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A green and accessible land: Personalised travel planning in predominantly rural settings

Personalised travel planning in predominantly rural settings presents very particular challenges, write Richard Adams, Laura Gosling and David Knight

A member of the Connecting Wiltshire team with assorted publicity materials
A member of the Connecting Wiltshire team with assorted publicity materials
The authors: David Knight is director of Transport Planning Associates. Laura Gosling is senior transport planner at Wiltshire Council. Richard Adams is director of Richard Adams Consulting.
The authors: David Knight is director of Transport Planning Associates. Laura Gosling is senior transport planner at Wiltshire Council. Richard Adams is director of Richard Adams Consulting.


The late summer and autumn of 2013 has seen residential personalised travel planning (PTP) take place in a number of local communities across Wiltshire. Trained travel advisers have been walking and cycling the streets in urban areas across the county bringing tailored travel information, incentives and travel challenges to the doors of its citizens. 

Under the ‘Connecting Wiltshire: Travel made simple’ brand, this initiative has been rolled out to nearly 5,000 households and is the first pilot stage of a two-stage process.

The Connecting Wiltshire website (www.connectingwiltshire.co.uk) includes a specially designed journey planner to allow individuals to consider their travel choices for a particular journey and understand how many calories they will burn and how much carbon their journey would emit. In addition, the website provides a useful travel information resource covering a range of topics such as cycle safety, school travel and car sharing.

Residential PTP is playing a crucial role in Wiltshire Council’s wider programme, enabled by the Government’s Local Sustainable Travel Fund (LSTF), for improving the county’s rail offer. A step change in services on the north-south rail line linking Swindon with Westbury begins in December. Alongside complementary business and school PTP programmes, PTP is engaging directly with citizens to offer them the chance to re-evaluate their travel choices.  

Transport Planning Associates (TPA), Contemporary Transport and Richard Adams Consulting form a partnership delivering the residential and business PTP programmes. TPA is leading the residential PTP strand while Contemporary Transport, through Dr Colin Black, is leading the business strand. This arrangement has allowed the team to mobilise quickly to ensure the challenging programme can be met.

Stage one of residential PTP this year offers the opportunity to test the PTP process, on a reduced scale, without the enhanced rail offer in place. The second stage, which will take place once the improved rail service and other local transport infrastructure enhancements are in place, will benefit from an established process with the tools and incentives that are right for Wiltshire.

The current pilot is being delivered across three towns – Bradford on Avon, Chippenham and Trowbridge – and the county’s one city, Salisbury. Each conurbation has a rail link and, for the trial, each has a designated theme so that the team can learn from the application of residential PTP in this predominately rural county. A process of prioritisation has allowed for a focussed approach on areas and people with a higher propensity to change travel behaviour. Both accessibility to the nearest rail station by sustainable modes and each postcode segment type, were used to identify priority areas for PTP in Wiltshire.

Bradford on Avon received a traditional PTP approach to engagement techniques and data recording. In Chippenham, PTP was undertaken in residential areas on the east side of the town, allowing us to assess the reliability of the segmentation criteria. In Salisbury we are seeking to examine whether there is a benefit of offering workplace personal journey plans on the doorstep; with business PTP engagement also taking place in Salisbury through the Connecting Wiltshire programme, this offers the opportunity to explore the opportunities for cross-marketing of the message in both the residential and business setting. 

In Trowbridge, the approach was targeting an existing community and a new development area, testing the habit discontinuity and self-activation hypotheses – will the new house movers be more receptive because their new travel habits are not yet established?

The recruitment and training of a local team of travel advisers has followed the standard protocol for a PTP programme. So too was the intensive week of training and practicing with a few ‘tame’ households (drawn from Wiltshire Council staff), which indicated that the travel advisers were indeed ready to be let loose on the public. Resplendent in their branded polo shirts and jackets, the travel advisers have become well recognised in the community. This high profile has been enhanced by their star role in community and business roadshow events where they have dispensed travel advice and branded goodies with skill and good humour.

We have designed eye-catching resources including the introductory and “sorry we missed you” cards, the intervention area travel maps and the A4 wallets to keep maps, timetables and other useful travel information together. These resources give the facts about the travel modes so individuals can make an informed choice.

The travel advisers have been supported by implementation team leaders, who manage the day to day workload. Mentoring of the travel advisers is also undertaken by core team members to ensure motivation, commitment and performance is maintained throughout the engagement process.

Many different types of branded incentives are being used and assessed to see which ones prove most popular, but also which of the incentives are associated with a change in travel behaviour. The incentives range from more traditional PTP fare to those not usually used. For walkers we have provided umbrellas along with shoe-bags for commuters. Cyclists have saddle covers and bells, but also a handy tool kit packed full of useful items. For the rail user there’s the chrome travel mug for hot drinks while the bus user gets discounted tickets. The car sharer can also enjoy the travel mug as well as the scent of the branded air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror.

The collection of household data has also been tested using different database platforms, such as Sharepoint and Survey Monkey to see how these work with the Samsung tablets that are carried by the team of travel advisers. Nonetheless, one of the biggest challenges for the travel advisers has been poor 3G coverage in some of the target areas.  

The engagement stage has taken place over a 12-week period to enable sufficient time for evaluation before moving forward with stage 2 of the project in 2014/15.  This has required the team to work in short, sharp phases in each of the areas. The different geographical locations of the target areas in the county requires efficient moving from field office to field office. This has brought unique challenges not typically faced by bigger, longer PTP engagements that commonly take place in one conurbation. 

A thorough evaluation will be undertaken, with reporting complete by January 2014. Feedback is a key aspect of this through interviews with the travel advisers and a focus group with residents who participated in the initiative. Before and after travel surveys were also included in the doorstep engagement process, and we will be calculating the value for money of PTP in Wiltshire.  

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