Review of evidence on business attitudes to transport

Project details

Full project title: Review of evidence on business attitudes to transport

Sponsor: Department for Transport

Project Director: Professor Glenn Lyons

Project Manager: Dr Charles Musselwhite

Other team members: Peter Wiltshire, Dr Geoff Dudley and Professor Phil Goodwin

Start date: September 2008

Finish date: March 2009

Project summary

The Centre for Transport and Society was commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) to undertake a review of existing evidence on business attitudes to transport in the UK. The study was intended to contribute to the DfT taking forward its strategy "Towards a Sustainable Transport System - Supporting Economic Growth in a Low Carbon World" that was published in October 2007. It followed on from work earlier in 2008 which examined evidence on public attitudes to transport.

The review aimed to examine business attitudes to transport in relation to other factors affecting business decisions and to establish what is known concerning business expectations from a transport network, the outcomes they expect and the trade-offs they consider most acceptable. It was centred upon attitudes expressed by or on behalf of individual private sector business establishments and/or enterprises, with particular focus on understanding the attitudes of actual business users of transport, particularly SMEs.

The earlier work on public attitudes provided an important frame of reference for considering business attitudes. There are some prima facie similarities between public and business attitudes in relation to congestion, the order of importance of transport attributes (especially reliability), stated conditions for support of road pricing, public transport, travel plans, telecommunications, and some issues of reducing travel. There are, however, some differences also: transport concerns are less ubiquitous; less attention is given to the environmental concerns associated with road building; and there is less attention to wider government goals such as equity, health, social welfare, and the environment. However, both similarities and differences may be misleading, as research on business attitudes is less disciplined, and there are no well-established theoretical frameworks (such as exist for individual attitudes) for understanding attitudes, when applied to the corporate views of a commercial body. As a result, it is very difficult, from the existing evidence, to interpret a clear and coherent view or set of views of business on transport issues. The report suggests some protocols, with the aim of improving research methods that, if implemented, could help improve the credibility and clarity of claims to represent the 'voice (or, more realistically, voices) of business.'