‘Total Transport’ – let’s get togetherAndrew Fish | July 09, 2015
We all know that connecting people is a key transport objective, and we understand the social, economic and environmental benefits of an effective public transport network. However, with budgets tightening, Local Authorities and affiliated organisations tasked with the provision of transport understandably find it increasingly difficult to provide services that can deliver these benefits . This is particularly true for transport services operating in rural areas, which are quite often not commercially viable; yet nonetheless play a vital role in connecting isolated communities. This, in part, has led to a recent trend toward the pooling and integration of resources, and the concept of ‘Total Transport'.
As PTEG noted in a detailed article in 2011, "there has never been a better time for agencies across [transport] sectors to get together to pool resources and expertise". Indeed, the paper was the first to coin the term ‘Total Transport' to describe this joined-up, cross-sector working, "focusing on the pooling of vehicle fleets and budgets as a practical, tangible way forward."
The ‘Total Transport' concept builds on the long-standing recognition in the transport industry that service providers of home-to-school; community; non-emergency patient or adult social care transport all operate similar transport services which overlap geographically – and that it makes sense to co-ordinate and integrate this transport if possible. However, whilst I believe that the Total Transport solution outlined by PTEG represents a viable solution to a number of the challenges our industry faces, in the past a lack of direct central government backing has proved to be an impediment to its full take-up. I have myself been involved in technology discussions with local authorities and ambulance service trusts around making non-emergency PTS and LA transport systems more co-ordinated; yet political and financial barriers have inhibited these initiatives.
Now, however, this seems set to change….
Funding and collaboration
The change is gathering momentum, with the UK Government's assistance in realising the goal of Total Transport. In January 2015, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced a new Total Transport "pilot fund", of £4 million, to support "local authorities [in implementing] a cross sector approach to the delivery of supported public road passenger transport services."
This move suggests a real positive step forwards in supporting authorities implementing the Total Transport agenda and I feel strongly that there are reasons to view these developments as an opportunity to make changes and investments which can prove invaluable to Local Authorities . .
A golden opportunity
As this detailed article compiled by the ITS and IET suggests, technology can play a key role in the management of transport services: "Recent advances in technology, in the transport domain, offer an opportunity for operators to deliver services more effectively and efficiently…. These technologies present an opportunity to revolutionise the UK transport system."
I have previously written about the potential for cloud technology and ‘open data' to help local authorities and commercial operators achieve savings through transport integration; and we have also seen how scheduling optimisation tools can increase local authorities' ability to implement the sharing of vehicles.
This last point is echoed in the UK government's guidance document for bidding for Total Transport funding: Lack of co-ordination and integration results in "duplication and potential wastage of public funding."
Take-up among Local Authorities
Encouragingly, it appears that Local Authorities are ready and willing to embrace the Total Transport agenda. At the recent ATCO 2015 conference in Ipswich, JMP's Peter Hardy noted that 37 local authorities have already won funding from the Total Transport pilot fund.
At the same event, Peter Walker from West Berkshire Council expanded upon the important role technology will play, arguing that self-service tools would be key, with IT systems offering online booking portals for users that complement an asset database used by internal office staff.
And on a related note, East Riding of Yorkshire Council's David Boden explained in his presentation at the conference how his organisation was looking to mapping tools such as ESRI to identify network overlaps and instances of vehicle duplication.
Though we will have to wait until March 2016 for the interim report on Total Transport findings – and 2017 for the full report – this remains an exciting new agenda.
Of course there will be some challenges along the way; indeed, DfT officials admit in their guidance to pilot fund bidders that, when it comes to service integration, "the first step is for local authorities to work out how to go about it."
To that end it cannot be overstated how important a transport information system can be to enabling the successful coordination of transport services. Trapeze have been at the forefront of providing integrated transport solutions for over a decade, and have demonstrable use cases of how a consolidated transport plan can realise the benefits sought through a Total Transport model.
Indeed, myself and my colleagues at Trapeze are on hand to help, support and offer guidance to any Local Authorities considering implementing their own technology projects as we look to play our part in building a holistic, integrated Total Transport network.
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