Councils could help motorists switch modes, report says

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £8.99.
Millions of people are open to switching away from using their car, particularly for school runs and personal leisure activities, or if they are young, live in urban areas or make short journeys, according to the survey. STAGECOACH

Independent research commissioned by Stagecoach shows motorists could save up to £6,000 per year by replacing some car journeys with public transport

Councils could help motorists to save up to £6,000 a year by introducing the right policy measures to help them use cars less, according to a recent report commissioned and released by Stagecoach. By taking the right decisions, which discourage car usage and fund measures to make public transport more affordable, accessible and convenient, councils could help remove 1 billion miles of car journeys each week, the report says, which would reduce car congestion and help the environment by stopping nearly 400,000 tonnes of CO2 being emitted each week.

The report – ‘Every journey makes a difference: how we can support people switch how they travel’ – sets out the financial, environmental and community benefits of reduced car use and calls for co-ordinated action from government, councils and transport operators.

It found that the majority of motorists are open to using their car less, and were most open to reducing car usage for the school run (a +34% net openness rating) or personal leisure activity (+22%) such as going to the gym. Some types of motorists were also more open to making the switch, with younger drivers and those living in urban areas, as well as those who make shorter journeys, most likely to.

Motorists said they want councils to take action to encourage people away from using their cars. Introducing clean air zones across the country was said to have the effect of removing over 1.3 billion miles of car journeys each week, while changes to local roads through low traffic neighbourhood schemes could save over 900 million miles a week and deliver cost savings, carbon emissions reduction and fewer cars on our roads, Stagecoach says.

According to the report, which surveyed over 4,000 people from across Great Britain, councils can deliver the greatest change by adopting blended policies, maximising consumer savings and benefits to the environment and communities. Introducing policies that dissuade car usage and fund making public transport more affordable, accessible and convenient are more effective and secure greater local support, it said, citing as an example that introducing a clean air zone alongside lower bus fares leads to over half of motorists saying they would drive much less often for work and social or leisure activities.

Chief Executive of Stagecoach Martin Griffiths said: “Motorists across the country are willing to change how they make journeys and we must seize this opportunity to promote cheaper, greener and less congestive modes of transport. This report demonstrates there is a considerable prize on offer for motorists, councils and central government, and we need to create the environment that helps motorists switch from their car.

“As the cost of living crisis continues to hit pockets, we know that people want an alternative to their car that is affordable, accessible and convenient. Our research makes clear that local authorities can deliver this in partnership with public transport operators through balanced policy decisions that encourage people to think again and choose to take the bus.

“This research highlights that there is a significant opportunity to save motorists thousands of pounds, avoid emitting millions of tonnes of CO2 and take the equivalent of one in four cars off the road, and we must work together to deliver it.”

On behalf of the Department for Transport, Roads Minister Richard Holden said: “This research from Stagecoach shows there is great appetite among drivers to use their cars less in favour of buses – the most popular form of public transport. That’s why we’re investing billions in buses that are more frequent, greener, and start earlier and finish later across the UK and providing residents outside London with a step change towards the brilliant transport networks they deserve.”

Scottish Government Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth added: “I welcome this research from Stagecoach, which will help us to inform and build upon our work to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport. It confirms what we already know – that there are cheaper and more sustainable ways for people to travel, especially for short journeys, which are better for their health and well-being as well as their finances and the environment.

“We continue to promote walking, wheeling and cycling and sustainable public transport options above the use of private cars by embedding our sustainable travel hierarchy in all decision-making. The appetite for bus travel is evident across the country and over 30 million journeys have now been made through the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme in Scotland, helping young people save money on their day-to-day journeys. In August we published our ‘Pathway to Zero Emission Buses’ in partnership with the bus industry, setting out what we have achieved, what we are doing and what we need to do to achieve zero emissions – with £62 million awarded through Phase 1 of the Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund and Phase 2 set to launch next spring.

“I look forward to continuing our work with local authorities, transport partnerships and operators to build on this and other research to deliver the change we need to cut transport emissions and achieve Mission Zero.”

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, commented: “It’s incredibly positive news that millions of people are open to switching their car journeys to public transport – this is one of the quickest and most effective ways we can shrink our carbon footprint, as well as cutting traffic and air pollution in our communities.

“People are ready and willing to make that change if the conditions are right, which means we need action from Government and local councils. They must make public transport more accessible, affordable and convenient, reallocate road space, and especially reduce fares: a win for our pockets as well as our planet.”

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, added: “We’re pleased to see the results of this report, which looks at practical ways to help people make the switch from cars to public transport. We know that choice and value for money are key to making public transport more attractive to potential passengers.”

Using in-depth case studies of Oxfordshire County Council, where residents and officials were surveyed for the research on recently introduced policies – including a clean air zone, workplace parking levy and low traffic neighbourhoods – the report sets out three principles to help councils deliver effective policies that residents support and that can drive the most effective switch in how people travel:

  • A balanced approach – policies need to make other modes of transport accessible, affordable and convenient to avoid penalising people. Low, sustainable bus fares are critical to this.
  • Communication – residents need to understand the approach to making change, and councils need to devote time to develop clear explanations for their policies.
  • Recognise hesitancy – local authorities must address the reasons people are not switching just now, whether it is the cost of other options, convenience or other practical concerns.

The report lays out specific recommendations for councils, central government and public transport companies to help people switch from the car to other modes of transport, including:

  • Central Government must reaffirm support for policies that encourage residents to switch their journeys if it increases affordability, reduces their emissions and helps create better and more liveable communities;
  • Councils should make clear commitments to act to help residents switch from car journeys to other modes of transportation;
  • Councils should begin discussions now with public transport companies to identify long term, sustainable ways of maintaining low bus fares to ensure that they remain attractive and affordable;
  • Public transport operators should continue to develop and invest in sustainable bus networks, working with their local authorities to ensure buses are convenient and meet the needs of local residents.