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Get moving! New study to investigate impact of £150 million UK-wide travel project

The University of Southampton is leading a new study to evaluate the impact of a £150 million project designed to revitalise walking and cycling across the UK.

The iConnect (Impact of COnstructing Non-motorised Networks and Evaluating Changes in Travel) study aims to measure and evaluate the changes in travel, physical activity and carbon emissions related to Sustrans' Connect2 project, which won the public vote in the Big Lottery Fund's People's £50 Million Competition.

Connect2 is an ambitious UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 communities, including Southampton, by creating new crossings and bridges to overcome barriers such as busy roads, rivers and railways, giving people easier and healthier access to their schools, shops, parks and countryside.

Starting next month, the five-year iConnect study involves a broad evaluation of the whole programme coupled with detailed investigations at five specific sites, including Southampton's Connect2 project, which is to create a raised walkway alongside the River Itchen from St Denys to St Mary's. Researchers hope to determine if the new routes have got more people switching from using their cars to walking or cycling, helping them to get more physically active and reducing their carbon footprint.

Professor John Preston, from the University of Southampton's Transportation Research Group, who is leading the study, comments:

"This is a unique opportunity for an interdisciplinary group of researchers to determine whether major investments in physical infrastructure encourage changes in travel behaviour that will also be beneficial in terms of the environment and public health."

Dr Andy Cope, Sustrans' Director of Research and Monitoring, adds:

"We are delighted to be working with the iConnect research group. Appropriate measurement of the impact of all of our projects is crucial to showing their value, and is especially important as the search for solutions to our transport challenges become ever-more urgent."

The multi-institutional iConnect study, which has received £2.3 million Government funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), also involves the universities of Bristol, East Anglia, Loughborough, Oxford, Strathclyde and West of England (UWE) and the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge. Researchers from these institutions will work together to investigate the impact of the Sustrans' Connect2 project across the fields of transport, carbon emissions, public health and energy consumption.

Glenn Harris | alfa
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