12 January 2016

Incentivising fewer journeys and more off-peak travel would boost economy

Employers should increase their use of technology to eliminate unnecessary business trips and introduce more flexible working to reduce traffic congestion at peak times giving a simultaneous boost to the UK economy.

That’s the claim in a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers which suggests the government should immediately reframe its local and national transport policies to encourage people to use new technologies as alternatives to journeys and also to stimulate travel at off-peak times.

A recent report by publication Integrated Transport found that if such measures were taken to improve congestion this would also contribute to improved public health, economic growth and safety.

Philippa Oldham, head of transport and manufacturing at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and lead author of the report, said: ‘The Department for Transport’s policies on the UK transport network make no reference at all to influencing demand for journeys, which is the most sustainable form of transport planning.

‘With the advent of smartphones and videoconferencing, much more should be done by government, the public and private sector to avoid unnecessary travel and, in particular, avoid travelling during the morning and evening peaks.

‘A transport network that is over-burdened at peak hours and relatively quiet for much of the rest of the day is an inherently inefficient system.

‘Government must show leadership and introduce policies that reduce demand on the transport network by encouraging car sharing, local commercial network collaboration by companies and more flexible working hours.’

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Load spreading: By 2020 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, supported by the Department for Transport and HM Treasury should develop a strategy to incentivise and support the private sector to break free from outdated, unnecessary working practices that leave the transport network congested in the weekday morning and evening peak periods.
  • Low carbon: The Department for Transport should encourage the adaptation of local transport policies by 2020, to promote transport sharing schemes alongside its continued support for technologies that decarbonise and limit pollutant emissions from buses, taxis and other public transport modes.
  • Upgrade systems not components: The Department for Transport needs to review all current and planned infrastructure projects, with the development of a strategy to integrate them to deliver a planned resilient, optimised, ‘joined-up’ network by the end of 2020.
  • Users must share the blame: Freight companies must work with the Department for Transport to integrate road and rail freight networks, to maximise the off-peak use of the transport network and also making use of the lowest impact mode of transport.

The report is available at http://www.imeche.org/news/institution/incentivising-fewer-journeys-more-off-peak-travel-would-boost-economy-improve-safety