Wed Apr 2024

The Sub-National Transport Body Conference – Key Takeaways from Sharon Taylor


Written by:
Sharon Taylor,
Lead Consulting Partner

The Subnational Transport Body (STB) gathered together on the 28th of February 2024 to deliver an informational talk on the transforming transport system. The sub-national septet of organisations based their conference on ‘The State of Transport 2024’ and covered the latest news surrounding the fall in public transport usage and the power play that is shaping the future of the transport system.

Sharon Taylor from PRG Consulting, sister company of Panoramic Associates, travelled to Manchester to visit the STB conference and discover more about the developing transport system.

Here are her key findings:


The STB report unveiled that there is a significant downturn in the number of trips individuals are making. In 2022, the average person embarked on 10% fewer trips compared to a decade earlier, indicating a notable shift in travel behaviour. This downfall is expected to increase unless action is taken to entice customers to use public transport rather than personal transport methods such as cars.

The idea of inspiring further action, however, is causing some debate as many people believe that the transport decline is due to the rise of remote and flexible work rather than as a result of personal transport choices. Correlating with this argument the STB shared that commuting habits have undergone a seismic shift, with the average number of bus journeys to work losing 25% of its riders since 2013. This decline speaks volumes about the evolving dynamics of work and mobility in the modern era of flexible working. Please read further on the dynamics of hybrid working in our blog here.

It’s not just office commuting that has been impacted by a decrease in public transport usage. The once-thriving realm of rail travel has been hit hard, witnessing a plummet in season ticket journeys by 66% post-pandemic. This downturn underscores the huge impact of external disruptions on traditional modes of transport. As well as the steep increase in ticket prices. For example, since 2009 a weekly season ticket for any valid route from Bristol to London was £296.10 whereas the same ticket a decade later is £405. This 30% increase is likely to be the culprit of the drop in rail travel demand. This escalation in ticket prices burdens not only regular commuters but also dissuades occasional travellers from opting for train journeys, further exacerbating the decline in ridership. Consequently, companies are faced with the challenge of striking a delicate balance between recouping financial losses and ensuring that their services remain accessible and attractive to passengers.

Crucially, the STB conference raised questions about decision-making authority. Should power reside at the local or national level? Who holds the reins when it comes to shaping the future of transportation—local government, national authorities, or Standard Transport Bodies?

Privatisation of transportation systems further complicates this dynamic, as it introduces profit motives and shareholder interests into the equation. While privatisation can drive efficiency, it also raises concerns about equity, accountability, and the prioritisation of profit over public service.

Whether behind the wheel or as a passenger, car travel remains supreme, with an unyielding dominance in the transportation landscape. The STB conference underscored the pressing need for clarity and certainty in funding for public transportation, with a focus on the sustainability of railway services. Uncertainty still threatens the sector, demanding a re-evaluation of financing strategies to ensure the sustainability of transportation infrastructure.

Thank you to Sharon for providing us with her insight and knowledge from the event. Please do get in touch if you’re searching for project delivery solutions and find out more about how PRG Consulting and Panoramic Associates can support your organisation.

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