2 Traffic at dusk on the M42 motorway near Birmingham_iStock-155385262 (1) (1)

A new study figuring out how to urgently decarbonise transport will employ the use of ‘digital twins’ for real-world systems that calculate how their performance can be improved.

Digital twins are sophisticated computer simulations of physical objects, systems or processes and they could be crucial for shaping the future of a range of industries, including freight transport.

Led by experts at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Glasgow, the first step in the Twinning for Decarbonising Project, or TransiT, involves consulting with the industry to map the country’s current transport infrastructure.

TransiT hopes to be able to then build digital twins for the entire UK transport infrastructure, which will provide information about how the country reaches net zero.

Professor Phil Greening of Heriot-Watt University said: “The UK has targeted a reduction in carbon of 78% by 2035. Transport accounts for approximately a third of our total emissions and the changes required will be transformative.

“We don’t have long to work out what we need to do, and digital twins, along with other digital approaches, offer the fastest route to de-risking investment and accelerating decarbonisation.

“Digital twins offer the possibility of much better transport user experiences,” he said. “Citizens will work with academics and industry to co-create better transport solutions, and businesses will be able to use digital methods to develop risk free approaches to deploying radical green solutions."

Professor David Flynn, at the University of Glasgow, said “We’re keen to involve a broad range of stakeholders in our initial six-month consultation, including citizens, regulators, industry, commerce, government and green finance investors.

“It’s vital that we collaborate in new ways to deliver timely solutions to the climate crisis, which will also unlock new social and economic benefits. Time is short and we need to be able to model the solutions that will work in the real world for industry, people and the planet.”

For more stories tracking the industry journey to decarbonisation see our new Freight Carbon Zero website.