A travel planning partnership between Liftshare and Stagecoach Midlands has been successful in breaking down barriers to employment, significantly increasing both sustainable travel and economic growth at a North Warwickshire Business Park.
Demand for growth by major occupiers at Birch Coppice Business Park had generated the need to employ over 1,000 people, but the recruitment drive was being hampered by a local labour shortage. But there was a large group of unemployed people living 12 miles away who were unable to access the park because of a lack of viable transport options.
Joint discussions were held with businesses based at Birch Coppice, which identified their needs in terms of shift patterns and current travel behaviours of staff. The discussions also drew out information on individual approaches towards sustainable travel and their internal travel plans including objectives.
A site-wide car-sharing scheme was introduced at the park. In addition, one of the largest occupiers, Ocado, invested in their own car-share group. Recently, Euro Car Parts has also decided to create a ‘sub group’ that provides its employees with the choice of just car-sharing with each other or with a wider network, not just on the park but even wider afield.
Tam Meechan, senior facilities manager at GVA Facilities Management, says: “Before we launched a Liftshare scheme there were a small number of casual car shares taking place – possibly 2% or 3% of the park’s total employees. We now know that we have over 10% of the park’s population signed up to Liftshare and estimate that around half of these are sharing.”
Meanwhile, bus operator Stagecoach Midlands introduced a number of additional journeys on the existing 766-767 service to meet the main early morning and evening shifts. Since then passenger growth from Birch Coppice has shown strong and steady rises.
Both Liftshare and Stagecoach have worked with the occupiers to promote the new services while Job Centre Plus provides job seekers with information on how they could access the park.
Ocado has 53% of its employees now signed up to Liftshare, of which 20% already confirmed they are car-sharing.
In the first full year of service Stagecoach’s 766/767's operation carried a total of 76,047 passengers. This figure increased to 115,382 passengers from May 2014 to April 2015 - an increase of 39,335 passengers or 51.73%.
Based on the results in the first 9 of 13 periods in 2015/2016, the figure for this year will be 139,211, which represents a further increase of 20.65%.
Overall, in two years passenger numbers will have risen from 76,047 to 139,211, an increase of 63,164 or 83.06%.
Anthony Lengden of PDM Training and Consultancy says: "The Training Academy at Euro Car Parts has received greater interest as a result of the enhanced Stagecoach service. Almost half the applications now come from the Nuneaton area. Our partners report the Stagecoach service has significantly increased the appeal of employment opportunities at Euro Car Parts and other Birch Coppice employers."
BBC News reported that unemployment in the area has fallen faster than anywhere else in England, Scotland and Wales. Although this partnership cannot take all the credit for the fall in unemployment, it has certainly helped local job seekers better understand the travel options available to them, demonstrating the viability of a potential new role at the park.
The park continues to grow, with Draexlmaier, Bunzl and UPS expanding their operations. These developments have led to more job opportunities, keeping recruitment high on the agenda.
As Birch Coppice Business Park continues to grow, so the mobility project will evolve further. Discussions are taking place regarding the use of Liftshare’s myPTP personal travel plans as part of recruitment and induction packs. It is also anticipated more of the larger organisations on the park will also invest in Liftshare private groups.
Stagecoach says it will proactively monitor occupier activity and service uptake, and introduce further services and capacity as demand requires.
Polly Williams is business engagement manager at Liftshare
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