Improving local connectivity

More than half of car journeys in our region are under five miles. We are committed to supporting partners to deploy new infrastructure and services that support a shift to public transport and active travel. Improving the first mile, last mile of journeys to strategic transport infrastructure also maximises their potential.

Continued change in travel behaviour creates its own opportunities to repurpose our existing infrastructure in favour of public transport and active travel modes, but this must be done in a way that enables safe journeys and a sustainable future for our communities as a whole.

We must seize the opportunity to fully integrate active travel into our daily routines with provision built in at the earliest opportunity for well designed, safe and accessible routes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the propensity for uptake in walking and cycling, particularly for leisure. We will harness the current enthusiasm for active travel with support for the development of local cycling and walking infrastructure plans (LCWIPS) across the region.

What we're doing (see also public transport)

Active travel strategy (ongoing)

In September 2021, DfT confirmed that additional funding had been allocated to EEH to develop a regional active travel programme.

The first phase, published in March 2022, includes a literature review of local, regional and national policy, and an assessment of the opportunities and challenges for active travel in the region.

The document sets the overall ambition for active travel in the region: ‘To create an exemplar active travel network and culture that encourages mode shift for both shorter journeys and for the first and last mile of longer journeys'.

Embedding active travel into the region’s transport system will help contribute to reducing carbon emissions in line with EEH’s net zero ambitions. It will also improve air quality; support residents’ physical and mental health; improve safety for users; increase access to opportunities for all to reduce inequalities; and support sustainable growth across the region.

Phase two of the strategy, which will consider how the vision can be achieved, is currently being scoped.

Varsity Way (ongoing)

We are committed to working with our partners and the walking and cycling charity, Sustrans, to improve the national cycle network, making it segregated wherever possible.

As stated in our transport strategy, this includes maximising the potential of an Oxford-Cambridge ‘Varsity Way’ segregated cycling and walking route as a ‘green spine’ across the Heartland: one that can act as a focal point for developing a region wide network of cycle routes.

A portion of the additional DfT active travel funding (see above) will be used to work with Sustrans on a condition report and options assessment of the Varsity Way route.

Some of the route is formed of the National Cycle Network (Routes 51 and 66). Some sections are off road while some are on road and the route is of varying standard.

The report will seek to identity opportunities for route improvements and integration with other cycle networks. The report is due to be delivered at the end of May 2022.

Mobility Hubs (ongoing)

Across the region there is a high prevalence of communities with low population densities – both within our urban areas and more widely amongst small market towns and their surrounding rural hinterlands.

Our transport strategy contains a policy to support the establishment of ‘mobility hubs’ as locations where interchange between travel modes will be prioritised. We will work with public transport operators and the Government to enable frictionless, affordable travel using a combination of travel modes.

Mobility hubs are locations where demand for movement can be concentrated in a way that supports local public transport services, primarily via bus provision, ensuring greater opportunity to run services where they otherwise may not have been viable.

During 2021/22 EEH will work on more detailed proposals for how the mobility hubs will work in practice.

Connectivity pilots (ongoing)

The transport strategy set out EEH’s ambitions to undertake a discrete number of first mile/ last mile pilot projects in the Heartland.

The first two studies will focus on local connectivity to and from East West Rail. EEH has put forward a proposal to the Department for Transport that, subject to approval, will enable further first last mile pilots to take place during 2021/22.

First mile, last mile study and tool (2020)

Our pioneering first mile, last mile toolkit was developed during 2020 in response to the need to ensure that solutions taken forward better reflect the needs of the user. By using information held in commercially available datasets it was possible to develop a detailed picture of the personas of the Heartland’s population and to better understand the specific propensity for sustainable and public transport choices in different places.

The resulting toolkit – which is available to all EEH partners - factors in human behaviour around transport choice, particularly in respect of first mile, last mile (FMLM) travel. This results in the user of the tool having an evidence-led approach to identification of potential solutions for specific areas and the targeting of investment in support of active travel.

The toolkit has been used by EEH partners over the course of the year to plan interventions and in support of funding bids to Government.

It was also used as the basis for a specially commissioned piece of work identifying FMLM requirements necessary to enable the full benefit of investment in East West Rail (see connectivity pilots below). Feedback from EEH partners involved in the work highlighted the additional benefit of the work in informing the development of future strategic planning briefs.

The toolkit was highly commended in the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation 2021 awards.

The commission also included a global best practice review that is informing the work of England’s Economic Heartland and its partners.

'Transport for the Shires' (2021)

The The Future of Transport Outside Cities report, co-sponsored by EEH, summarises the findings of 12 roundtable discussions led by the University of Hertfordshire’s Smart Mobility Unit. Over 180 people took part from a range of sectors, including national and local government, the transport sector, business, academia, and non-governmental organisations. The aim was to address and find solutions to transport issues in rural parts of the country.

Consultation responses/ correspondence

Future of Transport: rural strategy – call for evidence February 2021

14122020 Oxfordshire Growth Board Vision Consultation Response Final.pdf December 2020

Luton Local Transport Plan consultation response December 2020.pdf

Aylesbury DRT pilot letter of support April 2020.pdf

Aylesbury DRT pilot letter of support April 2020.pdf

High Wycombe DRT pilot letter of support April 2020.pdf

MK 2050 Strategy response May 2020.pdf

Milton Keynes Mobility Strategy consultation response (PDF 236KB).pdf February 2018

News/ blogs

BLOG: Understanding the Heartland's people

BLOG: Making connectivity work for everyone

BLOG: We must seize opportunity to bake in new travel behaviours

Board/ Forum papers

18022022 Agenda Item 6 Regional Active Travel Study.pdf

EEH Strategic Transport Leadership Board Dec 2021 - Agenda Item 8 Business Unit Update.pdf

Agenda item 5 Rural Transport 05022021.pdf

Agenda Item 5 Local Connectivity 240120.pdf

Agenda Item 4 First Mile Last Mile Project 170519.pdf