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The future of rural mobility and the challenges of transport sustainability during the pandemic and beyond will be explored at a virtual networking and knowledge sharing event on November 26.  The event is being organised by the Centre for Research into Environmental Science and Technology at University Centre Shrewsbury (CREST@UCS), in collaboration with Sustainability West Midlands and Fit for the Future.

Speakers will explore current Government thinking related to transport and mobility, including how transport can become more responsive and flexible, emphasising the importance of rural digital infrastructure. Emerging opportunities such as ‘demand responsive transport’ and transport ‘connectivity hubs’ are popular solutions, but will these work for all ages and all communities?

The sessions will also encourage discussion around transport as an energy producer and consumer and whether transport and energy networks can be better integrated. Questions will be raised relating to how, and where, cars fit into the future picture. There will be a special focus on hydrogen, as the potential energy source for future transport needs in rural areas.

Hosted by Professor Julieanna Powell-Turner, Research Director at CREST, speakers include: Vanessa Strange, Head of Infrastructure and Investment, Lincolnshire Council; Professor (Visiting Professor) Gary Bosworth, Northumbria University; Will Walker, Head of Buses and Taxis Futures, Department for Transport; and Hugo Spowers, founder of Riversimple.  

The CREST project, based at UCS, is at the heart of Shropshire, a rural county. The Smart Rural series of events began in February 2019, and are a positive response to this “place”, and provide an opportunity to dive deeper into the environmental and socio-economic challenges for rural areas. Consistently, rural areas around the UK face the same infrastructure and economic stresses including digital, energy, transport, education, jobs, housing, tourism and agriculture. These are intensified by a similar backdrop of an ageing population, low GVA (Gross Value Added) and outward migration. CREST, to date, has hosted three Smart Rural events as a way of bringing together multi-disciplinary experts to cast a light on these issues and facilitate collaboration. There will be two further events in 2021, focusing on water and the environment, and energy.

Vicki Ayton from CREST explained: “Smart Rural is all about maximising our rural assets through collaboration and cross sector innovation opportunities.”

To register for the event or join the CREST mailing list, visit http://crestatucs.com/ or email crest@ucshrewsbury.ac.uk

With a £2.3 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), CREST (ESBRC project) provides business support, research and development and laboratory access to SMEs in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin, with the aim of increasing productivity, upskilling and developing new products.

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