• Policy Win: CTA Welcomes DfT’s New MaaS Code of Practice

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    • Policy Win: CTA Welcomes DfT’s New MaaS Code of Practice

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    We welcome DfT’s new Code of Practice for Mobility as a Service, which prioritises accessibility, digital inclusion and Community Transport.

    Back in May 2022, CTA published our response to the Department for Transport (DfT)’s consultation on proposals for a new Code of Practice for Mobility as a Service (also known as MaaS), which could have significant implications for the Community Transport sector.

    MaaS is defined by DfT as ‘the integration of various modes of transport along with information and payment functions into a single mobility service’. Its purpose is to deliver seamless online journey planning and integrated digital ticketing across different modes and operators – from bus and rail to shared bikes and cars – with ease and convenience.

    It is an exciting technology with the potential to minimise travel costs and disruption, change travel behaviours and reduce carbon emissions. DfT says that MaaS is ‘still in its infancy worldwide’, but there are successful models in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and elsewhere.

    However, in the UK context, MaaS raises several key questions for Community Transport and the people and communities who rely on our services:

    • Will public authorities and tech providers work to include Community Transport services in MaaS – or will our sector be frozen out?
    • Will new MaaS apps and digital platforms be accessible and user-friendly for disabled people and older people?
    • Will people without a smartphone, an internet connection or online banking be able to benefit and participate?

    In short, how can we deliver ‘MaaS for All’? This was at the heart of our submission to DfT.

    CTA called for Community Transport to be ‘integrated into MaaS schemes as far as possible’ to expand its geographical reach, maximise accessibility, tackle transport poverty, increase consumer choice and encourage climate action. We argued that the Code of Practice needed to prevent inaccessibility and digital exclusion. We made the case for regulatory reform, upskilling of the workforce and greater investment in Community Transport as part of a package to make this happen.

    DfT has now published the first-ever Code of Practice for MaaS. It believes this ‘voluntary, guidance-based approach’, rather than a legislative, regulatory one, will enable tests, trials and experimentation to emerge and develop without ‘introducing regulations at a time that could stifle innovation in this emerging industry’.

    The Code of Practice gives ‘specific technical and regulatory advice’, but it also sets out the government’s ambitions and expectations of what MaaS should look like and how it should work. It will likely have a substantial impact on shaping the approaches and priorities of public authorities and tech providers, not least because future investment and funding could be tied to these conditions, so what it says is important for the future.

    It contains 11 strong recommendations on ‘accessibility and inclusion’, which reflect our keys asks and which CTA therefore welcome, including:

    1. MaaS platform providers proactively identify and engage with users who have protected characteristics that may be adversely impacted by platform design choices.
    2. MaaS platforms consider accessibility needs when suggesting routes. For example, identifying wheelchair-accessible routes and stations, calculating step-free journeys by default and considering the needs of users with visual, audible and non-visible disabilities.
    3. MaaS schemes should consider the specific needs of users in rural areas where, for example, internet connectivity could be a barrier to accessing online journey planning.
    4. Community transport services should be integrated as far as possible into MaaS schemes.
    5. MaaS platforms ensure users have access to different types of offline support if they need assistance with their journey, for example, if they need to request further information or seek compensation.

    Whether you run a community-owned bus, dial-a-ride or car club, MaaS could be an option and an opportunity for you in the future thanks to these recommendations.

    We also support DfT’s acknowledgement that MaaS platforms should not offer passengers inappropriate journeys, such as non-accessible journeys to disabled users, and that there is offline or in-person assistance for those passengers who need it, of the kind which Community Transport has long provided through accessible and supported services. The row over proposed swingeing cuts to rail ticket offices across England underlines how important this is.

    The Code of Practice notes that the Equality Act 2010 ‘ensures that passengers with protected characteristics are not discriminated against when using public transport’. But we know this is not everyone’s experience – many people cannot travel by bus or rail, for example, because their local bus stop or train station has a broken lift or lacks a dropped kerb or is simply not designed in an accessible way. It’s one of the biggest reasons for the existence of Community Transport, to bridging the ‘transport accessibility gap’.

    DfT set out in 2018 its ambition that ‘disabled people will have the same access to transport as any other user, meaning they can travel confidently, easily and without extra cost.’ But we know this remains far off 5 years later – disabled people travel 38% less than the rest of the population. We need to make sure MaaS platforms tailor journeys to individual needs, removing barriers and simplifying planning, partly by integrating Community Transport services as far as possible.

    There are a number of pilots and projects developing local and regional MaaS apps and platforms in different parts of the UK – although most have not yet integrated Community Transport.

    For example, Solent Transport’s Breeze journey planner offers live travel planning and multi-modal booking, ticket and payments for public transport and shared mobility across Portsmouth, Southampton, Winchester and the Isle of Wight. Similarly, GO-HI offers a ‘one-stop shop for door-to-door travel across Scotland’s Highlands and Islands’ with access to buses, trains, ferries, taxis, car clubs, car rental, bike hire and flights.

    However, Go NHS Tayside enables NHS patients, visitors and staff to plan and book journeys to NHS sites with a wide range of operators, including local Community Transport groups which provide non-emergency patient transport, like Upper Tay Transport in Aberfeldy and Elder Voice in Blairgowrie.

    We look forward to building on these emerging successes and working with DfT, public authorities, tech providers and our members in the months and years ahead to integrate Community Transport as far as possible and achieve ‘MaaS for All’.

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