HC 570 Transport and the accessibility of public services

Written evidence submitted by the Mayor of London and Transport for London

1 How are the Government’s current transport policies affecting the accessibility of public services (i.e. whether people get to key services at reasonable cost, in reasonable time and with reasonable ease)?


1.1 It is recognised that London, like many other large urban centres in Europe, has an extremely dense and extensive transport network serving a large urban population with access to an extensive range of services. However it is acknowledged that certain areas will be disadvantaged by poorer access to opportunities and services relative to the rest of the city. This is in part due to the transport options available to individuals, for example access to public transport or private vehicles, as well as the location of the services themselves.

1.2 In many cases accessibility in terms of travel times is not always the main issue. In a predominantly dense urban environment, such as London, services will often be geographically close, often within walking distance, yet other issues such as service quality and capacity may be more significant. For example, the existing establishments may already be full or do not meet the specific requirements of an individual.

1.3 The Mayor is responsible for delivering a range of services alongside public transport in London. One of the six goals set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy [1] is to improve transport opportunities for all Londoners. This addresses accessibility from both a physical access to the transport system perspective as well as improving access to services. The Mayor also has a framework to address deprivation and inequality via "Equal Life Chances for All". [2]

The role of transport in accessibility

1.4 Much has been achieved in London over recent years in terms of accessibility of transport services, more than 90 per cent of Londoners now live within 400 metres of a bus stop (five minutes walk at an average walking speed). Furthermore, the London bus network is kept under continuous review and is therefore able to respond to changing travel needs in London.

1.5 With regards to the physical accessibility of the transport network this has also improved greatly over recent years. All of the bus fleet, bar heritage Routemasters, are accessible. The New Bus for London also has enhanced accessibility. In addition, the proportion of the Capital’s 19,000 bus stops which meet accessibility specifications has increased from around 30 per cent to more than 65 per cent since 2008, and will reach 70 per cent by the end of the financial year.

1.6 The proportion of all stations and stops across London’s rail-based public transport system with step-free routes between street and platform is approaching 40 per cent and will rise to 45 per cent by 2015. It is expected to reach 50 per cent before the end of the decade. How this will be achieved is set out in "Taking forward the Mayor’s Transport Strategy Accessibility Implementation Plan". [3] It also demonstrates how a series of strategically placed interventions significantly reduce the difference between the journey times on a step-free network against a non step-free network.

1.7 The Mayor recognises that there is still more to do in order to make transport accessible to all Londoners and additional funding is still needed, particularly for the step-free network. This is a key theme of his Transport Strategy, with improvements set out in greater detail in the Accessibility Implementation Plan.

Affordability of transport

1.8 Whilst London has an extensive public transport network, it is important that those who are most in need of it are able to access it. The Mayor has to balance the affordability of public transport against the need for significant investment to address the underinvestment of the past and meet the growing demands of the future. However, there is a comprehensive package of concessions for older people, students, Veterans and disabled Londoners. This means that 40 per cent of bus passengers will continue to travel free or at a substantial concessionary rate. The average bus fare per journey, including concessions for 2012, is around 60p, compared to an average typical bus fare of around £1 in other UK cities. It should be noted that the cash fare for the remaining 60 per cent of passengers is £2.30 and the Oyster fare is £1.35.

1.9 In addition to public transport in London, there has been a significant growth in walking and cycling over the past 10 years. With the relatively high density of services available, these modes of transport are affordable and healthy alternatives to reach destinations. The Mayor and TfL continue to invest in measures to maintain and encourage walking and cycling in London.

2 Are other policies (such as planning, education, health, welfare and work etc) adversely affecting the accessibility of public services and the environment? Do decisions on the location of public services adequately reflect available public transport infrastructure and the environmental footprint of the transport needed to access them? How significant are any adverse impacts for accessibility and the environment?

Service planning

2.1 Land use planning and other Government policies can have a significant impact on access to services. For example, poorly planned developments or services removed from the local population with little thought of how easily they can be accessed by a variety of modes of travel will contribute further to poor accessibility. It is important that the impact of any new development on the transport network, particularly public transport services such as buses, is fully understood before planning permission is granted. Where appropriate these developments through Section 106 agreements or mayoral/local Community Infrastructure Levies (CILs) should provide towards suitable mitigation measures to improve accessibility. In addition to improvements to services accessibility can be significantly improved through physical measures (i.e. provision of new bus stops or pedestrian/cycle links).

2.2 In London there is a measure of accessibility to the transport system PTALs - Public Transport Accessibility Levels; and we have developed a measure reflecting access to opportunities and services (ATOS). The latter has been developed to reflect choice for education and health services, for example by measuring access to the nearest three schools or GP surgeries. Further information on TfL’s measures of accessibility is provided in section 5.

