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 modal shift to public transport and active travel. Improving the first and last mile of journeys will also help unleash the true potential of the region's major infrastructure projects.

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 active travel.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also shown the propensity for uptake in walking and cycling, particularly for leisure. We will harness the current enthusiasm for active travel, which has seen cycling levels at over 300 % increase in comparison to the previous year, with support for the development of Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans across the region to help build coherent networks of active travel infrastructure.

What we're doing

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.

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.

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. 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. Work on this is likely to start later in the year.

Relevant consultation responses

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

Relevant 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

Relevant Forum papers

Agenda item 5 Rural Transport 05022021.pdf

Agenda Item 5 Local Connectivity 240120.pdf

Agenda Item 4 First Mile Last Mile Project 170519.pdf