Although sharing a car with 'Reg' from accounts when you attend a business meeting may not seem like cutting edge environmental management, when fuel and congestion savings are multiplied across millions of company car drivers, the long-term benefits are huge.
Certainly Transport Minister John Spellar thinks so. Armed with statistics from the Netherlands and the United States, he believes even the most basic travel plans – simple packages of measures to reduce car travel and support alternatives – can achieve a 3% to 5% reduction in the number of employees travelling to work by car.
But anticipating a sceptical response from hard-nosed businessmen, officials have obtained results from 20 UK firms that have proved travel plans can cut commuting and business journeys, while helping slash costs by thousands of pounds.
Spellar said: 'In the UK, several thousand organisations have now produced travel plans. Plans with large discounts on public transport and restrictions or charging for car parking can achieve 15% to 30% reductions, or more, over a period of two to four years.'
Furthermore, while the annual cost of a maintaining a parking space is typically £300-£500, for firms running a travel plan, the cost was just £47 a year for each full-time employee.
This can mean costs of tens of thousands of pounds for some companies, but savings elsewhere in the company can easily offset such payments.
Employers need to give someone specific responsibility for creating and managing travel plans and focus on helping essential car users, while offering casual users – commuters – a viable alternative, according to the Department for Transport.
It has published a series of new guides revealing how companies have already successfully reduced traffic congestion and improved travel choices while staff are on business.
Companies including AstraZeneca, Boots, BP, Egg, Marks & Spencer Financial Services, Orange, Pfizer and Vodafone provide detailed examples of how they encouraged drivers to move to alternative transport.
The guide's topics include: Making Travel Plans Work and Using the Planning System to Secure Travel Plan. And just to make sure the the DfT has got the attention of employers, a copy of case studies from the six hefty documents that make up the guide has been sent to the chief executive of every company in the country.
The guide said: 'Travel plans aim to reduce traffic 'at source'. These strategies are essential to relieve the burden of traffic and meet national targets for cutting the carbon emissions causing climate change.'
Companies providing the 20 case studies in the guide are certain to agree, as travel plans have been essential to cope with an increasing number of employees vying for a limited number of car parking spaces.
Average annual costs of green travel plans
Private shuttle bus service (including vehicle and one year's running cost): £70 - 100,000
Annual subsidy for five commuter routes: £150,000
Major promotional activity for services: £0.5 – 1 million
10 lockers: £300 - 1,000
Two sets of shower and changing facilities: £3,000 – 8,000
Area of lockable parking: £3,000 – 8,000
Infrastructure of a new cycle route £30,000 – 100,000
Promotion work: £500 – 1,000
Significant improvements to infrastructure, such as traffic calming, pedestrian crossings, lighting and/or improved pavements: £30,000 – 100,000
Setting up a database system: £5,000
Guaranteed ride home and/or marking out dedicated car-share parking spaces: £50 – 500
Salary plus on-costs: £40,000
Two staff travel surveys: £10,000
Publicity and promotion
Annual budget: £5,000 – 15,000
Incentives to staff
£500pa. for 100 staff: £50,000
The green transport plan has been launched to help employers make sense of a wealth of environmental announcements by the Government and environmental associations. It was developed by Interleasing and is available on its website (www.interleasing.co.uk) with advice also covering the importance of looking at a vehicle's wholelife costs and why proper maintenance can slash running costs.
The guide says: 'Look at the complete costs of the car. Look beyond the price tag and consider fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.
'It is Government policy to apply taxes on major sources of pollution, especially those that contribute to global warming. Help drivers take the green option by making them aware of the benefit-in-kind tax benefits.'
It adds that liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas and hybrid cars should become a standard part of the fleet choice list.
Other factors are also covered, such as staying calm behind the wheel, as aggressive driving increases wear and tear, along with fuel consumption.
Encouraging staff to ask 'is that journey really necessary' would also benefit the environment.
But the guide adds: 'All green fleet management initiatives need support from senior management in order to secure budget allocations, designate staff time to develop schemes and to give the go-ahead to measures that may call for changes in policy and conditions of work.'
Green guide in brief
MINISTERS have promised that their own departments will lead the way in development of travel plans and the Government Office for the East Midlands in Nottingham provides a shining example of what it wants to achieve.
With 245 employees, it has shown that smaller organisations can implement these plans at very low cost – about £10,000 a year, or £42 per employee. GOEM offers a car sharing and matching service, interest-free loans for bus and rail season tickets, travel information and flexitime. Staff are required to use public transport where possible. Video-conferencing has been introduced, while pool cars, including electric versions, are available.
Less than 50% of staff are entitled to a parking permit.
Addenbrooke's NHS Trust
THE Addenbrooke's hospital site in Cambridge has a large, expanding workforce of nearly 5,000 full-time staff . Including contractors and other service companies, a total of 9,000 people use its site for work.
But with car parking for 2,400 staff, taking action has been vital, leading to car parking charges, a car sharing scheme and a park and ride service. Currently, 62% of staff still drive into work, 22% cycle, 10% take the bus, 5% walk and 1% use a motorcycle.
Funding comes through parking revenue, about £100,000 per year, but installing car park entrance and exit barriers cost £600,000 alone. Other strategies include the offer of seven pool cars for use on business journeys, using a booking service.
The West Lothian-based firm's company car fleet has been phased out in favour of a cash option and a fleet of seven dual-fuel cars. With 1,500 employees and just 1,000 parking spaces, the firm has offered a 33% discount to rail season ticker holders. However, the firm is reluctant to introduce charges for parking, as it is an 'operational necessity'.
There is a car sharing matching service, with dedicated parking bays for cars carrying three or more people. The firm also donated land to the local railway to help increase the size of the station car park.
A travel plan has been in place at the Macclesfield firm since 1998, led by an internal team called 'Drivers for Change'.
Travel planning is seen as a core part of site development, where more than 3,000 staff work. A quarter have registered for the car sharing scheme and bus use has trebled thanks to a subsidy, costing more than £200,000 a year.
Both tele-working and flexible working have been encouraged and staff are offered a number of private shuttle bus options for business travel. In total the scheme costs about £500,000 a year. There are six to eight video-conferencing studios and staff can apply to have a web camera fitted to their PC or home computer. All staff now receive a green commuting induction pack.