Working in partnership with service providers

2.3 In order to get the best decisions regarding the location of public services it is essential that the impacts on the surrounding transport network are taken into account at the start of the process. One example of TfL working in partnership with other agencies (in this case the NHS) is H-STAT – Health Service Travel Analysis Toolkit.

2.4 H-STAT is a travel time database for both highway and public transport modes in London. The database provides travel time information from each individual lower super output areas (LSOA) in London to a wide selection of health services related sites.

2.5 H-STAT is one outcome of TfL working in collaboration with the NHS dating back to 2008 developed following the review of NHS service provision. However, the principles are relevant to current NHS reconfiguration and could be adapted to other service providers. It is also one of the projects included in TfL’s best practice guide

2.6 Travel times are derived from TfL’s strategic models. Calculating realistic travel times between locations can be difficult – times will vary due to a wide range of conditions and issues (e.g.’ diversions, delays, and cancellations). The value of H-STAT is that it provides a consistent set of travel times across London at a detailed zonal level that can be used in a variety of health related studies. How the data is used is very much up to the analyst: linking the travel time data with other datasets including census data, patient records etc.

2.7 H-STAT is primarily a strategic tool, allowing the user to prioritise schemes and undertake optioneering based on travel time and demographic analysis. Once an initial analysis has been made using H-STAT, then more detailed studies can be undertaken on specific sites, looking at routing patters, trip rates, etc.

2.8 H-STAT is also one of the projects included in TfL’s best practice guide: "Transport planning for healthier lifestyles". [4]

2.9 The guide is an outcome of TfL’s consultation with the public and stakeholders (including London health organisations) during the development of the MTS. Feedback identified a need for information on projects promoting sustainable transport and healthy lifestyles. It is intended to be a dynamic, evolving source of information, arranged in themes that cover these issues.

2.10 The main themes are:

· Integrating the planning of healthcare with transport provision, through use of tools, to consider access to healthcare facilities, transport assessments for new developments and bus route planning; and

· Encouraging a shift towards more sustainable and active transport modes – public transport, walking, cycling – and ultra-low-emission vehicles through facilities, promotion, travel planning information and infrastructure for electric and other ultra-low-emission vehicles.

3 Is the Government’s current approach of requiring the accessibility of public services to be reflected in local transport plans working? How effective is the Department for Transport in furthering the accessibility agenda?

Local transport plans

3.1 Under the Greater London Authority Act (1999) the Mayor, in addition to producing a number of other strategic documents, must produce a spatial plan for London (The London Plan) and a Transport Strategy (MTS). These documents were developed closely reflecting the interrelated elements of land use and transport planning. The London boroughs are required to produce Local Implementation Plans (LIPs) which are in conformity with the MTS and will contribute to the delivery of the targets and aspirations set out in the Strategy.

3.2 The London Plan requires issues such as access to public transport to be taken into account when permitting different densities of residential developments in different settings, e.g. central, urban and suburban. The greater the level of public transport accessibility, the higher the level of density permitted. Furthermore, the London Plan sets policies which aims to ensure equal life chances and opportunities for all.

3.3 In addition to boroughs and developers responding to these requirements through LIPs and planning applications, service providers should be encouraged to take accessibility into account when planning or altering services; as has been done through TfL’s partnership working with the NHS.

The accessibility agenda in London

3.4 As has been set out already, the Mayor and TfL have significantly furthered the accessibility agenda in London. The DfT’s core accessibility criteria were not considered appropriate for London, in part due to the high availability of public transport but significantly due to the high density of public services. Furthermore, the level of accessibility in London is much higher than those set out in the DfT measures. The indicators developed for London reflect a degree of choice for services (see section 5), however TfL is happy to work with the Committee further to reflect other aspects of accessibility they consider important.

4 Should the transport-related accessibility of public services be measured? How can decision-making in government better reflect ‘social’ and accessibility impacts, alongside environmental and other considerations? Do social and accessibility concerns conflict with environmental considerations? Would a measure of the transport accessibility of key public services, in a similar manner as ‘fuel poverty’, be useful for policy-making (and if so, how should it be defined?)

Measuring accessibility in London

4.1 In planning terms it is useful to understand where is the most appropriate location for new facilities as well as public transport services. Therefore an accessibility measure taking into account the dense urban environment of a city such as London is needed. This supports the Mayor in setting regional priorities, as well as improving collaboration between transport providers, such as TfL, with service providers in London. For these reasons TfL has developed a London-specific measure of Access to Opportunities and Services (ATOS) as a response to, and building on, the DfT’s initiatives.

4.2 TfL currently has two significant accessibility measures PTALs (Public Transport Accessibility Levels) and ATOS (Access to Opportunities and Services). The former measures access to the network (network density), whilst the later measures access though the network.

