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The University of Southampton

Promoting partnerships: Our work with stakeholders is delivering a more sustainable transport system.

Published: 1 January 2018
Bus at a bus stop in Southampton
Our researchers are working to promote local sustainable transport.

Key details of this case study:

Summary: Our researchers developed a partnership approach to promote local sustainable transport, and are helping to develop monitoring and evaluation to assess the delivery of a more sustainable transport system.

Status: Ongoing

Key staff: Professor John Preston; Professor Tom Cherrett; Dr Ben Waterson; Dr Alan WongAdrian Hickford; Professor Ian WilliamsProfessor Simon KempDr Gary Wills; Professor Andrew Cruden; Dr Matt Grote.


Photo of National Transport Awards Judges' Panel 2013.
Southampton has a bold and ambitious vision with sustainable transport at its heart.
National Transport Awards Judges' Panel 2013.

Explore this case study:

The challenge

Urban passenger transport is dominated by the car, resulting in problems related to congestion, pollution and accidents. These adverse effects limit economic development and negatively impact public health.

A soft partnership has been established between the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council, Hampshire County Council, Sustrans, British Cycling and Cycling UK to promote more sustainable travel behaviour through an integrated approach to transport planning.

The University has been involved in the development of new public transport information apps, the modelling of transport related emissions, the testing of new technologies (such as thermal management systems for buses) and the monitoring and evaluation of infrastructure improvements (for active travel and public transport) and the marketing of smarter choices.

Our work initially focussed on Southampton and the Solent sub-region, but subsequent work for the Department for Transport was extended to Greater Manchester and Leicestershire, along with a national-level study in conjunction with Transport for Quality of Life.

What we did

Our team developed a monitoring and evaluation framework based on realist evaluation, using logic mapping to examine the relationships between contexts, mechanisms and outcomes.

A mixed-method approach was used, combining quantitative data from traffic sensors and travel surveys for example, with qualitative data from focus groups and workshops. The quantitative data was a combination of traffic movements and individual travel behaviour, based on a specially developed evaluation tool combining a seven-day travel diary with questions around attitude. This was applied using postal surveys and an online tool. We also developed a one-day travel diary instrument using telephone surveys.  

Paired comparisons were made between treatment and control areas using a ‘difference in differences’ approach along with detailed statistical tests. We modelled emissions through the development of GPS locational tracking and adapting a Portable Emissions Modelling System.

Follow-up research projects are relating to the Access Fund (April 2017 to March 2020), Alternative Fuel Feasibility Assessment (October 2017 to October 2018) (both funded by Southampton City Council) and Metamorphosis (June 2017 to May 2020, funded by the European Commission).

Our impact

The University’s partnership approach has contributed to over £50m being attracted to the Solent sub-region since 2012 (£38.5m for Local Sustainable Transport, £7.5m for Better Buses, £2.3m for Clean Vehicle Technology Fund and £3.1m for Better Access). We have also contributed to Southampton being named Transport City of the Year at the National Transport Awards 2013.

The Local Sustainable Transport Fund project’s findings indicated that those living in treatment areas experienced an average reduction in car use by 5%, compared to control areas.  Carbon dioxide emission reductions were of a similar magnitude.

There has also been some increase in active travel and public transport use.  Although not always consistent at a local level, at a national level statistically significant changes were observed.

Overall, it is estimated that for every £1 invested in the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, at least £6 of benefits were obtained, suggesting over £230 million of benefits to the Solent sub-region.

The facilities we used

Our Transport Data Analysis Area has a direct traffic feed from Southampton City Council's City Watch. Our Instrumented Vehicle has been used for data collection in Southampton.

Find out about the Engineering and Environment Faculty's many world class facilities.

Partners we worked with

This research was an interdisciplinary collaboration involving our Transportation Research Group, our Centre for Environmental Sciences, the Cyber Physical Systems research group and our Energy Technology research group.

We also worked closely with external partners in the form of Southampton City Council, Hampshire County Council, Sustrans, Leicestershire County Council, Transport for Greater Manchester, the Department for Transport and Transport for Quality of Life.

Related Publications

Sowman, J., Box, S., Wong, A., Grote, M., Laila, D. S., Gillam, N. G., Cruden, A, Preston, J, & Fussey, P. (2018). In-Use Emissions Testing of Diesel-Driven Buses in Southampton: is Selective Catalytic Reduction as Effective as Fleet Operators Think? IET Intelligent Transport Systems.

Grote, M., Williams, I., Preston, J., & Kemp, S. (2016). Including congestion effects in urban road traffic CO2 emissions modelling: do local government authorities have the right options? Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 43, 95-106. DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2015.12.010

Grote, M., Williams, I., Preston, J., & Kemp, S. (2016). Local government authority attitudes to road traffic CO2 emissions modelling: a British case study. Transportation Planning and Technology, 1-19. DOI: 10.1080/03081060.2016.1238570

Preston, J., Wong, A., & Hickford, A. (2015). The impact of smarter choices of the use of active travel and public transport. Paper presented at 14th International Conference on Competition and Ownership in Land Passenger Transport (Thredbo 14).

Song, Y., Hickford, A. J., & Preston, J. M. (2014). Delivering sustainable public transport: the case of the Better Bus Area Fund. Research in Transportation Economics, 48, 373-380. DOI: 10.1016/j.retrec.2014.09.066

Song, Y., Preston, J., & Ogilvie, D. (2017). New walking and cycling infrastructure and modal shift in the UK: A quasi-experimental panel study. Transportation Research Part A Policy and Practice, 1-20. DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2016.11.017

Wong, A., Preston, J., & Hickford, A. (2015). Big data, small changes: evaluating the impact of the local sustainable transport fund on travel behaviour and awareness. Paper presented at 14th International Conference on Travel Behaviour Reserach, IATBR.

Related Staff Member

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Related PhD student

The following PhD student also played an integral role in this research:

  • Amanda Haylett

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Transportation Research Group

Our Transportation Research Group (TRG) is one of the UK’s longest established and leading centres for engineering-related transport teaching and research.

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