Transport planners look at ways to improve and manage transport systems at a local, regional, national or international level

As a transport planner you'll work on policies, projects and plans relating to all kinds of transport systems such as:

  • roads and the use of cars, lorries and buses
  • rail networks
  • pedestrian systems for walking or cycling
  • air travel.

You'll develop transportation strategies and work to improve travel for both individuals and the transport of goods. As part of your role, you'll need to take into consideration a wide range of issues such as safety, climate change, the economy, the environment and efficiency.

The work can be related to government policies and initiatives, such as encouraging people to reduce their car use and take up walking, cycling or public transport.

Responsibilities

Work can be carried out at local, national or international levels and may include working on projects from the initial idea through to design, completion and review.

While the work can vary, in general as a transport planner you'll need to:

  • design and interpret transport and travel surveys
  • develop initial design ideas for new or improved transport infrastructure, e.g. junction improvements or pedestrian priority schemes
  • write clear reports and present options and recommendations on transport systems to clients
  • use statistical analysis to examine travel data or accident records
  • use mathematical and computer simulation models to forecast the effects of road improvements, policy changes and/or public transport schemes
  • evaluate the benefits and costs of different strategies
  • participate in public consultation initiatives, including designing leaflets or questionnaires and attending scheme exhibitions
  • assess infrastructure requirements (access, car parking, bus stops, cycle parking, etc) of new developments to support planning applications or to inform local authority development plans
  • liaise and negotiate with different parties, e.g. planning and highways authorities, residents' groups, councillors and politicians, developers and transport providers
  • act as an expert witness at public inquiries and planning appeals
  • write bids for the funding of projects.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for graduates range from around £20,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience and the right combination of skills, you could earn in the region of £25,000 to £40,000.
  • Senior or principal town planners can earn around £35,000 to £60,000.
  • Directors in consultancies may receive salaries ranging from £60,000 to in excess of £100,000, while departmental directors in local authorities may earn £70,000 to £80,000.

Salaries vary depending on a range of factors including the sector you work in, your employer, location, level of experience and qualifications.

Additional benefits can include a pension, health insurance and a car allowance.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Although you'll generally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, you may need to work outside these core hours, for example when conducting surveys during peak-period travel conditions or attending evening council or residents' group meetings. Public consultation exhibitions of new projects can also involve occasional evening and weekend work.

Self-employment may be possible when you have significant experience and you can work for consultancies or local authorities on a contract basis.

What to expect

  • Although the work is largely office based, you'll also be expected to visit sites and attend meetings.
  • Jobs in both the private and public sectors are available throughout the UK, but the larger consultancy offices tend to be located in, or near to, major cities.
  • Work is usually carried out in small teams but may also involve liaising with colleagues from a range of disciplines, such as town planning, architecture and landscape architecture.
  • Major consultancies often have overseas contracts and there may be opportunities for international travel if you have experience. Elsewhere, travel is likely to be local or regional.

Qualifications

Most transport planners are graduates and relevant degree subjects include:

  • civil engineering
  • economics
  • environmental sciences/studies
  • geography
  • mathematics
  • operations research
  • social science
  • town/urban planning.

Some degrees, such as civil engineering, may include transport planning as a module option. However, analytical, numerical and communication skills, for example, are often more important than your degree subject.

It's also possible to enter the profession straight from school in a planning or transport-related role and then gain the relevant skills, through a an apprenticeship, a degree or a combination of experience, short courses and study, to progress to a transport planner role.

The Transport Planning Technician Apprenticeship is available at Level 3 and there is also a Transport Planning Degree Apprenticeship at Level 6, which provides a new route into the profession, combining academic education with practical experience.

A good number of transport planners have a postgraduate qualification in transport planning. It's possible to study full time before starting work as a transport planner, although most students study for a Masters part time while working and may receive financial support from their employer. Most of these courses are approved for the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification, which can be achieved later in your career and shows that you have reached a certain professional standard.

For a list of transport planning-related Masters courses, see the Transport Planning Society (TPS) website.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • numeracy skills and the ability to interpret data
  • written and oral communication skills
  • problem-solving and analytical skills - finding a range of solutions, understanding their effects and making recommendations
  • confidence in dealing with a range of people including clients, councillors, local groups and the general public
  • the ability to communicate complex ideas and issues clearly and accurately, often to a non-technical audience
  • project management skills
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • computer literacy
  • an interest in transport and urban planning issues and political awareness.

Work experience

Relevant work experience in the transport industry is useful. Try approaching consultants directly to find opportunities. The TPS has a list of stakeholder members you could use to find contacts. Some of the larger employers may offer work placements.

Developing a network of contacts is useful for finding out more about what the job is like and for learning about job opportunities.

Employers

There are opportunities in the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as in academic research, and it's possible to move between sectors as your career develops.

Most jobs in the private sector are with consultancies. Consultancies range in size from large multinational companies that operate throughout the world to medium-sized companies and small niche companies. Some are specialists in transport planning, while others have a broad transport, environmental or engineering remit. You could work with a range of clients, including schools, hospitals, developers and industrial firms.

There are also opportunities in the private sector with train and bus operators or other firms with transport interests, such as finance or architect companies.

In the public sector, most of the work is found with local authority departments. Work involves producing local transport plans and assessing the implications of developments, often in consultation with residents and developers.

There are also opportunities with government departments, agencies and executives such as:

  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Highways England
  • Transport for London
  • Transport for Wales
  • Transport Scotland

Look for job vacancies at:

Speculative applications can be productive in the private sector.

Specialist recruitment agencies such as Willis White Technical Recruitment handle vacancies.

Professional development

The TPS supports training and development through the Professional Development Scheme (TPS PDS). This structured training scheme allows you to develop both your technical and generic professional skills during the early years of your career.

The TPS PDS is made up of 18 units, some of which are mandatory, and you'll be supported by a mentor throughout. If you're new to transport planning, it's likely to take you around three years to complete.

Once you've completed the PDS, you'll have many of the necessary skills and much of the experience required for the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification. The TPP is awarded jointly by the TPS and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) and shows that you have reached a recognised professional standard.

Once you've achieved the TPP qualification, you can acquire Chartered Transport Planning Professional (CTPP) status.

There are other routes available for professional recognition depending on the area in which you work:

  • You can become a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).
  • If you have a civil engineering degree you may become a chartered engineer via the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or CIHT.
  • If you have a town planning degree you may become a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

It's important to keep up to date with developments in technologies, techniques, policies and legislation throughout your career. Details of short training courses, opportunities to network and meet fellow planners, and a list of training providers are available via the TPS.

Career prospects

There are various career development options open to transport planners. You may choose to specialise in a particular area of transport planning, such as sustainable transport or transport modelling, or you could continue to work across a range of transport planning activities.

You're likely to move on to manage projects, which can also lead into wider management roles. Promotion usually involves taking on increased responsibilities, starting with the technical aspects of larger-scale projects and then staff and project management.

Movement between the public and private sectors is possible and you may need to move to a post in a different public sector body or consultancy to achieve promotion.

A relevant Masters degree can help career progression, and some employers sponsor employees through qualifications on a part-time basis. Achieving the Transport Planning Professional (TPP) qualification or gaining chartered status with a relevant professional body can also aid career development.

It's also possible to move into different areas such as town planning or environmental consultancy or to work on policy development.

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