4.3 PTALs are a relatively simple calculation which provides a detailed and accurate measure of the accessibility of any point in London to the public transport network, taking into account walk access time and service availability. As such it does not measure access to services directly. Although this may be seen as a limitation to the methodology, one can assume in London that if you can access the network you will be able to connect to the rest of the system and reach a range of services within a reasonable amount of time. Furthermore a high PTAL will include more routes than a low PTAL and hence reach more destinations. Another advantage of PTALs is that their simplicity means they can be calculated at a highly disaggregate level (50m grid) which can highlight local variations.

4.4 ATOS was designed to resolve some of the short comings of PTALs by measuring travel time access to a basket of services including: GP surgeries, food shopping, primary schools, secondary schools, further education and open spaces for the whole of London. It also incorporates many of the principles behind the DfT’s methodology for measuring accessibility: the main difference being that it accommodates for choice by measuring travel time to the three nearest services to give an average value rather than just the nearest service. Although London has an extensive public transport network together with a large number of public services, (which means that most public services can be reached within an acceptable time) it does flag areas of relatively poor accessibility. This measure could be enhanced by including the cost of travel, relating travel times to deprivation especially for those households where more than 10 per cent of income is spent on travel. This could be the basis for a "fuel poverty" type measure which could be of greater value in the London context.

4.5 Accessibility to services by transport is not necessarily the key issue in London: other factors such as service choice, quality and capacity may be of greater significance to the user. Calculating the number of services that can be reached within a designated time period by public transport, car, cycle or walk could be a more appropriate tool for assessing access to services in larger urban areas, such as London. A dense public transport network together with a numerous range of services means that choice of services rather than proximity to them is the principal consideration.

4.6 TfL is also interested in the impact that strategic transport schemes such as Crossrail have on accessibility to services. Using the ATOS approach which calculates proximity to services will not reveal significant improvements because most service locations will be accessible locally (possibly by bus) without the need to use the new scheme. However, strategic interventions will have a London-wide rather than a local impact and will therefore be best measured by analysing London wide outputs, such as access to employment. The types of measures TfL have developed for this purpose include:

· average travel time to all zones across London from or to the destination (with and without a new scheme); and

· or the number of services (metropolitan and major town centres, Further Education Colleges, etc)  that can be accessed within an agreed time period (say 45 minute travel time).

We could expect the number of locations reached will rise where the impact of the scheme is significant.

4.7 In large urban areas such as London transport accessibility should not be the only consideration but equal weight should also be given to accessibility by walking and cycling modes. TfL has applied the ATOS methodology using walking or cycling modes only i.e. measuring local accessibility without the need to use the public transport network. This is particularly useful for services such as food shopping, GP surgeries and primary schools. Isoline maps for walking and cycling modes based on the existing and proposed distribution of public services can be used to identify those areas that are beyond different time limits; for example an agreed maximum walk time of say 15 minutes. This could be used to identify appropriate policy or transport responses to increase the accessibility. Furthermore these results can be combined with PTAL outputs to identify those areas that may have poor access to the public transport network but good access to local services.

4.8 Most of these measures are based on real travel time times and have been applied primarily to the public transport network. The ATOS methodology could also be used in association with private vehicle modes. When considering car based accessibility measures and when comparing them to the public transport modes, car parking and other factors need to be taken into account. One way to accommodate for this is to use generalised travel costs which take into account the full cost of travel. In this way more realistic comparisons can be made between public and private modes.

4.9 TfL is continually reviewing and updating its suite of strategic and accessibility based models. We are currently reviewing the PTAL methodology and its appropriateness as a tool for use in strategic policy documents such as the London Plan. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Committee and other organisations on the development and enhancement of these measures.

5 The impact of broadband networks and the Internet in mitigating the need for transport infrastructure to access public services

5.1 London already has excellent broadband coverage which, for those who have access to the Internet, has an influence on the ability for individuals to access public services online as well as to facilitate them working from home. However, it is likely to have a negligible minimal impact on the amount of transport infrastructure needed, or the coverage and operation of the network. If there is an increase in the local provision of services then it could increase the level of access by walking and cycling. Any changes in transport service need would be reflected in the continuous review of bus services in London.

28 September 2012

[1] Mayor’s Transport Strategy (2010) - http://www.london.gov.uk/publication/mayors-transport-strategy

[2] ‘Equal Life Chances for All’ (2012 update) - http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Equal%20Life%20Chances%20for%20All%20FINAL%202012.pdf

[3] Taking forward the Mayor’s Transport Strategy Accessibility Implementation Plan (2012) http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/corporate/taking-forward-the-mts-accessibility-implementation-plan-march-2012-final.pdf

[4] Transport Planning fo r Healthier Lifestyles (2012) http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/businessandpartners/tfls-healthier-lifestyles-best-practice-guide.pdf

Prepared 9th November 2012