One could be forgiven for thinking that Government transport policy is mired in uncertainty and lack of vision. A recent survey cited in the Guardian reveals that less than a third of senior figures in transport believe Government has a clear vision, and 85% believe that this has had a negative impact.
Concern about lack of strategic thinking has been a recurring theme so far this year. Last month the Public Accounts Committee raised serious concerns about devolution of funding without ring-fencing, a central plank of Government local transport strategy. And earlier this year 32 transport professors wrote to the Secretary of State calling for a radical rethink.
It was most heartening, therefore, to see the publication last week of the Government’s door to door strategy. This excellent document encourages precisely the sort of effective low cost interventions that can make a real difference in persuading people to use public transport.
Joining up the dots
Greener Journeys has long argued that the only way seriously to compete with the car, is to provide a genuine door to door alternative. It might not be as glamorous as a new major piece of transport infrastructure but joining up the dots for every leg of the traveller’s journey is every bit as important, and will be crucial to achieving real modal switch.
How can we seriously expect travellers on arriving at an unfamiliar station to do anything other than rely on lifts or taxis if we don’t spell out where the buses to and from? We know from our research that nearly a quarter of car drivers could be persuaded to use the bus more if information was improved (YouGov, 2011)
Ensuring that bus and train timetables are synchronised is a no-brainer. And ticketing is another key factor. It is not surprising therefore, that on the same day Department for Transport released guidance for multi operator ticketing. We know that more than a fifth of car drivers would be more likely to use the bus if they didn’t have to pay each time (YouGov, 2011).
Buses play a leading role
Buses provide a crucial link for passengers and play a leading role in the door to door journey. Already 12% of rail passengers arrive at the station by bus, and this proportion would increase significantly simply by applying some of the low cost and effective interventions outlined in the door to door strategy.
And who knows how many more trips would be made by public transport instead of by car, if it was made easier for travellers to complete their whole journey?
We know that congestion is a major drain on the economy costing upwards of £11 billion every year. Buses are key to reducing congestion, and delivering sustainable economic growth. Bus commuters generate £64 billion in economic output.
I hope that when he makes his budget statement this week, the Chancellor will recognise the importance not just of capital investment in transport infrastructure, but equally of providing a more integrated public transport offering.
Photo by Steve Slater