Behaviour change can work says conference

Norman Baker speaks at an ATCO ConferenceBehaviour change can be an effective way of growing the market for bus services, delegates to ATCO’s Winter Conference were told last week.

The scene was set by Transport Minister Norman Baker, who emphasised the importance of behaviour change in delivering national and local government priorities and said:

“Behaviour change is not some elaborate plot designed to control people’s decisions - it is about enabling passengers to make quicker, easier, greener and cheaper journeys by putting the right infrastructure in place.  It’s about meeting people’s needs better. 

“We’re providing £400 million for measures to promote the uptake of electric cars, we have provided £200m to support ITSO smart ticketing schemes between 09/10 and 10/11, and I’ve just launched the Anywhere Working initiative to help businesses change to more flexible working practices.  I’ve also provided £560m for sustainable transport projects through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – successful schemes include better cycling and walking facilities and improvements to roads and public transport, all of which will help to create growth and cut carbon”.

The conference sessions that followed were based around Dr Jillian Anable’s categorisation of transport users as “aspiring environmentalists”, “malcontented motorists”, “car complacents” and “diehard drivers”, with the speakers challenged to identify ways of motivating each group to adopt more sustainable transport choices. In a series of upbeat presentations, the audience heard from Elaine Rosscraig (Head of Customer Insight at Stagecoach Bus) and Rob Bennett (Commercial Manager at Norfolk Green), who described how positive and targeted marketing can lead to sustained growth in bus market share; while Steve Atkinson (Merseytravel) and Julian Feasby from the Environment Agency showed how personalised travel planning and business travel plans can have a significant impact on travel behaviour. Neil Buxton enthused about the success of Community Rail Partnerships in promoting greater use of local rail services, while Bob Menzies reported how the high quality and reliable service offered by the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway was changing travel habits along the congested A14 corridor, and Perry Payne from BUSK put the case for a partnership approach to tackling poor behaviour on school buses as a way of making school transport more attractive and reducing the impact of the school run. Finally, Richard Hebditch from the Campaign for Better Transport left the conference with the thought that the only way to influence “diehard motorists” was to change the context in which their travel decisions were made, through joined up policies on land use planning, speed limit enforcement, pricing and taxation, and parking management. He noted that this required a long term approach to policy which had sadly not been evident in the short termism that had characterised the approaches taken by successive Governments.

Despite the upbeat message from the Conference, local authorities and operators continue to face real difficulty in maintaining bus services in face of the financial pressures arising from the triple challenge of reduced BSOG, local authority funding reductions and concessionary fares reimbursement. Delegates who stayed on for ATCO’s AGM heard Roger Banks present the results of ATCO’s annual price, expenditure and competition survey. This revealed that although tender prices had fallen for the third successive year, this had been offset by inflation increases and the estimated additional £6.4 million that authorities had to spend on replacing withdrawn commercial services and contracts that had been terminated early. Nearly half of all local authorities said that they had to reduce local bus services in the current financial year to stay within budget, with a much worse situation being reported in rural areas where 81% of authorities were having to cut services. The situation is unlikely to improve next year, with rural authority transport coordinators saying that they believe they would need an inflation- busting 11% budget increase to maintain existing levels of service.

ENDS 

Contact details

For further information please contact;
Ian White,
ATCO Communications Executive
Telephone: 01225 713322
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes for editors;

  1. ATCO was formed in 1974 to bring together the then new public transport co-ordinators in County Councils. Membership of the Association has subsequently been widened to embrace transport professionals working in all areas of passenger transport co-ordination. ATCO has over 600 members in County, Metropolitan and Unitary Councils in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as from Passenger Transport Executives and other transport related organisations.
  2. ATCO holds a Winter and Summer Conference each year. The programme for the Winter Conference can be found on the ATCO website http://www.atco.org.uk/component/jdownloads/finish/7-atco-business/130-winter-conference-2011-programme-and-booking-form/0
  3. This is the fourteenth successive year in which the price and competition survey has been carried out, with 81 responses received from urban and rural unitary authorities, shire counties and Passenger Transport Executives in England, Wales and Scotland. A summary of the headline findings is available from Ian White at the address above.
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