Department for Transport investigates Alternatives to Travel for public sector employees

Published on Thursday, 13 September 2012 10:49
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

The Department for Transport has recently completed an investigation in public sector organisations of the effectiveness of Alternatives to Travel (ATT) measures in reducing travel, saving money and cutting carbon emissions.  

Transport consultant JMP examined alternatives including home working and remote working, flexible working and staggered hours, teleconferencing, videoconferencing and web conferencing instead of travelling to and for work, to establish if vehicle mileage reduced.

The last few years have been tough for the public sector, facing unprecedented challenges through structural change, asset rationalisation and budget reductions.  Against this backdrop 'Alternatives to Travel' (ATT) can offer solutions to the some of the changes public sector organisations are facing.

Providing ATT effectively reduces the need to travel.  These alternatives offer solutions when organisations are re-structuring and rationalising accommodation.  The avoidance of travel, in favour of alternatives such as telephone conferencing or home working, offers the potential for significant cost savings and carbon efficiencies.  This potential is now well recognised, though the extent of such "transport savings" compared to the costs incurred in providing for these alternatives are less well understood.

JMP, through a Department for Transport (DfT) funded programme, worked with public sector organisations to deliver ATT to seek an improved understanding of their impacts in terms of travel reduction, and cost and carbon savings.  The programme, delivered from July 2011 to March 2012, helped four authorities (Cheshire West and Chester Council, Dorset County Council, Kent County Council and Swindon Borough Council) to examine the impact of providing ATT with respect to work related journeys.  All the local authorities involved have been able to demonstrate that increased use of ATT has led to reduced travel, and to cost savings and carbon reductions.

In delivering the programme JMP developed an assessment tool which captures commute and business-related travel data.  Each of the participating councils used the assessment tool.  The data gathered provides the evidence base to support the business case for promoting ATT.  JMP worked with pilot groups of up to 200 employees who used ATT in replacing journeys to work and during their working day.  These included a one month 'Alternatives to Travel' challenge, 'How To' guides on teleconferencing, and advice to managers to help them manage staff in remote locations and to encourage home and remote working.

Monitoring shows that the pilot groups reduced their work-related travel.  It has been projected that authorities could achieve cost savings of up to £350k per annum if ATT are implemented across each authority.

The local authorities responded positively to the opportunity.  Claire Fleming from Swindon Travel Choices noted that "it was really good for us as a transport team to involve other parts of the organisation in this project; we were able to streamline our activities with that of our IT and business transformation teams to complement each other's work, and also to bring transport issues onto the agenda of different departments.  Overall, just getting people to think about the journeys they make, and how and why they need to make them has proved effective and challenged the way we traditionally work."

The practical benefits for council officers were identified by Chris Marsden, Senior ICT Officer, Cheshire West and Chester Council who observed that "all pest control officers now live with Blackberrys and are managing their calendars online, remotely and should now not have need to come back to the office.  I think this is simply the start of a number of changes and improvements we will be doing in that area".

All tools, measures, templates and examples used during the project are now available on the DfT website at and offer practical solutions to the private sector as well as public sector organisations.

Source: ©JMP

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