There’s lots of information out there but it is easy to become swamped. It’s useful to distinguish between the following types of information:
- Historical data, both objective, such as vehicle flows, and subjective, such as people’s concerns or priorities
- Forecasts and predictions, which often try to use past trends to work out how things might turn out in the future
- Plans and policies, in particular Local Transport Plans (LTP)
- Appraisal, such as Strategic Environmental Assessment, which tries to work out the impacts of different policies.
The LTP for your area will include local data, policy and proposals so is a good place to start. It may have limited detail in relation to your local area, however. Whenever you look through other documents, note down any dates when they are to be revised, as this could be an opportunity to influence them.
Don’t forget you can request information under the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations of any public body. Simply make a written request to the public body that may hold the information stating clearly what information you are seeking. This procedure only covers information that the public body actually holds so cannot be used simply to ask questions in order to try to compel a body to do research for you. The Information Commissioner’s Office provides useful information about the processes: www.ico.gov.uk/for_the_public/official_information.aspx
Appraisal is a complex area that is touched upon in the making your plan section. When working out what information might be useful to gather, it’s worth seeing if you can find baseline data for your area so that you could in future see how much of an impact you are having.
Maps are very useful way to record information and view it but are covered separately in the mapping section.
The Department for Transport (DfT) leads on transport issues but it, and other government departments, are not normally involved in local transport initiatives. Exceptions may be certain funding competitions and pilots such as of new traffic signs, where the DfT may require follow up reports about how well something has worked. The Highways Agency, an agency of the DfT, is the highway authority for motorways and trunk roads, which are the ‘A’ roads marked in green on traffic signs and most maps.
There is no national transport policy but various DfT strategies can provide useful data as well as policy. Key documents to look out for are:
- Local Transport White Paper (2011) - this sets out the overarching aims for local transport and explains how local areas now have more freedom to do what they want
- Strategic Framework for Road Safety (2011) - national road safety policy
- Active Travel Strategy (2010) - strategy for walking and cycling
- Rail Command Paper (2012) - sets out changes to rail ticketing and devolution of control of rail franchises
- Green Light for Better Buses (2012) - sets out reforms to bus subsidies and regulation
Much more detailed statistics are regularly updated in the statistics section of the DfT website and now on the data.gov.uk portal. Only some of the data on these sites is broken down by local authority area and so are not in general that useful for local transport planning.
Other useful sources of information are:
- DfT’s Annual Average Traffic Flow Data, which shows estimated average traffic flows on every section of A roads and motorways since 1999
- DfT National Travel Survey, which is normally published every summer.
The Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) published useful environmental information, including:
- the UK-AIR Air Information Resource, providing air pollution levels, and
- MAGIC, which provides a whole host of environmental data such as Sites of Scientific Interest and land the public have been given the right to roam under the Countryside & Rights of Way Act. Because of its age and the amount of data it is not the easiest map to use.
Planning policy from the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) is very important but covered separately in the land use planning section.
Modes of transport
Besides the information available in your LTP, additional and possibly more up to date information is available in relation to the following modes of transport.
Network Rail publishes Route Utilisation Strategies (RUSs) that provide recommendations for the future development of train services. These include proposals for stations and can be found here: www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/4449.aspx
Many rail franchises are being renegotiated so it is worth looking out for the franchise specification and for bidding documents, including from Train Operating Companies (TOCs) that failed to win the franchise. You may find some information about future plans from the TOCs that operate your local rail franchise.
Bus, coach and taxi
Although there will be some policies and proposals covering these forms of public transport in LTPs, they are primarily the responsibility of private operators, who you will need to check to see what they might share with you. Be aware that some information may be commercially sensitive.
Lower tier councils license taxis and will have their own policies, though there have been proposals to change this.
Rights of way
Lower tier councils outside inner London are required to produce a Rights of Way Improvement Plan, which is supposed to do exactly what its name suggests. See the enhancing paths and ways section for more details.
The range and uses of transport data on the internet is continuing to expand rapidly. The Government has committed to making more public transport and highway data available by mid-2012. This is likely to lead to new websites and apps that make it easier to use this data.
Google maps have an increasing range of functions and the traffic function can be useful to see congestion on main roads. maps.google.co.uk
fixmytransport.com is a new site that allows people to register problems with public transport while sister site www.fixmystreet.com does the same for problems with streets, such as broken paving or faulty lights. Issues are passed onto the relevant transport operator or local authority and archived, so these sites can be a useful source of information.
cyclescape.org is an on-line campaigning toolkit for cycle campaign groups that collates information about problems and helps people campaign together.
Besides its road safety map, ITO World produces a wide range of visualisations using data from OpenStreetMap: www.itoworld.com/static/mapping_and_spatial_analysis/ito_map.html