Transport User Voice – February 2019 – Young people and transport in Wales

04 February 2019

Good practice and priorities for improvement

Over 50 guests turned out to listen to an excellent panel of speakers at the Focws ar Drafnidiaeth Pobl ifanc a thrafnidiaeth: digwyddiad Caerdydd (Transport Focus young people and transport event) held in Cardiff on 24 January at the Pierhead building beside the Senedd (Assembly for Wales).

The timing of this event reflected various developments in Wales that have placed something of a spotlight on how well policy makers and public transport providers currently meet the needs of young people. For one thing, there is a new rail operator – Transport for Wales – that started in October 2018. The Welsh Government also plans to extend the 16-18 year-olds’ discount (MyTravel pass) to include young people up to the age of 21.

The Cardiff meeting was sponsored by Russell George AM, chair of the economy, infrastructure and skills committee at the National Assembly for Wales. Opening the event, he welcomed the insight Transport Focus provides for Welsh lawmakers and expressed a keen interest in making sure more Assembly Members better understand this work.

Much of the research done by Transport Focus to date – on bus and rail user experience – makes clear that young people are the least satisfied group of passengers. David Beer, the stakeholder manager leading Transport Focus’s work in Wales, explained what the Bus Passenger Survey and National Rail Passenger Survey both show about young people’s experience of these transport modes in Wales. Louise Coward, (acting) head of insight, reviewed what detailed research into Using the bus: what young people think published nearly a year ago shows young people want by way of a better customer experience. These presentations provoked some surprise and good debate in an audience less keen to discuss the issues.

Alexia Course and Colin Lea presented a comprehensive view of what Transport for Wales is pledged to deliver by way of better trains, stations, services, connectivity and fares for all passengers through its “fundamentally different rail franchise”. In particular, they highlighted how these changes will be designed partly to benefit younger passengers.

Matt Goggins from the Liverpool city region combined authority explained how the city region’s bus alliance has brought together bus operators and the transport authority Merseytravel to deliver investment in new buses and modernised ticketing (including MyTicket passes). Together this has realised 168 per cent growth in journeys by younger passengers since 2013 – a change also reflected in the Bus Passenger Survey, which confirms better overall satisfaction and double-digit growth with value for money over the same period. Linda McCord, a Transport Focus senior stakeholder manager who chairs the West Midlands Bus Alliance, then discussed similar innovation underway in that region.

Andrew Sherrington, managing director of bus operator First Cymru, flagged the way rising levels of road congestion are imposing real costs that will ultimately impact fare prices over time. He also flagged the real challenge facing everyone keen to secure a more sustainable transport system – how to keep young people using public transport “long past the stage when they tend to be lost forever to the private car”. First Cymru has also used Transport Focus research, alongside its own insight, to better understand the needs of young passengers to tailor its services more effectively.

Summing up, Transport Focus Board member for Wales, William Powell, said: “There are many ingrained assumptions held about what young people need or want, some of them no longer justified, that need to be addressed. The emphasis on integrated ticketing offers a particular challenge. This event was a valuable opportunity to bring together transport professionals and assembly members alongside representatives of user groups and youth organisations to discuss issues affecting young people in Wales. A better consensus across these stakeholders is essential if Wales is ultimately to realise a public transport system that better meets the needs of young people and offers them a more pleasant journey experience”.

Future development of Transport for Wales inquiry
Transport Focus was also recently asked to give evidence to the National Assembly for Wales cross-party transport group on Wednesday 20 February, for its inquiry into the future development of Transport for Wales. This inquiry is looking at planning to integrate various transport modes, effective governance for the new operator and how the passenger voice is to be heard in Wales going forward.

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