Fresh Ways to Work: Do Small and Medium sized Enterprises want Free Travel Plans?
Cecil, James Paul
Travel Plans have been implemented within the United Kingdom since they were first proposed as a local Travel Planning tool within the Transport White Paper, ‘A new deal for transport’ in the later part of the 20th Century. Whilst there have been some notable modal split reductions seen by larger employers (i.e. Pharmaceutical, Higher Education and Retailers), Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) have typically been overlooked as a sector by transport policy makers. This is due to a variety of reasons, most notably that there is a perception that engaging this sector is challenging, and that there would be less chance of achieving significant modal shift as a result. This view is short sighted, as this sector offers significant opportunities for modal change, due to the fact that it represents 59 per cent of employment and therefore offers significant potential reductions in Green House Emissions. Fresh Ways to Work was an innovative new Travel Planning behaviour change scheme conducted in Hertfordshire and Suffolk to try and address this shortfall. It was the first of its kind, aiming to provide Travel Plans for SMEs within these two geographic areas. Fresh Ways to Work aimed to provide each SME with free Travel Planning advice and support with the specific aim to reduce carbon emissions and transport costs to the businesses involved. This research framework makes use of an embedded approach and thematic analysis to document and critically analyse the various components of the work. The overall aim was to assess the feasibility of working in partnership with SMEs in order to develop Travel Plans. Data was gathered in two ways, first by formally interviewing professionals (from both Travel Planning and business backgrounds) directly involved with Fresh Ways to Work in a semi-structured interview setting, and second through a questionnaire for businesses that signed up to the project. The views of experts and businesses were sought on how well the scheme was conducted, as well as gaining insights of which aspects of the project were successful and which were less so. Adopting this embedded approached enabled the researcher to immerse them-self in the qualitative data and to become more appreciative of the significant number of variables to be considered. Quantitative data was also used to provide a foundation to the qualitative aspect of this research. This was collected in two forms including the project sign-up questionnaire which sought when businesses engaged with the project, their location and employee numbers. The second form was the business questionnaire which sought rankings on the various components of Fresh Ways to Work. Quantitative data was envisaged to form a greater part ofthis research, but due to Fresh Ways to Work delivery issues did not materialise and therefore was unsuitable. The conclusion summates that Fresh Ways to Work did not achieve all of its original aims or objectives. To begin with, only sixty of the targeted eighty businesses in Hertfordshire signed up, and only a handful developed Travel Plans. This was partly due to a number of varying factors, including the compulsory nature of the Travel Planning, as well as the wider impact of the financial crisis, the period in which this work was delivered. However, Fresh Ways to Work excelled in many aspects such as diversifying its marketing approached throughout the period of the work, and adapting its business message that there is an economic argument to providing a good mix of travel options to a workforce. Therefore the argument of this work is that transport planning can help business efficiency through allowing employees to adapt their travel mode during a difficult economic climate. Overall, it will be argued that the project achieved more than some key experts expected and arguably provided significant results given the amount of time and resource invested.