What is a Travel Plan?

A workplace travel plan can reduce car use by encouraging cycling, car share schemes and the use of public transport. The plan is likely to include some sort of parking charge to discourage car use, but should then also include incentives for people to switch to more sustainable methods of commuting. These could include subsidised bus tickets (or even dedicated shuttle buses), facilities for cyclists - such as secure bike storage and showering - and a car-share system.

The Department for Transport found that implementing a sustainable travel plan is not expensive; the typical annual cost in case studies they examined was £47 per employee. Comparing this to the cost of maintaining a parking space - typically £300 to £500 per year - shows that encouraging people out of their cars can be financially beneficial as well as environmentally desirable.

It's possible to take advantage of various tax breaks to promote sustainable travel. To take one example, employers can buy bicycles on behalf of their staff, and so reclaim the VAT. The employee then pays for the bike through deductions from their gross salary, so does not have to pay income tax and national insurance on these deductions. The scheme does require a small amount of administration, so you'd need to make sure that enough people are interested in taking up the offer. Why not start by organising a 'bike to work' day during national bike week, to spark interest in cycling amongst your colleagues? Involving local cycle shops is a good idea, as they would benefit from a greater interest in cycling.

When the telecommunications company Orange moved 400 staff from the outskirts of Bristol to the city centre, far less parking was available. The limited parking was allocated using permits, with priority given to those with child care responsibilities, shared cars, or for whom public transport, cycling or walking would be difficult. Others got a monthly payment similar to the price of a public transport season ticket. Showers, lockers, pool bikes and secure storage were provided to encourage cycling, and an intranet car-share database was set up.

Strong links with local authorities is a common feature of successful travel plans. Councils can help particularly with improving or altering public transport services, to meet the needs of businesses and organisations during commuting periods. Most local authorities are developing their own travel plans, and overseeing a local transport plan - and it's important to be a part of this process if you want your company to benefit. By working together with other companies you can create a large body of commuters with which to tempt transport providers and negotiate bulk discounts and targeted services.

It's also vital to get everyone involved, through a good consultation process with staff. Bear in mind that people tend to resist being told what they should do! Giving everyone a stake in the development of the plan should lead to success. And a travel plan is not just good for the environment and the employer. By reducing traffic congestion, the local community will benefit and employees will arrive at work less stressed!

Contacts

ACT Travelwise - http://www.acttravelwise.org - 020 8144 7366
  Promotes the use and development of workplace travel plans.
Energy Saving Trust: Business Transport - http://www.est.org.uk/transport -
  Advice for companies or organisations that operate a fleet of vehicles.
Sustrans - http://www.sustrans.org.uk - 0845 113 0065
  Charity promoting sustainable transport. Run the National Cycle Network, Safe Routes to Schools and many other projects.

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