Articles

How urban transit systems can enhance and support the future growth of our cities and economies

June 1, 2016

Ian L. Edwards, President, Infrastructure

The need for more efficient and improved transportation has become crucial in many major cities around the world. The current world demand for infrastructure globally is 4 Trillion dollars and supply is 3 Trillion dollars giving an annual deficit of one Trillion year on year. Urban cities in developing countries are overcrowding as their economies become wealthier. Significant technology disruption to car ownership and renewed interest for alternative means of transportation are shifting mobility trends in developed countries. 

While there are challenges, the benefits generated by a properly planned transportation infrastructure project clearly outweigh them.

Urban transit systems play a key role in creating economic and employment opportunities. The design and construction of the infrastructure yield short term benefits, followed by the long term employment to operate and maintain the railway. 

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Additional benefits include the efficient movement of people and the creation of commercial, retail and residential hubs located at stations along transit systems. Leisure, restaurant and retail hubs are created at street level along a transit system. Traffic congestion, pollution and parking issues are all improved leading to a better quality of life. 


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In Canada, we have our own success story. We have played a major role in the development, design, construction and operation of 6 out of the last 9 urban light transit systems that have been built or are in the process of being built. 

Examples include the Canada Line and the Evergreen Line in Vancouver, the Confederation Line in Ottawa and Eglinton Crosstown in Toronto.  Our role spanned the whole life cycle of a project - inception planning, to finance, detailed design, construction and ultimately operation and maintenance of the transit system. 

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A few key factors to be successful in developing effective transportation solutions include:

Planning: Political vision, financial commitment, an integrated transport solution that allows for sustainable, growth in an urban environment is key. This includes understanding and addressing a community’s concerns regarding any disruption to their way of life as well as meeting governments’ concerns on the overall value of investing in a major project. 

User experience: A user experience does not start once they jump on board a transit. It starts the minute they start planning their journey and ends once they’ve attained their final destination. Key elements that guide a user’s choice of transportation are ease of access, cost-efficiency and comfort.

Considering future generations: Projects planned now will service future generations.

Over the last decade, the ways we think, learn, work, build a family, take care of our health, commute and consume have changed dramatically. Interconnectivity, information and options for citizens have progressed at every level. We have gotten used to an amplified ease of access in everything we do, and we can expect this trend is increase exponentially.


Infrastructure is central to every aspect of life. It is a key driver for productivity and growth, and a critical contributor to the well-being of people. As a company, we are very proud to build projects that have a positive outcome for our clients, our employees, the environment and our communities.

Ian L. Edwards,

President, Infrastructure

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Bio: 

Ian L. Edwards is President, Infrastructure sector, SNC-Lavalin. Appointed to this role in April 2015, Mr. Edwards leads SNC-Lavalin's global Infrastructure and related businesses, this includes; Infrastructure Engineering, Infrastructure Construction, and Operations & Maintenance business units. He has over 30 years of experience delivering complex infrastructure projects and leading businesses in many sectors and across a dozen countries.

Mr. Edwards joined SNC-Lavalin in 2014 after six years in senior roles with the Leighton Group. In 2012, he became Managing Director, Leighton Asia, India and Offshore, where he led a diverse business of 20,000 employees spanning the construction, infrastructure, oil and gas and mining sectors in 14 countries. For four years prior to this, Mr. Edwards was Executive General Manager, Leighton Asia Limited, where he secured sustainable, year-on-year business growth and significantly enhanced shareholder returns. 

Mr. Edwards holds Higher and Ordinary Certificates in Civil Engineering from Lancashire University in the United Kingdom. He is an incorporated Member of the Chartered Institute of Building, a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and Fellow of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers. 

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