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Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
What is happening with transport in the UK? The headline in the Daily Telegraph (18/12/1999) entitled "Battle on car war over, says Macdonald" is one of many headlines in the press over current transport policy. As individuals we may consider what impact these policies have on our own day-to-day lives, but these changes also have consequences for businesses too.
A recent report, entitled "Thames Valley Boom or Bust?", by Weatherall Green and Smith, which I was involved in, concluded that occupiers were largely ignorant of the impact that changes to transport policy would have, particularly in relation to cars and workplace parking. But how can the WWW help?
The first information point is the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). Their Web site provides an excellent source of relevant information on a number of issues including transport and planning (see http://www.detr.gov.uk). Following the publication of the Government's White Paper on transport policy, I chose the press release section which took me to a list of all recent press releases from the DETR. This section is updated on a regular basis, and the day after the announcement of the White Paper the press release was already there. Clicking on the link provided a copy of the release, which included brief notes on the contents of the bill, providing explanatory notes on previous consultation papers (with direct links to these). An overview of specific issues in the paper were also provided, including local transport, road user charging and workplace parking, and the railways.
A further link was also provided to the transport bill itself, and the accompanying explanatory notes. The bill is divided into different sections. An initial page provides the links to the relevant chapters and clauses together with supplementary schedules. For example, clicking on Clause 154 takes you to Chapter 11 on workplace parking. Scrolling down provides details of the other clauses in the Bill within this chapter.
Besides the Transport Bill, the DETR Web site also has a planning section, which includes archived papers and details of consultation papers. Included within this section are details of the proposed revisions to PPG 13 as part of the consultation process, with details also of research being undertaken on this area. Other information held within the planning section is information on green and rural transport, together with links to the transport bill as outlined above. However, unlike the transport section, the planning section seems a little disorganised in terms of locating papers, particularly from the main page.
An excellent example of how managers on larger business parks can provide transport information is that of the Stockley Park consortium. Stockley Park is a 141 hectare business park located close to Heathrow Airport, the M4 and M25, providing a base for over 30 companies, who together employ over 6,500 people, the majority of whom commute to work by car. In an attempt to reduce car usage and promote more "green" forms of transport, Stockley Park introduced a Green Transport Plan in 1998, with the key aim of reducing car usage by 20 per cent over a five-year period.
As a means of promoting this policy a section on transport is provided on their Web site (www.stockleypark.co.uk) giving a comprehensive travel information service, which is updated every two weeks. Selecting "Travel" from the main menu provides a number of different links on travel issues, including an overview of the transport plan. Of greater importance are the details on how to get to the park by both road and public transport.
Information is available on accessing the site from both Central London and the West, with details on the various routes. With no direct mainline station serving the site, access from railway stations (and Heathrow airport) is by bus. To aid travellers the timetables of the bus services serving the site are provided, with maps showing the routes and a plan of the bus stops within the park. All this information can be printed off. This not only benefits employees on the park, but also visitors, be they based in the UK or overseas.
Besides providing an on-line timetable, the Railtrack Web site (www.railtrack.co.uk/) also provides details on proposed infrastructure improvements. Access to the information is via the "Network Management Statement" held within the "Corporate" section of the site. The details are broken down into the key network regions. For example, clicking on region 3, the Great Western line, provides details of proposed improvements to that line, which includes details of a new station to serve Stockley Park, and proposals to increase the timing of services along the line. Alternatively the document can be downloaded to view in paper form.
London Transport also provides travel information on its site (www.londontransport.co.uk/). Information on the site includes details on individual tube stations, the frequency of services and travel costs. A bus map can be downloaded, with an overview of all the bus routes provided, though not in a user friendly format (unless you know the service number you require). Real time travel information provides all the latest information on tube and bus delays. Outside of London, Reading Buses (www.reading-buses.co.uk), for example, provides a very comprehensive site outlining services and a full timetable for each. Hopefully within time more operating companies will follow this example.
For the motorist both the RAC and AA provide up-to-date travel news on their sites (www.rac.co.uk and www.theaa.co.uk). The RAC site is the better of the two, with travel information provided on the main home page. With the AA you have to go through a series of menus to obtain the information. Of particular use is the route planner (available on both the RAC and AA sites), though again the RAC has the better information. Entering the starting point and destination, along with any places to go via, the planner will calculate the best route for you on the basis of being the shortest, or the quickest. The returned route also provides all the latest details on delays at the time the report was requested, which can be sent via e-mail for a certain time, so the information on delays is up-to-date. This service is fine so long as the e-mail doesn't get delayed!
Overall the WWW is a useful means of disseminating travel information to a wider audience. No longer do you need to be living in a specific area to know how to get about. Simply searching for a site provides the necessary information, including the locations served, the times and costs.
Dr Nigel AlmondMarket Analyst, Weatherall Green and Smith, LondonE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed are the author's and not those of WG&S.