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Mainstreaming travel plans in the UK : policy proposals for Government. Research Report to the Department for Transport and the National Business Travel Network, 22nd October 2008

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posted on 2009-02-26, 15:19 authored by Marcus EnochMarcus Enoch, Stephen Ison
The seminal publication in terms of current UK Transport Policy was the 1998 White Paper ‘A New deal for transport: Better for Everyone’ (DoE, 1998). This stated that there was now a consensus for a radical change in transport policy with recognition of the need to improve public transport and reduce the dependency on the private car. It confirmed the UK Government’s commitment to tackling the problem of congestion and pollution. As such, the main aim of the White Paper was ‘to increase personal choice by improving the alternatives and secure mobility that is sustainable in the long term’. The White Paper also sought to enhance local transport planning by creating a partnership between local councils, businesses, operators and users. The Government, via the Department for Transport, is consequently keen to promote initiatives that seek to reduce congestion, improve the local environment and encourage healthier and safer lifestyles. ‘Smarter Choices’ is currently an approach being used in order to influence individuals’ travel behaviour towards the use of more sustainable options such as encouraging workplace, school and individualised travel planning. Smarter Choices seeks to improve public transport and marketing services, for example travel awareness campaigns, setting up websites for car share schemes, supporting car clubs and encouraging teleworking. Two high profile reports have recently been published in the UK with an impact on Transport Policy, namely the Stern Review Report on the Economics of Climate Change (HM Treasury, 2006) and the Eddington Transport Study (Eddington, 2006). The Stern Review argues that in terms of climate change ‘strong and early action far outweighs the economic costs of not acting’. Failure to act in terms of climate change is estimated to be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP per annum. The Review argues that climate change can be tackled in a way that ‘does not cap the aspirations for growth … Emissions can be cut through increased energy efficiency’. Policy options include: ‘action to remove barriers to energy efficiency, and to inform, educate and persuade individuals about what they can do to respond to climate change’. Clearly there is a role here for travel plans. The Eddington Transport Study (December 2006) views key economic challenges facing the UK transport system as capacity and performance, with congested and growing urban areas impeding growth and impacting on productivity. To address this challenge, the Eddington Study – as a guide to transport strategy priorities – states that the UK Government should focus on improving the performance of existing transport networks. In responding to these documents, the UK Government published Towards a Sustainable Transport System in October 2007 (DfT, 2007) which considered the two reports and incorporated the main features of both directly into Government policy, setting out an initial position for the government in relation to those reports One potential tool that has emerged in the UK over a similar period to address the issues raised in the policy arena has been the travel plan, which UK Government guidance (EEBPP, 2001) defines as being: ‘a general term for a package of measures tailored to meet the needs of individual sites and aimed at promoting greener, cleaner travel choices and reducing reliance on the car. It involves the development of a set of mechanisms, initiatives and targets that together can enable an organisation to reduce the impact of travel and transport on the environment, whilst also bringing a number of other benefits to the organisation as an employer and to staff.’ The idea behind travel plans, which have their origins in the US, was as a relatively quick and easy response to the fuel crises during the 1970s. Travel plans were fairly slow to translate to a European setting, arriving in first in the Netherlands in the early 1990s and then in the UK in the mid 1990s. As of 2008, a number of travel plans are now in place across the European Union, from Ireland to Austria – Travel Plans are not yet widely known about in Eastern Europe and from Sweden to Malta. The relative merits of travel plans to Governments and local authorities are that they are reasonably quick to introduce, relatively cheap and, most importantly, are usually politically acceptable. This is in marked contrast to most other transport improvement schemes which often require high levels of investment over a long period of time and can carry a high political risk – especially in the short term as conditions frequently deteriorate while improvements are being carried out. Moreover, travel plans can be effective at peak times and in peak locations and can be used to address a wide variety of public policy goals including reducing congestion, energy use, air quality and noise impacts, and improving accessibility, equity, health and the economy. Crucially however, travel plans are dependent on the willingness of other organisations (i.e. traffic generators such as employers, retail parks, schools and hospitals) to get involved in helping to address something that is normally outside their operational remit. This potentially is a major barrier. At the site level studies have shown that UK travel plans combining both incentives to using alternatives to the car, together with disincentives to drive, can achieve a 15-30 per cent reduction in drive alone commuting (DTLR, 2001). For instance, Rye (2002) estimates that travel plans have removed just over 150,000 car trips per day from British roads each working day, or 1.14 billion km per year, i.e. around three quarters of one per cent of the total vehicle km travelled to work by car overall. The purpose of this report therefore, is to build upon the findings from a literature review (see Enoch and Zhang, 2008) and a series of in-depth interviews conducted with ten Travel Plan experts by the authors (Enoch and Ison, 2008)to propose a series of policy actions as to how Government, local authorities, businesses, organisations and the travel plan industry might improve the situation.



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ENOCH, M.P., and ISON, S.G., 2008. Mainstreaming travel plans in the UK : policy proposals for Government. Research Report to the Department for Transport and the National Business Travel Network, 22nd October 2008. Loughborough : Loughborough University


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