Digital Twin Project to Help Decarbonize UK’s Transportation Infrastructure

by | Jun 23, 2023

Glasgow water front

(Credit: Canva Pro)

The United Kingdom government is aiming to build on its net-zero commitments by embarking on the TransiT project, also known as Twinning for Decarbonizing. With the backing of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), this initiative aims to explore the potential of digital capabilities and strategies in reducing carbon emissions from the country’s transport sector. As transport currently accounts for approximately one-third of the UK’s total carbon emissions, rapid decarbonization is a priority.

The Role of TransiT Project in Decarbonization

Digital technology is expected to play a vital role in helping the UK achieve its decarbonization targets. The TransiT project has secured funding, which will be used to conduct an extensive consultation involving industry experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders. The consultation will explore how digital technology can be harnessed to accelerate the decarbonization of the transport sector. The outcomes of this consultation will lay the foundation for implementing effective strategies in subsequent project phases.

Leading Experts and Digital Twins

Heriot-Watt University and the University of Glasgow are spearheading the TransiT project, bringing together experts in the field. Central to the project’s approach are digital twins, advanced computer simulations of physical objects, processes, or systems. Digital twins provide valuable insights into improving performance and guiding decision-making. As sensor technology becomes more accessible and connectivity improves, digital twins are gaining prominence across various industries, including healthcare and aerospace engineering.

Expanding Digital Twin Applications

While digital twins have been used in smaller-scale transport projects in the past, the TransiT project aims to create a comprehensive digital twin encompassing the entire UK transport infrastructure. This data-driven approach will serve as the foundation for urgent decarbonization efforts needed to achieve the country’s net-zero goals. Over the next six months, the project team will collaborate with industry, policymakers, and civil society to map the current transport infrastructure across all four UK nations.

The results of the consultation will inform the research priorities, structure, and membership of the proposed TransiT Hub in subsequent project phases. The Hub will bring together stakeholders to develop an inclusive digital toolset capable of transforming transport services, networks, systems, and assets. 

Professor Phil Greening of Heriot-Watt University emphasizes the urgent need for transformative changes in the transport sector to achieve the UK’s target of a 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035. Digital twins, combined with other digital approaches, offer the fastest route to de-risking investment and accelerating decarbonization.

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