Drawing up a blueprint for sustainable travel

Travel plans should be the foundation of all public sector fleets. Ian Langdon, director of operations at CP Plus works with local authorities and NHS Trusts and recognises the value of planning when it comes to environmental and business sense

For many local authorities, NHS trusts and other organisations, travel often represents the single biggest impact they have on the environment. How can they reduce that impact?

The most common mechanism is the introduction of an integrated transport policy, combined with individual site travel plans. Indeed, central government actively encourages major employers to have transport strategies in place; in the case of the NHS they are a requirement.    

Travel plans are blueprints to help organisations assess and simplify their travel and parking needs. They provide a package of practical measures to help reduce the financial and environmental burden of commuter and business travel. In the process they can change behaviours, improve travel patterns and reduce the overuse of private cars.    
Unnecessary solo car travel is an obvious target for improvement. The Highways Agency has piloted some feasibility studies, including one on the M42 near Birmingham and one being constructed on the M1 between junctions 6 and 10, aimed at encouraging car sharing by providing special lanes for vehicles containing two or more passengers. High occupancy vehicle (HOV) or car pool lanes are created by either using the hard shoulder or widening roads.  Such schemes have proved effective in America and Australia.    

As well as encouraging car sharing, travel plans should also promote the use of greener, more fuel efficient vehicles. CP Plus, working with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, is setting an example by using low carbon emission Smart cars to patrol the 10 parking sites it manages for the city's healthcare organisation.   

{sidebar id=1}Travel plans should also include measures to make better use of public transport and develop a more sophisticated approach to parking. All this is in addition to measures to promote alternative methods of travel such as cycling and walking, and to cut the need to travel at all, through innovations such as videoconferencing.    

Travel plans consist of a range of measures to reduce unnecessary travel and improve the management of necessary travel. Plans need to be based on sound research, including a survey of travel needs at each site. They should be inclusive, including the views of as many members of staff and local stakeholders as possible.    

Effective parking management, as part of a travel plan, can be instrumental in creating improved employee relations, making it easier, for example, for employees to arrive at work punctually and less stressed. At its most dramatic, it can even help save lives by eliminating illegal parking that can block access for emergency vehicles or emergency exits.  

In advising a client, fleet consultants should always tailor a travel plan to the individual circumstances of each site but considerations would typically cover:

  • Cycling facilities, storage and changing rooms/showers
  • Improved pedestrian routes
  • Information on public transport
  • Favourable public transport provision
  • Improved site signage
  • Priority parking or reduced tariffs for car sharers
  • Flexible working practices
  • Parking charges or payment to people who don’t park
  • Parking restrictions for people who live close by or on direct public transport routes
  • Management techniques such as card entry or permit systems
  • Fair but robust parking enforcement

Developing a greener approach to travel has many advantages beyond the important environmental ones.     

Having a travel plan in place enables organisations to see where they are incurring unnecessary costs and take steps to reduce them. Over-reliance on private cars is an expensive option and a reduction in use will have a positive impact on an organisation’s maintenance and fuel costs.    

In addition, improving the travel experience for staff helps them become better motivated, healthier and more productive. By managing parking better, organisations can reduce the demand for spaces or make more efficient use of the ones they have, potentially freeing up expensive land for alternative usage.    

Better managed transport and parking arrangements help organisations fulfil their duty of care towards the workforce. Improved transport arrangements facilitate more flexible working practices, enabling shift workers whose cars are essential to their work, for example, to have priority parking spaces.

Please register to comment on this article