• The Future of Total Transport

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    • The Future of Total Transport
    • by Suzanne Lau
      Policy Executive

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    Following the Total Transport pilots which ended in 2016/17, the Department for Transport released a report looking at lessons learned and the future of Total Transport. The report was recently re-released to a wider audience and in this blog post we look at the report’s findings and how they relate to the community transport sector.

    What is Total Transport?

    Total Transport takes a cross-sector approach to the delivery of passenger transport services across health, school, and local authority transport.  Its aim is to integrate transport services, which are currently commissioned disparately, by pooling resources and expertise to deliver services that are better coordinated, integrated, and more efficient.

    Total Transport pilots

    In January 2015, the Department for Transport launched a bidding round for local authorities hoping to pilot Total Transport in their local area. £7.6m was eventually awarded for 37 schemes covering a wide range of transport services, including home-to-school transport, health transport, specialist transport and local bus services. Local authorities worked in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, including community transport providers, to deliver these pilots, and the pilots focussed on rural areas.

    The pilot schemes ended in 2016/17 and a short report detailing successes and lessons learned from the schemes was published in June 2018 and recently recirculated by the Department due to wider requests for publication.

    Total Transport and Community Transport

    Sharing resources and expertise across a wide range of services is a practice that is well established in the community transport sector, and it often involves sharing vehicles during downtime, connecting people to health services through flexible demand-responsive transport, and integrating with the wider public transport network by providing the first and last mile of journeys for people who would otherwise be unable to access stops or stations on a commercial route.

    As such, CTA welcome the DfT’s report, and its evaluation of participation, benefits and outcomes, and lessons learned. In particular, we were pleased to see that the role of community transport received specific analysis and that some of the main themes of the report echoed several of CTA’s key priorities:

    • Transport localism – the importance of constructively engaging with local stakeholders and harnessing local knowledge is consistently highlighted throughout the report as being vital factors for success; there is no ‘one size fits all’ model for a successful Total Transport scheme and schemes must adapt to unique local circumstances. This reinforces CTA’s commitment to enabling people to have a say in shaping their local transport network, and creating their own community led solutions where they can, building on existing assets and capacity within communities.
    • People centred transport – while the report predominantly focusses on the financial benefits and cost savings of the pilots, we welcome the Department’s recognition that “the outcomes should not be measured in purely budgetary terms. An important factor in determining success is the passenger experience.” This chimes in with CTA’s view that the quality of a transport network should not be considered purely in terms of routes, fares and frequency of service but also in terms of how far it addresses passengers’ needs and how accessible and inclusive it is for users; we believe that accessibility and inclusivity should be at the heart of our transport systems.
    • Reviewing transport regulations – the report describes how proposed delivery models do not fit easily into the existing legal framework of bus services, taxis and private hire vehicles. CTA have long spoken about how the current configuration of transport regulations encourage silo working and hinders integrated services that truly deliver for passengers. We have also consistently recommended that Government look holistically at current transport regulations to establish a framework that focusses on the passenger and not the mode of transport.

    The report released by the DfT demonstrates some clear lessons learned from the Total Transport pilot and vitally underlines the importance of local knowledge and of tailoring solutions to local circumstances, as well as the value of building meaningful relationships both with local communities and stakeholders across sector divides. One of the key difficulties that the report highlighted was also engaging with health transport, owing to difficulty engaging with the right individuals, a complicated tendering process, and a lower prioritisation of transport within NHS budgets. Meanwhile, a report released by the Campaign for Better Transport, The future of rural bus services in the UK, considered timing to be an important limiting factor – the timescales for delivery were too short once funding was received several months into the two year scheme, and the pilots were launched during a time of significant pressure on local authorities. You can also find out Urban Transport Group’s views on the report by clicking here.

    Looking to the future

    Looking to the future, by ensuring that solutions are always built from the ground up and in collaboration with local communities and community transport organisations, and building on the recommendations that CTA made on the delivery of non-emergency patient transport in our Innovations in Health Transport report, we believe that Total Transport offers a way forward to achieving a vision where accessible and inclusive transport lies at the heart of our transport systems.

    Read the Department for Transport’s full report here.

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    1 Comment

    • Barry Connor

      11:46 30th September 2019

      I have done a good deal of work on Total Transport as part of my efforts (both in the UK and Internationally) to promote Demand Responsive Transport (DRT).
      The Department’s Total Transport (DfT) Report certainly highlighted the potential benefits (both financial and in terms of service availability, especially in rural areas) of taking a Total Transport approach of integrating the many overlapping service providers in order to reduce the wastage of duplicated resources whilst providing increased journey opportunities for passengers.
      However, the over-riding theme to emerge from the whole Total Transport pilot scheme exercise was the barrier to progress which the Health Authorities represented by not allowing their highly-expensive Patient Transport Services (PTS) to be interworked with other forms of road passenger transport such as community transport and commercial demand-responsive services despite clear evidence that substantial savings and increased journey opportunities would emerge from such integration.
      In part this was an institutional resistance brought about because of the low priority given to PTS transport in the NHS (despite expenditure on PTS being much greater than all other forms of road passenger transport in the UK, spending is just a small percentage of NHS spending and most CCG’s ignore the issue, preferring to delegate responsibility to the Ambulance Trusts even though they are supposed to just be contractors and hence have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo).
      However, it is also due to the lack of expertise which exists in Local Government when dealing with demand responsive transport. It is much easier for transport planners to deal with separate conventional transport systems (such as regulated fixed-route and fixed-timetabled bus services) than to commit to the holistic, free-form network of transport provision that DRT represents.
      In the County where I live, the Transport Department made virtually no progress with the local CCGs and ended up redirecting half of the money given to it by the DfT into other transport spending !!
      To summarise, Total Transport has shown that it can work effectively and successfully in other places (not least in the Netherlands where the concept was born) and the Total Transport Pilot Report confirmed that huge potential exists within the UK. However, with no political support to force the NHS to the table in order to identify how PTS could be integrated into an holistic approach, Total Transport (and demand. responsive transport generally) to date represents a serious missed opportunity.

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