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The University of Southampton

New study launched to investigate impact of £150 million UK-wide travel project

Published: 15 October 2008

A new study to evaluate the impact of a £150 million project designed to revitalise walking and cycling across the UK is being launched in Oxford today (Wednesday 15 October).

Led by the University of Southampton, the iConnect (Impact of COnstructing Non-motorised Networks and Evaluating Changes in Travel) study aims to measure and evaluate the impact on travel, physical activity and carbon emissions related to Sustrans' Connect2 project.

The Connect2 project, won the public vote in the Big Lottery Fund’s People’s £50 Million Competition, and is an ambitious UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 communities. It will create 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 for everyday journeys.

To mark the launch of the multi-institutional iConnect study, a one-day conference is being held at St Anne's College in Oxford. Members of the consortium, which also involves the universities of Bristol, East Anglia, Loughborough, Oxford, Strathclyde and West of England (UWE) and the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, will examine new research to study the travel, physical activity and energy/carbon impacts of Connect2.

They will also discuss with a broad range of experts in walking and cycling how to best measure and evaluate these impacts and identify the most effective approach to promote walking and cycling in the UK.

Professor John Preston, from the University of Southampton’s Transportation Research Group, who is leading the study, comments: “This is a unique opportunity for academic experts to determine at a nationwide scale whether interventions to promote cycling and walking are effective, and to consider in what ways they are effective, for whom and in what circumstances. The Connect2 project has the potential to benefit up to 10 per cent of the UK’s population. The iConnect study will help determine whether this potential has been realised.”

Andy Cope, Director of Sustrans’ Research and Monitoring Unit adds: “We know from our monitoring of usage on the National Cycle Network that walking and cycling brings many benefits for our health and the environment. We are confident that this is also true of Connect2 - but this research will be invaluable in enabling us to prove it.”

The iConnect study is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for five years.

Notes for editors

  • Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK’s transport challenges.
  • Sustrans’ Connect2 is a UK-wide project that will create new cycling and walking routes to improve local travel in 79 communities. Connect2 was awarded a £50 million Big Lottery Fund grant after winning a public vote televised on ITV1 in December 2007. Further details are available at
  • The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
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