdiction.
From time to time, you may even be simulating various scenarios using advanced computer software applications, before suggesting measures to improve and manage these potential situations.
This profession is not all about hiding away, conducting research, analysing things and writing reports: there is also a client-facing aspect to the transport planner profession. In order to plan and implement projects effectively, you’ll be required to coordinate and communicate with other organisations on a frequent basis, such as transport authorities, representatives of local councils, residents, engineers and commercial transport providers.
Furthermore, you may be tasked with preparing proposals for new projects or upgrades, presenting them at appropriate public forums and writing applications for grants and other kinds of funding.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for transport planners in the early stages of their careers are around £22,000 to £25,000, while planners with a significant amount of experience can earn between £30,000 and £60,000 per annum.
Senior professionals working at director level in private sector transport consultancies can earn up to £100,000 and beyond.
Those who work for public sector organisations, with a specialist focus on infrastructure development, environmental impact and engineering, can earn salaries in the range of £65,000 and £85,000 a year.
Transport planners with relevant postgraduate qualifications in transport management and planning tend to receive higher salaries than people who don’t have these academic credentials.
Understandably, travel is an essential part of a transport planner’s job. Consequently, while the majority of your hours will be more or less in line with the typical nine-to-five working day, you may be required to work extra hours when data needs to be collected, or meetings with relevant stakeholders have been arranged.
An undergraduate degree is the basic requirement for entry into this profession, preferably in relevant disciplines, such as transport planning and management, business management, economics, maths, geography, civil engineering, town planning, surveying and environmental science.
Candidates with a postgraduate qualification in transport planning, transport engineering or transport management will certainly have an edge over candidates who only have undergraduate degrees.
Training & progression
Large transport consultancies with an annual graduate intake and certain public sector authorities offer structured learning and development schemes. These schemes allow you to gain practical experience through placements across various functions in the organisation.
Some of these graduate programmes will support you as you study towards gaining professional certifications from professional bodies such as the Transport Planning Society (TPS), the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).
Career progression in this line of work is all about moving upwards into senior positions, taking on managerial responsibilities or taking charge of the technical side of things on major transport planning projects.
If you work for an international consultancy, your expertise may even allow you to pursue career options abroad and work on international projects.