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Total Transport: a more cost effective approach to commissioning local transport services?

Three pink Uno buses in a carpark, with people in foreground

The concept of Total Transport is creating waves in the local transport world, potentially linking up bus services with other road transport services (like patient transport and school transport) to pool resources and make savings. James Coe, Policy and Public Affairs Executive at the Community Transport Association, wrote this guest blog for us on how Total Transport pilots are working out, and the potential to improve transport elsewhere.

Total Transport takes a cross-sector approach to the delivery of passenger transport services across health, school, and local authority transport and buses.  Its aim is to integrate transport services which are currently commissioned by a variety of commissioners across these discrete areas. It does this by pooling resources, and using local expertise to deliver services that are better coordinated, integrated, and more efficient.  The 37 Total Transport Pilots that have been taking place across England, funded by Department for Transport, have shown that a Total Transport approach can deliver a more integrated network, which will save money to the public purse, and give passengers a better journey.

This is a new idea but draws on some well-established practice across the transport sector.  In community transport, we know there are a number of operators who already pool resources, and coordinate services. This often involves sharing vehicles during downtime after school runs, working with local authorities to reach out to people who are isolated, or operating flexible demand responsive services within health settings.  For example, in Cambridgeshire, the local authority has experimented with opening up school buses to the general public.  Community transport holds a key position within the plurality of providers which enables local commissioners to develop a Total Transport network.

Significant savings
This approach also brings significant savings to the public purse and many local authorities will welcome making savings which can be reinvested into bus services.  In a recent report by CTA and Urban Transport Group, Total Transport: a Better Approach to Commissioning Non-Emergency Patient Transport?, we found that a Total Transport approach to commissioning patient health services could save the public purse £74.5m a year. This could be achieved through pooling vehicles under a single point of access and single budget, which would be coordinated centrally using the experience of local authority transport teams.

In local authorities, we are already seeing some of the benefits of taking this approach to transport commissioning.  Northamptonshire County Council used their share of Total Transport funding to identify synergies which can be achieved by coordinating effectively the current disparate efforts of a large number of organisations in the public, voluntary and private sectors, including local bus company Uno Buses.  Northamptonshire predict a saving of at least 5% on the overall council transport budget within the first five year fully operational period.

At its heart, Total Transport is about getting people to where they need to be while delivering transport services which save money for the public purse.  Our members are already doing this work and provide a good example from which we can understand what a wide scale adoption of Total Transport could look like.  In North Hertfordshire a CTA member, North Herts CVS, recently took over the running of the voluntary car scheme at their local NHS Trust.  As they rapidly expanded their services they had over 900 new service users register with them in the last year.  HCT Group run a local service with their local CCG where they provide transport on the CCG’s commissioning framework, in addition they support people to get to events where they can further impact on their mental health and wellbeing.  Since 2016 they have also expanded their services to be able to reach out to individuals with more complex needs and dementia.  It is this integrated, passenger-centric approach, to transport delivery which we believe embodies the best sentiments behind Total Transport.

Whether it is Northamptonshire, North Hertfordshire, or Hackney, successful approaches to Total Transport have a number of hallmarks in common.   They consider how a plurality of providers can deliver transport that is appropriate without being overspecialised. They consider people’s travel needs first, and then find the transport to meet them.  They appreciate the diverse needs of local communities and adapt services using a wide range of expertise.  Finally, they achieve savings through integration, rationalisation, and coordination of what may feel like disparate providers.

We believe that accessible and inclusive transport should be at the heart of our transport systems, and that a Total Transport approach is one way we can achieve this vision.  In the coming months we are putting together a paper on how the quality and efficiency of health related transport could be improved through more innovative models of delivery.  If you want to be part of this conversation you can get in touch on the details below.

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Get in touch with James at James@ctauk.org