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NTEM model is 'essential' but 'complex and inaccessible'

Report highlights quick changes to address challenges, and a range of medium and long term suggestions that would fully address the needs and wants of NTEM users

Juliana O'Rourke
07 August 2020


Hive IT was commissioned by the Department for Transport’s Transport Appraisal and Strategic Modelling team to carry out a six-week research project to better understand the needs of users of the The National Trip End Model (NTEM) and to identify options for the future direction of the service.

The resulting report was published this month, and, say the authors, 'it has been made clear to us throughout this discovery, by all types of user, that the NTEM model is viewed as essential by the industry'.

There is a perception that NTEM is a black box. Users don’t understand what data goes in and what happens to it, and therefore struggle to explain discrepancies between NTEM and their own models

They add: 'NTEM is widely used as a valued source of data and predictions, not just where models must be constrained to NTEM predictions but also as source data and a check for many types of model. There is also a widespread recognition of the complexity — even impossibility — of what NTEM sets out to achieve.

'There are quick changes that can be made to start to address these, and a range of medium and long term suggestions that would fully address the needs and wants of the users.'

The research identified the following key findings:

There is a perception that NTEM is a “black box.” Users don’t understand what data goes in and what happens to it, and therefore struggle to explain discrepancies between NTEM and their own models.

Related to this, the community wants to understand, be consulted about and contribute to NTEM. They do not currently feel able to do any of these.

The guidance is complex, lengthy, technical and inaccessible. It is considered extremely challenging to understand exactly what NTEM is for, what to do in certain circumstances, or where an output has come from.

There is a widespread perception that some or all functionality should be online and accessible from any computer. Alongside this, TEMPro is unusable for many users with access needs, and the guidance documents are less than ideal.

The entire community is uncertain about the effects of future mobility. While recognising this is currently unavoidable, there is a strong desire for guidance and a common approach to looking at the future.

About the National Trip End Model (NTEM)

The National Trip End Model (NTEM) datasets are long-term forecasts — they represent the Department for Transport’s (DfT) core estimate of the long-term travel response to demographic and economic trends, and as such are viewed as an essential resource in the transport planning and modelling community.

NTEM plays a key role in the appraisal of transport schemes where funding has been sought from the DfT. In accordance with the Department’s Transport analysis guidance (TAG), travel demand forecasts in business cases must be consistent with the NTEM central forecast. Furthermore, other bodies supplying funding, such as councils, appraise funding applications in the same way.

NTEM produces estimates of person travel by all modes (including walk and cycle) for each zone in Great Britain, of which there are 7,700. The model outputs trip productions and trip attractions in each zone (collectively known as trip-ends), which may be separated by mode, journey purpose, household car ownership category and time period.

  • The aims of the research were to discover:

  • who are the users and what are the uses of NTEM

  • what those users need from NTEM

  • what the challenges are of using NTEM

  • where the demands for change are coming from

  • how we can support innovation with NTEM

  • if NTEM needs development and for whom

  • what developments might benefit users in the short-term

  • the issues that could influence the future development of NTEM

  • the impacts of any changes to NTEM and who they will impact

This report outlines the findings of the research, the needs and frustrations of the users and provides suggestions and recommendations as to what directions the DfT should take.

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