Smart Transport

Diversity in transport needs to accelerate

 Composite image of a diverse group of people

Representation of ethnic minorities in the sector is described as ‘woefully low’ by train drivers’ union, reports Laura Laker

Picture someone working in transport and you are likely to mentally summon up an image of a white, middle-aged male; and, although a lack of diversity isn’t unique to transport, it is an issue that needs solving – and urgently. 

While the situation is improving, it’s not changing fast enough, and the killing of George Floyd by US police in Minneapolis rightly woke the world up to racial disparity once more. 

The good news is, there are things the industry can do to improve diversity, while also providing a better service to its customers. 

Access to public transport, divided along racial lines, has a long thread in the civil rights movement. For more than a century the mere act of boarding a train or street car was, for African Americans, a political statement. 

Protests inspired young West Indian men in the UK, including Roy Hackett, Guy Bailey and Paul Stephenson, to lead the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963 against the Bristol Omnibus Company for refusing to employ non-white drivers. 

At the time, it was not illegal in the UK to discriminate against a person because of their colour. The protests ended the company’s “colour bar” and inspired the UK’s Race Relations Acts of 1965 and 1968.

More than half a century later, in some parts of transport, too little has changed. 

Aslef is the trade union for train drivers; its 2019 report on diversity in the transport sector describes black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation in the industry as “woefully low”.

In 2012, just 4.5% of Aslef members were BAME employees, rising to 8.3% in 2018 – and Aslef reports some train operating companies (TOCs) and freight operating companies (FOCs) still have no women or BAME employees at all. 

Tiffany Lam is an urban sociologist and consultant at Nef, the New Economics Foundation think tank. 

She says: “There’s a lack of diversity in the built environment sector. Women are only 20% of the transport sector in the UK and there isn’t really much research on black and minority ethnic people (BME) working in transport planning.” 

She adds: “Few BME students enter the industry, so there’s a problem in terms of getting from education into the sector.”

Lam references a 2005 CABE (Chartered Association of Building Engineers) report, which found just 35% of BAME students enter the industry – indicating a real problem in the sector.

While BME formed 17.6% of transport engineering postgraduates, in transport planning it is just 3.8% – at the time BME formed 7.9% of the UK population.

Mara Makoni works in Intelligent Transport, as well as for the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK), a membership organisation helping improve diversity in engineering, including in getting students into the workplace.

She says: “Transport is overwhelmingly white, either when you’re talking about policy, or roles within intelligent transport. It’s hard to find black leaders, it’s hard to visualise career
progression, and it’s hard to map out your career without that.”

Makoni compares issues that are now regularly reported and improved on – and says lessons need to translate to race. 

She adds: “We deal with gender and we constantly report and we hold ourselves accountable for it – just like when sustainability became a more prominent issue it was a bit uncomfortable at first, but once we recognise it’s important it’s almost a no-brainer that everybody reports on it in their CSR.” 

Read Laura Laker's full article in the latest issue of Smart Transport Journal


The Smart Transport October 2020 Conference - 'Connecting policy to solutions'

More speakers have been confirmed for the Virtual Smart Transport Conference

Our inspirational speaker line-up of over 45 speakers recognise that only through genuine public private sector collaboration will effective change be realised. Collectively conference speakers will focus on “Connecting Policy to Solutions” in order to deliver a digitalised, decarbonised, integrated, multi-model transport future for all.

Smart Transport’s free autumn conference is being held in association with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and will be held virtually across October 20, 21 and 22 to help showcase solutions to central and local government transport policy in the fast moving UK transport sector.

Our speaker line-up

Andy Burnham - Mayor, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Anthony Smith - Chief Executive, Transport Focus
Beate Kubitz - Director of Policy and Communications, Future Mobility Research
Ben Lawson - VP Strategy Europe, Enterprise Holdings
Bob Moran - Deputy Director Head of Environmental Strategy, DfT
Bridget Rosewell CBE - Chairman, M6 toll & DVSA
Carl Bayliss - VP Mobility & Home Energy, Centrica
Chris Morris - Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Sustainable Ventures
Chris Sibthorpe - Regional Director Manchester, PJA
Claire Haigh - CEO, Greener Journeys
Connor Chaplin - Innovation, Research & Insight Officer, TfGM
Daniel Ruiz - CEO, Zenzic
David Elvy - Head of Future Freight Strategy, DfT
David Savage - Regional Manager, Geotab
David Waterhouse - Head of Infrastructure, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
Dominic Smith - Senior Transport Strategy Officer, Cycling & Walking, TfGM
Dr Lucy Mahoney - Network Manager, Walking and Cycling, C40
Ed Clarke - Managing Director UK & Nordics Road Network, FedEx Express
George Lunt - Technical Director, AECOM
Gordon Young - Head of Vehicle Finance, Macquarie Bank
Greg Marsden - Professor of Transport Governance, University of Leeds
Ian Forbes - Head of CCAV, DfT
Jason Simpson - Founder & Board Director, Liberty Charge
Kim Sawyer - CEO, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority
Laurence Drake - Managing Director, DAF
Lee Kidger - Managing Director, Raleigh
Lindsay Humblett - Partner, Planit-IE LLP
Liz Hunter - Head of Transport Policy, West Yorkshire Combined Authority
Mark Dickens - Director, Groupe Renault
Martin Howell - Director, Transport Markets, UK & Ireland, Worldline
Martin Tugwell - Programme Director, England’s Economic Heartland
Dr Mike Short CBE - Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for International Trade
Prof Nick Reed - Founder, Reed Mobility
Nicola Kane - Head of Strategic Planning, Insight & Innovation, TfGM
Oliver Johnson - UK Head of Sales, ABB
Polly Billington - Director, UK100
Rachel Maclean - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, DfT
Rafael Cuesta - Transport Consultant, RCC Ltd
Richard Dilks - Chief Executive, COMO UK
Sam Li - Senior Innovation Officer, TfGM
Sarah Kumeta - Senior Innovation Officer, TfGM
Shane Fitzpatrick - Director of Integrated Transport (Interim), Liverpool City Region Combined Authority
Simon Warburton - Transport Strategy Director, TfGM
Stephen Bellamy - Interim Head of Commercial, Tyne & Wear
Stephen Briers - Editor-in-Chief, Bauer Media

Smart Transport editor-in-chief Stephen Briers said: "Coronavirus may have temporarily stopped live events this year, but we have a fantastic alternative for you with our virtual conference.

"The seminars will be just as engaging and insightful, and our speakers will be among the best experts in their fields. From the most influential policymakers to the most innovative products and services, the show will be packed with great content.

"Our virtual platform is simply stunning: It looks amazing and is really easy to use, replicating all the features that make the 'real' conference such a must-attend event, with networking, Q&As, polls and interactive chats." 

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