Total Transport: Facing challenges togetherThe Trapeze Team | January 14, 2016
At the 2015 Trapeze UK Conference, Lindsay Linder Project Manager for the North East Lincolnshire Total Transport investigative study provided a fascinating insight into some of the challenges faced by Local Authorities in putting together an effective Total Transport strategy.
Total Transport, of course, is one of the most significant current trends within the public transport sector – as Mark Hudson, Group Manager for Transport & Travel at Nottinghamshire County Council pointed out in his own conference session.
Needless to say, developing a cross-cutting, new and innovative approach to transport service delivery and joining up and integrating various different services and departments is not straightforward. In a detailed study, for instance, PTEG noted that Local Authority “budgets were reported to be running into difficulties before the [Total Transport] pilot projects even began.”
Given the obstacles and challenges facing teams throughout UK Local Authorities, then, it was inspiring to hear of the great and innovative work Lindsay and her team were doing. And it was fascinating to discover how North East Lincolnshire were approaching Total Transport, having received UK Government funding through the ‘Total Transport Pilot Fund’ scheme, which launched earlier in the year.
The view from the front line
“Around the UK, there have been different interpretations of what Total Transport is, what it means and the best strategy to deliver it,” Lindsay said. “Everyone is at different stages of implementing these strategies, too. Because of this, I think it’s vital that Local Authorities are able to share best practice with each other. We need to find out what is working and what can be improved.”
Lindsay explained that North East Lincolnshire have outsourced some of their demand responsive transport (DRT) services to ENGIE, while keeping their SEN schools transport and some other services within the Local Authority.
“We’re trying to increase integration wherever possible, we want to establish a coordinated approach to demand management, which can then feed into our transport strategies,” she said. “We feel it’s incredibly important to establish a single information point, to help support joined up working and reduce the risk of different departments working to different timelines and on different budgets.”
The North East Lincolnshire team are also looking beyond their own internal teams and organisational outlook to other neighbouring Local Authorities and operating partners. As Lindsay explained: “We are also part of a Northern Regional Group, where we hope, by working together with other Local Authorities and key stakeholders, we will be better positioned to assist each other with the implementation of our bid funding.”
Right from the outset of the Total Transport Pilot initiative, Lindsay pointed out one key challenge all Local Authorities had to contend with as they put their bids together: the lack of time available to plan and prepare for these bids.
“Lots of Local Authorities will have faced the same challenge of being expected to put a bid document together really quickly following the initial announcement of the funding initiative,” she said. “That meant there wasn’t necessarily enough time to really explore what Total Transport meant and compile much in the way of research. So it’s understandable that some people may have felt it was all a bit rushed.”
And, as Local Authorities discovered whether their bids were successful or not, other challenges have reared their heads, including:
- Cost challenges and limited resources
- Managing demand effectively
- Ensuring there is a personalised approach for passenger needs
- Dealing with data protection issues
- Internal barriers
- Dealing with budget holders
Another key challenge that Lindsay also pointed out were IT challenges, some of which have been caused by the use of different software packages and systems for different transport services.
“Software can be a real enabler – for instance, we use Trapeze software for our Phone ‘n’ Ride DRT service, which works really well. But the fragmentation of software and the use of different systems for different services has been a challenge,” she said. As an example here, would be the CCG’s Patient Transport Services (PTS), which uses a different software system. “It’s important we explore ways of bringing these different systems together,”.
Solutions: It’s time to get together
Despite the very real challenges faced in establishing effective Total Transport strategies, Lindsay remained optimistic that they could be overcome. What’s more, she offered a clear solution that could help Local Authorities throughout the UK: and it starts with communication.
“We need events and conferences like this year’s Trapeze event to help share best practices and work out plans for cooperation with other Local Authorities, as well as with our bus operator partners. At these events we see so many different points of view that are so useful for informing strategies going forward,” she explained.
“It’s vital that we improve the way we communicate with each other about what we’re each doing in this area. The more messages we can get to people, the more we can understand the challenges – and the solutions to them, for example, how spreading information about how software can often improve working processes,” Lindsay added.
“We’re all working in different ways, it’s true. But we’re working toward the same goals,” She said. “But this is what a pilot is for; it’s about learning and looking to feedback what we’ve learned and sharing best practices. For instance, using our organisation as an example, we were successful in our funding because we had very good backing from our local healthcare providers. These are the types of information we need to be sharing with other organisations and Local Authorities.”
“Total Transport is revolutionising the way we work and the way we think. There are challenges; but there are also opportunities. In order to discover these, we just have to talk to each other more,” she concluded.
We couldn’t agree more. Why not take a look at our ‘5 Steps to Total Transport’ article to learn more about possible Total Transport strategies…
Please note: ENGIE was previously known as Cofely GDF Suez. Due to a global rebranding exercise the group is now known as ENGIE, please visit www.engie.com/en for further details
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