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Transport isn’t just about infrastructure – it’s about people

The trouble with transport is that we don’t tend to talk about it until something goes wrong! “The train was cancelled, the bus was late, there was nowhere to park, the traffic was awful and as for the cost”….sound familiar? It is easy to forget the positive role that transport plays in connecting people, shaping places, tacking inequalities and supporting business growth.

Recent economic and global events have created challenges across all sectors and further highlighted the need for investment in a transport infrastructure which is flexible enough to meet the changing demands of both people and freight.

As the pressure on public sector finances increases, understanding the way in which our travel behaviour is changing, particularly post Covid, is a key factor in determining what investment is needed and where. The Department for Transport (DfT) has recently produced the results of two studies, Study of the travel behaviour of people in England following the COVID-19 pandemic and during a period of rising cost of living and Transport user personas. Despite the less than catchy titles, both reports highlight some interesting facts for those in the sector itself, as well as those involved in other sectors including planning and regeneration.

The study was carried out in November 2022 and the data around levels of public transport use and frequency of travel confirms what we already know from feedback from our own members including our public transport operators. It is the data relating to impact of the rising cost of living which paints a bleaker picture, with just over a third of people in England saying they were finding it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to cope financially on their household’s income and who had had to make changes to their travel behaviours. Those most significantly impacted by the increase in the cost of living included younger adults aged 16-34, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, parents, those in lower income households and those with a mental or physical health condition, many of who reported saving money on transport through walking more and reducing the number of trips/non-essential journeys they were making. This is certainly not a new problem but as we face a growing skills shortage and recruitment challenges, particularly in those sectors for which flexible working simply isn’t an option, it is one that we need to address collectively as employers.

In the second publication, the DfT has developed twelve different “personas” to reflect nine groups of people, the characteristics of which were developed from existing research data in 2022. It is easy to be cynical about a study like this given people rarely fit into broad generic groups like these (where everyone seems to be very happy!), but overall they do reflect some interesting trends. Personally I didn’t recognise myself – what about you?

There couldn’t be a better time to ensure that the business voice is heard and helps to shape what kind of transport investment we need, which puts people at its heart, tackles barriers to accessing employment, supports innovative solutions to reduce carbon and other emissions and creates sustainable economic growth.

The Liverpool City Region is currently developing a new Local Transport Plan which will set out priorities and funding to 2040. We will be working with the Combined Authority to ensure that the views of businesses are reflected in the final plan and we will be consulting members on various aspects of the proposals.

At a more strategic level, Transport for the North is currently consulting on a new Strategic Transport Plan which closes on 17 August so you still have time to contribute.

If you would like to get involved in the Chamber’s Transport Expert Panel please contact