Suffolk’s public transport: going the extra mile

Workers at Suffolk County Council can now use an online Travel Portal as a central point of information for all  travel.  Very laudable.

To aid you in your travel choices,  it has a  Step-by-step decision-maker (which doesn’t work) plus  a list of Alternative Travel Options to firm up your mind as to how you are to travel.

And this is where we part company as to its use and intentions.  For it has to be said, this  list of Alternative Travel Options (although intended to be informative) suggests there is no real alternative to the car.

In particular, Alternative Travel Options fails to mention the cheap and efficient bicycle as any form of travel alternative. Yet I personally cycled 2,500 miles on council business last year.

I’d like to point out here  that far fron being a lycra-clad fitness freak,  I am (sadly) 53,  fat, with a bad knee, a need to arrive appropriately dressed, have many care commitments and live more  than 8 road miles out of Ipswich. In short, if  someone like me can cycle 2500 work miles a year there must be many many other SCC employees who could also be encouraged to do the same.

In the absence of the bicycle,  SCC’s  Alternative Travel Options list provides the following six options for their workers to consider:

  1. Fleet vehicle (car, van or specialist vehicle)
  2. Lease Car –
  3. Hire car
  4. Team pool cars
  5. Public transport
  6. Reimburse  vehicle mileage

Notice anything? Out of these six , five refer specifically to car usage .

Each option comes with ‘issues to consider’ – issues which are broadly financial.   However, not in the case of Public Transport.  Here the issues to consider are (in full):

  • Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access.
  • May be more expensive for some journeys.
  • Requires planning ahead.
  • Some personal safety considerations (location/time of travel).

Let’s not big it up too much eh? Leaving aside the ‘May be more expensive for some journeys’, (which  is not mentioned in any of the car driving options), surely it is deeply unreasonable to list “personal safety considerations” as a reason to  for the Greenest County to discourage its own employees  from travelling  by bus/train?    There are many many more deaths/injuries in transit amongst car drivers and passengers than among those using public transport.  I am therefore pressing SCC to list “personal safety considerations” as a risk  with all the car-driving options .

Additionally, the mention of public transport is glossed as “Journeys to meetings, conferences etc where train travel between mainline stations is available. Business journeys within more urban locations.”  Yet shouldn’t we be encouraging all employees to travel sustainably within Suffolk at all times?   So why not advocate public transport more strongly?

The difficulty is laid out fairly and clearly: public transport is “Not always an option due to time constraints/ availability/access”.   Right.  Yet public transport difficulties have become  major problems for the people of Suffolk because of the lack of support SCC has given to public transport .  Our legislators  and administrators  like to talk the talk, but instead of walking the walk  – or cycling the bike, or taking the bus  – too many are wedded to driving the car.

Which has led inexorably to the County Council’s cut of the Bury Park and Ride site and its continuing barefaced  insistence that Demand Responsive Transport (7am – 7pm weekdays only)  adequately replaces subsidised bus services (yes, those which also operated during evenings/Sundays/Bank holidays). These two decisions alone  have  added greatly to the problem of ‘time constraints/ availability/access” in public transport – sadly there are others.

Is it entirely reasonable that SCC should be diverting away its own employees from the transport difficulties it  has inflicted on others who do not have the chance to claim back transport expenses?

 

End Note

I wrote to the  SCC Travel Portal on 2 June giving feedback on ther portal pretty much in terms of the above. I was delighted to receive an email two weeks later telling me that as a direct reponse to my comments, the portal had been entirely redesigned ” in accordance with the sustainable travel hierarchy“. 

The officer who redesigned it has done a wonderful job. The portal  is  now both more helpful and useful, and is much MUCH more encouraging towards sustainable forms of transport. Congratulations!