Transport User Voice – March 2022 – Around Great Britain
24 February 2022
The West Midlands, Scotland, Wales, and London
The West Midlands
It’s almost 150 days until the start of the Commonwealth Games. Transport Focus is part of the steering group overseeing the delivery of the transport system for the games.
What’s the future for rail collaboration? We joined our fellow supervisory board members, including rail operators, Network Rail and the West Midlands Rail Executive, to discuss the role and future of the West Midlands Grand Railway Collaboration.
Locally, we continue to work with West Midlands Trains in various ways, such as through its customer experience board where we share our insight and the passenger perspective. West Midlands Metro services are fully restored end-to-end, and track is being laid in Dudley as the Metro extension works expand.
New zero-emission buses are coming into service. Following a multi-million-pound investment in the city, Coventry is set to become the UK’s first all-electric bus city by 2025, with up to 300 zero-emission buses expected on the streets. Additionally, we’re still chairing the West Midlands Bus Alliance.
It’s been a tough start to the year for many with financial pressures biting, even in the transport industry. Transport for London remains in an uncertain situation. Revenue is running low and negotiation deadlines are being missed.
London TravelWatch is continuing to urge all involved to come together to find a solution. Without an agreement, we could see a spiralling decline in the use of public transport use in the capital which would be bad news both economically and for the decarbonisation agenda.
London TravelWatch has also been preparing the transition to Great British Railways (GBR), the new organisation that will oversee rail from 2023. This has involved research looking at rail users’ priorities. It will be representative of groups across Greater London and will hopefully help show the industry what matters to passengers.
The final report will be released in the coming months and we’ll share more news about the research soon.
We had a good reaction to ScotRail’s ticket office consultation proposal with over 1500 responses in total. The proposed changes would impact 120 stations.
The consultation document acknowledges that opening hours for ticket offices have largely remained unchanged in over 30 years. During that time, the way many passengers buy their tickets has been steadily changing. More passengers have been choosing to buy online, on board, from ticket vending machines, or using smartcards or apps because of the convenience offered. This has seen ticket office sales reducing steadily over that 30-year period to just 28 per cent of ticket sales in 2019.
Our response to the consultation taking into consideration the comments received and ScotRail’s reply can be found here.
Our Board member for Scotland, Trisha McAuley OBE, will be chairing the Rail: North of the Border conference on Thursday 3 March and speaking at the Scottish Transport and Infrastructure Investment & Development Conference on Wednesday 30 March.
Lastly, with important decisions around investment to be made on the draft Strategic Transport Projects Review 2, enabling the transition to net-zero with rail decarbonisation plans and bus partnership funding, it’s important we gain a consumer perspective on these developments.
Demand Responsive Transport
Transport Focus Wales has been working with Transport for Wales to measure the experience of Demand Responsive Transport (DRT). This follows a number of pilot schemes under the fflecsi brand in Wales in 2020.
We looked at two schemes in England for comparison. Work is currently underway to review an expanded service that launched in Newport in 2021 but as there is significant interest in this type of service, we are sharing an interim summary report now. You can read it here.
The research suggests a valuable role for DRT as a part of the overall transport mix. Interim findings include:
- Once the flexible concept is understood, it is seen as an attractive option both by previous bus users and by some who might be open to using it instead of a car.
- Promotion and education are essential if people are to fully appreciate the concept, the ride booking system and that it is ‘for everybody’.
- Demand Responsive Transport is well-suited to serve the rural communities covered in the fflecsi pilot where bus services are reduced.
- For many, using an app to book a ride is appealing, making the service innovative and modern. Many of those who were initially uncomfortable with using the technology have adapted to it although some resistance remains. Some prefer to use the call centre especially if they have difficulties with the system.
We are aware of some communications issues for passengers making rail connections with ferry services in west Wales, particularly during weather disruption. We are pressing for more collaboration between rail and ferry operators to ensure passengers have the information they need to plan their journeys properly. We will be talking to rail operators and ferry operators over the coming weeks to ensure there are improvements in this area.
Welsh Government consultations
Welsh Government is asking for views on two consultations:
- Cardiff to Newport travel corridors: improvement options for bus passengers, cyclists and pedestrians on the main A48 road and national cycle route.
- Severn Tunnel Junction station access: options for improving bus services, car and cycle parking and walking routes for the rail station.
Both consultations close on 11 March. Please follow the links to the details online, so that a wide range of views can be considered.
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