Memorandum by FirstGroup (WTC 18)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
FirstGroup is a leading UK based international
transport group, with bus, rail and airport operations spanning
the UK and USA. The group employs over 45,000 people worldwide
and in the UK, with a fleet of over 10,000 buses and 23 per cent
market share, the company is the country's largest bus operator.
In addition, FirstGroup is the UK's second largest passenger train
operator through three major rail franchises.
FirstGroup is committed to quality; this means
the development of new ideas, quality partnerships with local
authorities, state of the art technology, industry best equipment
and support for the principles contained in the Government's 1998
White Paper on Transport.
This document contains our response to an invitation
to provide evidence to the Environment, Transport and Regional
Affairs Committee inquiry into walking in towns and cities. We
understand the committee will be looking at a number of relevant
issues; these are listed in the press notice issued on 6 November
2000 and comments are made in this document for those issues which
are considered most relevant to our business.
As noted above, FirstGroup supports local and
national Government aspirations for less dependency on private
vehicle travel and is committed to improving the quality of public
transport journeys. For most of our customers, a trip by bus or
train is likely to involve a walking stage. (According to the
1993-95 National Travel Survey a quarter of walk journey stages
are associated with car and public transport journeys.) Whether
they travel by bus or train therefore can be influenced by their
satisfaction with the walk stage. According to the DETR's own
research (carried out on its behalf by Crime Concern and Social
Research Associates) people see trips they make in a "whole
journey" context. Therefore just one weak link in the chain,
such as a badly lit path to a bus stop, can lead to the journey
being cancelled regardless of whether the bus operator is providing
a reliable quality service.
We therefore support the development of the
concept of Quality Walking Routes where a number of key walk routes
associated with multi modal journeys are improved in terms of
issues such as lighting and traffic danger. Where there are security
issues, these can be tackled through quality partnerships which
involve the police or other enforcement agencies.
FirstGroup would encourage local authorities
to channel their Local Transport Plan (LTP) funding into such
initiatives which can be done through extensions to existing quality
What should be done to promote walking, including
the creation of city squares, the role of pedestrianisation, Home
Zones, additional measures to restrain traffic, the harmonisation
of walking and public transport and improved safety and security
The selective removal of traffic from town and
city centres is an important objective in terms of encouraging
more sustainable transport behaviour. However, we urge that schemes
being promoted to encourage greater priority to pedestrians should
distinguish between public transport vehicles and others when
considering the impact. If managed properly, providing access
for buses when other vehicles are banned or restricted can have
a positive impact in terms of meeting policy objectives to make
public transport more attractive by:
Increasing journey times for other
cars but not for public transport.
Enouraging modal switch to public
transport from the private car (modelling work undertaken by Halcrow
in connection with World Squares in London forecast a 10 per cent
mode switch to public transport if public transport is given priority
over other vehicular modes).
Making private vehicle travel less
attractive so that there is a general level of traffic reduction
(the same Halcrow work indicated an overall 2 per cent reduction
in traffic in central London if World Squares was implemented
Making a clear statement that bus
travel is more acceptable in environmentally sensitive urban areas
than uncontrolled private car use.
In connection with the last point the progressive
introduction of cleaner fuel technology and particulate traps
to our bus fleet means that we believe our vehicles are entirely
compatible with continuing access to pedestrian priority areas.
Whether the relevant professionals have the appropriate
skills and training
As with may other requirements of transport
professionals arising from the "new transport agenda,"
there is undoubtedly a learning curve not just in infrastructure
design but also how to promote and monitor initiatives associated
with walking. Firm DETR guidance is therefore helpful as is publication
of good practice.
Whether all Government Departments, their agencies,
including the Highways Agency and local authorities are taking
appropriate measures and in particular whether Local Transport
Plans, PPG13 and the Government Paper, Encouraging Walking are
The response to PPG13 and associated planning
guidelines is most relevant here. PPG13 sets out general standards;
probably most important is Design Bulletin 32 (September 1998)
issued by the DETR which emphasises that the layout of new residential
roads should be based on people friendly considerations and not
just the needs of the motor car. This principle should apply to
all development but our experience is that its application is
Some local authorities embrace these ideas fully
(as do some innovative developers such as English Partnerships)
and incorporate them into development briefs. Others pay lip service
but fail to apply the basics such as development master planning
which takes into account the needs of pedestrians and access to
public transport nodes at an early stage of the design process.
Time pressure on local government planning officials can also
mean that agreed guidelines with developers are not properly enforced
leading to poor surfacing, lighting and landscape design and/or
no maintenance regime. This means that opportunities are lost
to improve the harmonisation of walking and public transport,
which can be disappointing especially as in some areas development
can account for five per cent of urban renewal per annum.
Walking is an extremely important component
of the integrated transport agenda. As most trips are below one
mile and are considered to be fairly informal means that it can
be neglected. The fact that studies have demonstrated that people
take into account the quality of the whole journey when making
trip decisions show that it must be seriously considered when
taking into account initiatives to encourage greater public transport