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September 2018
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GREEN TRAVEL TO WORK

The Government’s Green Travel Plan notes that commuter and business travel constitutes nearly 40 per cent of miles driven by cars in the UK every year. Aside from the millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that this generates, contributing heavily to global warming, the negative impact of extensive car-use begins with the detriment caused to local communities and business.

As it stands, transport networks in the UK are under great strain from over-congestion. The cost of road maintenance is one thing, but the knock-on effects on business are extensive. They include increasing journey times significantly, causing costly delays and unreliability for businesses dependent on travel and transportation, and the need to provide and maintain adequate parking facilities to accommodate the high levels of cars in our towns and cities. This can start at a hefty £400 per parking space.

The Government’s Green Travel Plan outlines a number of solutions that can be adopted by organisations looking to promote corporate social responsibility and improve the local environment by encouraging changes in employee commuting habits. The report advises that cost-effective alternatives to single-occupancy car use Arguably, it is financial savings for employees (especially during these difficult economic times) that provide the best means of incentivising staff to change their commuting habits. Salary sacrifice schemes, whereby employees become eligible for tax and NI breaks when paying for selected travel benefits through deductions from their pay packet before tax each month, are one of the most popular and easily administered solutions.

Many organisations are now offering their employees the chance to claim major discounts when acquiring the use of bicycles, safety equipment and cycle clothing through a salary sacrifice scheme, for example. This government-backed initiative is helping to encourage more people to leave their cars at home in favour of using a bicycle as the healthier, cheaper and environmentally friendly option for getting to and from the workplace.

Brighton & Hove City Council, for one, launched a successful a cycle to work scheme, as Helen Marshall, travel plan officer for Brighton & Hove City Council explains: ‘We were keen to introduce a scheme which would encourage staff to travel using healthy and sustainable transport, in line with our Staff Travel Plan – the cycle to work scheme does just that and we are delighted to be able to offer this excellent benefit to our staff.’ Cycling, however, may not be for everyone.

For those that don’t fancy or are unable to take up cycling to work, public transport offers another alternative to cars. One of the targets of The Green Travel Plan is to increase bus journeys by 12 per cent by the year 2012 and there are salary sacrifice schemes available in line with this that generate savings for employees on the cost of annual travel passes for public transport.

Often the biggest employers in major towns and cities, local authorities throughout the UK have so far led the way in promoting the use of bus travel to their employees. Nottingham City Council was the first to offer staff savings on the cost of an annual bus pass through salary sacrifice initiative entitled Greentravel2work provided by employee benefits specialists P&MM. This scheme, as part of the council’s overall Work Perks benefits package, has received substantial take-up from staff and has won several prestigious HR awards. Throughout 2008, many more local authorities and now commercial employers too have also set up similar schemes that offer staff up to 41 per cent savings on the cost of an annual bus pass.

Angela Carr, employee travel coordinator at Oldham Council, commented: ‘As the largest employer in the area we consider it our responsibility to promote environmentally friendly policies to our staff, local companies and the community as a whole. We have had a Travel Plan for a number of years at the council, which includes many initiatives to encourage staff to use alternatives to the car. Greentravel2work is a fine example of one of these initiatives that will hopefully encourage even more employees to choose to travel to work by public transport.’

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s executive councillor for transport and planning, Councillor Anna Waite says: ‘The Greentravel2work scheme provides an affordable, environmentally friendly alternative for commuting. It shows our continued commitment to environmental issues such as reducing road congestion and pollution as well as raising community awareness.’

Offering employees assistance and incentives for finding alternative methods for travelling to and from the workplace can make a huge difference towards reducing car-use and achieving the Government’s recommended target; that a good travel plan should reduce the number of people driving to work by 15 per cent.

Salary sacrifice schemes such as cycle to work and Greentravel2work are prime examples that prove that making positive change towards more sustainable policies do not have to be costly at all. In fact, salary sacrifice schemes actually save both the employee and employer money through tax and NI breaks along with significantly enhancing the benefits package on offer to employees!

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