Active Travel and an Integrated Transport Network

Ensuring that local communities and businesses can access the services and facilities they need as seamlessly as possible is an important contributory factor to managing future travel demand.

It can both help reduce the length of journeys and encourage greater use of active travel and public transport modes. EEH is planning for an integrated regional transport system which provides a seamless journey from doorstep to destination.

This will factor in ticketing and information provision; the first mile, last mile including connectivity to transport hubs; cost of travel; safety and perceptions of safety; reliability; and convenience.

Previously, EEH has developed region‑wide tools to support the planning of first mile, last mile solutions, including the commencement of a small number of connectivity pilots.

Ticketing and information, as well as better alignment between land use and transport planning will be critical success factors for this work strand. Interurban and local bus travel is an essential part of the transport system, providing many with their primary means of access, as well as an alternative to the private car.

Unlike rail, and unless segregated, the reliability of bus and coach services is dependent on a well‑performing road network. The transport strategy’s travel hierarchy states that the needs of the bus, as well as walking, cycling and other forms of shared mobility must be at the forefront of our approach to connectivity, and our associated investment plans.

During the period of the 2022-2025business plan, we will...

  • Publish a regional active travel strategy and set out plans for implementation of its recommended actions. •
  • Support early stage development of the business case for the Varsity Way – a dedicated cycle route across the region, forming the backbone of a region wide cycle network.
  • Roll out a programme of mobility hub demonstrators, supported by work to inform the development of business cases for mobility hubs.
  • Develop an initial programme of work following publication of the government’s Future of Rural Transport Strategy
  • Develop an initial programme of work following publication of the government’s Future of Rural Transport Strategy.
  • Explore options for improved ticketing and information provision to achieve pan‑regional integration.
  • Lead the national and regional commitment for better alignment between spatial planning, physical connectivity and digital connectivity (the ‘tri‑planning process’).
  • Continue to press for investment in bus services, supporting the roll out of BSIP ambitions beyond the first phase of funding.
  • Strengthen links with the Canal and River Trust to maximise the opportunity for water‑based travel and their associated pathways.

Ongoing work (see also public transport)

Active travel strategy phase two

Working with partners, EEH developed phase one of the Active Travel Strategy, which outlined the ambition for active travel in the Heartland; ‘to create an exemplar active travel network and culture that encourages mode shift for both shorter journeys and for the first and last mile of longer journeys’

Phase two will focus on how we meet that ambition. Specifically, there will be five elements:

  • Baselining and (place based) target setting
  • Understanding the regional active travel network and future ambitions (‘missing links’ – network based)
  • Challenges to achieving the ambitions (location specific examples of challenges)
  • Modal integration
  • Delivery Plan

Mobility Hubs (ongoing)

Across the region there is a high prevalence of communities with low population densities – both within our urban areas and more widely amongst small market towns and their surrounding rural hinterlands.

Our transport strategy contains a policy to support the establishment of ‘mobility hubs’ as locations where interchange between travel modes will be prioritised. We will work with public transport operators and the Government to enable frictionless, affordable travel using a combination of travel modes.

Mobility hubs are locations where demand for movement can be concentrated in a way that supports local public transport services, primarily via bus provision, ensuring greater opportunity to run services where they otherwise may not have been viable.

EEH is now working on more detailed proposals for how the mobility hubs will work in practice.

Connectivity pilots (ongoing)

The transport strategy set out EEH’s ambitions to undertake a discrete number of first mile/ last mile pilot projects in the Heartland.

The first two studies will focus on local connectivity to and from East West Rail. EEH has put forward a proposal to the Department for Transport that, subject to approval, will enable further first last mile pilots to take place during 2021/22.

Implementing the regional bus strategy (ongoing)

The Regional Bus Strategy, published in July 2022, complements the work of our local authority partners by setting a consistent regional vision and approach to bus travel, while also identifying opportunities to improve cross-boundary bus movements.


Previous work

Varsity Way (2022)

EEH’s transport strategy supports maximising the potential of an Oxford-Cambridge Varsity Way as a ‘green spine’ across the Heartland: ‘one that can act as a focal point for developing a region wide network of greenways across the region’.

Working with the sustainable travel charity Sustrans, partners and stakeholders along a high-level options assessment of the route spanning from Oxford to Cambridge was undertaken. The options assessment provides a starting point to work with partners on realising the potential of the Varsity Way as an east-west active travel route, with the potential to build a network of active travel routes.

The report ‘Introducing the Varsity Way’ was launched at the EEH Conference 2022.

During the development of the options assessment, there was stakeholder support to investigate wider scale re-alignment of the route in the Marston Vale area, to align with communities and Marston Vale rail stations more closely. Assessment of wide scale realignment was out of scope (and budget) of the original assessment work, however EEH is working to identify potential funding sources to undertake the additional work.

Active travel strategy phase one (2022)

In September 2021, DfT confirmed that additional funding had been allocated to EEH to develop a regional active travel programme.

The first phase, published in March 2022, includes a literature review of local, regional and national policy, and an assessment of the opportunities and challenges for active travel in the region.

The document sets the overall ambition for active travel in the region: ‘To create an exemplar active travel network and culture that encourages mode shift for both shorter journeys and for the first and last mile of longer journeys'.

Embedding active travel into the region’s transport system will help contribute to reducing carbon emissions in line with EEH’s net zero ambitions. It will also improve air quality; support residents’ physical and mental health; improve safety for users; increase access to opportunities for all to reduce inequalities; and support sustainable growth across the region.

Phase two of the strategy, which will consider how the vision can be achieved, is currently being scoped.

First mile, last mile study and tool (2020)

Our pioneering first mile, last mile toolkit was developed during 2020 in response to the need to ensure that solutions taken forward better reflect the needs of the user. By using information held in commercially available datasets it was possible to develop a detailed picture of the personas of the Heartland’s population and to better understand the specific propensity for sustainable and public transport choices in different places.

The resulting toolkit – which is available to all EEH partners - factors in human behaviour around transport choice, particularly in respect of first mile, last mile (FMLM) travel. This results in the user of the tool having an evidence-led approach to identification of potential solutions for specific areas and the targeting of investment in support of active travel.

The toolkit has been used by EEH partners over the course of the year to plan interventions and in support of funding bids to Government.

It was also used as the basis for a specially commissioned piece of work identifying FMLM requirements necessary to enable the full benefit of investment in East West Rail (see connectivity pilots below). Feedback from EEH partners involved in the work highlighted the additional benefit of the work in informing the development of future strategic planning briefs.

The toolkit was highly commended in the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation 2021 awards.

The commission also included a global best practice review that is informing the work of England’s Economic Heartland and its partners.

'Transport for the Shires' (2021)

The The Future of Transport Outside Cities report, co-sponsored by EEH, summarises the findings of 12 roundtable discussions led by the University of Hertfordshire’s Smart Mobility Unit. Over 180 people took part from a range of sectors, including national and local government, the transport sector, business, academia, and non-governmental organisations. The aim was to address and find solutions to transport issues in rural parts of the country.