1. Context Milton Keynes is a rapidly growing city with excellent accessibility by train

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Milton Keynes Central Station Travel Plan.

Milton Keynes is a rapidly growing city with excellent accessibility by train

Milton Keynes is a city of approximately 230,000 people and is set to grow significantly to approximately 324,000 by 2026. It is very well connected to the rest of the country by train. By train it is between 30 minutes and 45 minutes from London, 55 minutes from Birmingham and one hour 40 minutes from Manchester. Virgin trains now run direct services to places like Chester and Rhyl etc. |Stagecoach services go directly to both Oxford and Cambridge from the station.

Milton Keynes is biased towards car use due to its grid road system.

The Population Bulletin produced on behalf of Milton Keynes Council states that 273,000 people live within 15 minutes drive of the city centre. Such a situation is not common in the UK urban areas and makes the car an extremely attractive option. The city is characterised by wide tree lined 30mph dual carriageways in the centre, and with a grid system of dual carriageways of 70mph. The multi-storey car park at the station and car parks generally across Milton Keynes do fill up but there are always parking spaces available nearby and car parking spaces have always been subsidised by Milton Keynes council. In the early days of the city, the provision of free or nearly free car parking was seen as an important tool in attracting business to the area. Now that much more comprehensive car parking charges are coming in there is a feeling of betrayal by both the local population and business. Although congestion is beginning to occur at peak hours at some junctions, travel by car across the city is significantly easier and quicker than in most other urban areas of comparable size. This means that there is a considerable challenge in promoting sustainable transport modes for journeys to and from the station.

Part of the grid road system (V10) Silbury Boulevard, in the Centre MK which has wide

of Milton Keynes. pavements, Public Art by Elizabeth Frink and parking areas, flanking a 30mph dual carriageway

Central Milton Keynes Station feels far away from the centre of Milton Keynes

Although Milton Keynes Central Station is in the middle of Milton Keynes, it can feel very far from the heart of Milton Keynes. It is in reality only 1.3 km from the shopping centre and 900 m from the Hub, the Restaurant Quarter. However to the left is the view from the station entrance looking to the North East ( and the shopping centre). This view does not convey an image of a bustling centre and compounding this, around the station to the south and the west, are low density employment and residential areas. However stretching to the North East from the spacious expanse of Station Square is Central Milton Keynes, an area of 3 km by 1 km which employs 27,000 people and has 30 million visitors a year to a prestigious Shopping Centre, Cinema complex and a Snow Dome and a Regional Theatre and a Modern Art gallery to the left, and close to it is “Dangerous Liaisons”, one of 200 works of public art positioned around the city.

Milton Keynes is often unfairly described as a city of roundabouts, shopping malls and concrete cows, as you can see on the left.

However, Milton Keynes contains several lakes, some with water skiing and sailing, such as Willen lake to the right. There are also lakes for wildlife and country parks, 272.5 km of cycle-ways called “Redways”, a Pagoda, a Peace Garden, family theme parks, l an Eco-park, museums and nearby historic villages , Community and sporting facilities, ,and above all it is rich in trees, with all the main roads lined with trees and flowering shrubs. Residents often speak very highly of the quality of life.. The city is very successful at attracting and retaining high quality businesses yet it does also have some serious issues of deprivation. There is a ten year difference in life expectancy between the most affluent and the most deprived wards. Therefore the Accessibility Strategy is of key importance in the transport planning for the area.

The need for and appropriateness of a Station Travel Plan.

Although congestion is not at present a problem with the levels of housing growth predicted for the city the traffic models for LTP2 predict show an serious increase in car use “The impacts are that total travel time increases by 67 percent, and distance travelled by 58 percent.” Milton Keynes Council also recognises that the average car usage is high; (80% of trips are by car as opposed to 70% as the UK average.) and also the resulting impact on the environment as regards CO2 emissions.

As a result Milton Keynes Council has put in place significant policies to reduce congestion and increase modal shift away from car use. The Sustainable Integrated Transport Strategy, which underpins the LTP2 states as its aim. “To bring about a significant shift from the car to other ways of travelling, such as walking, cycling and public transport.” Accessibility planning as already been mentioned is very important. The Milton Keynes Community Strategy says “Our vision is to create a city that has soul, energy and dynamism. Our towns, villages and neighbourhoods and spaces will be desirable, fun affordable, safe and accessible.” The LTP reflects this with the lines “We have embraced the principle of accessibility planning as being integral to this. We recognise that some individuals and groups are disadvantaged due to poor access to everyday services and amenities.” This has been translated into many practical actions to significantly improve Public Transport. Many of the key bus routes ( MK Metro) are colour coded and several routes run at high frequency. Evening bus services have been improved and there are plans for further improvements. Council tax has been raised by 0.5% and this together with the new car parking charges will be used to pay for improvements in Public Transport. Funding has been obtained for a programme of “Super-stops” for buses in the centre, and new cycle-ways are being built. A programme of signing and “Wayfinding” is being implemented in the Centre MK. Carshare MK is one of the country’s most successful car share schemes. Major improvements are planned for Station Square through Growth Area Funding and for the station itself through the National Stations Improvement Programme. In this context a Station Travel Plan seemed to be an important tool to draw together all the stakeholders and make sure that there was coordination between the different projects and that the best value and promotions was achieved by partnership working.

2.Description of the process.
Steering Group

Key stakeholders were gathered together in September 2008 and they included Milton Keynes Council especially Passenger Transport, Sustainable Transport, and Travel Planning departments, Hackney Carriage Association, London Midland, Passenger Focus, Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership and representative from Leighton Buzzard Station travel plan steering group. The group was chaired by Alan Francis from the Milton Keynes Transport Forum. After a few stakeholder meetings it was decided to employ a Station Travel Plan Officer. They chose Victoria Harvey from South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth who was also chair in a voluntary capacity of Leighton Buzzard Station Travel Plan Steering group and who started work in January 2009. MK Metro and Virgin and Discover MK ( the heritage and tourism information shop in the shopping centre) later became key players. The role of Station Travel Plan officer is to be continued after the submission of the Plan to ensure implementation of the Plan. The stakeholders have worked closely together and all the signs are that this relationship will only continue and expand.


Four and half million people use Central Milton Keynes station every year. The research showed that Milton Keynes was above the national benchmark as regards cars dropping off and picking up ( 26% as opposed to 19%) and as regards taxi use. (14% as opposed to 6%) Company Business was high (12% as opposed to the benchmark of 7%) and leisure was high (23% as opposed to 16%) When “Leisure” is added to “Visiting friends and relatives and shopping it reaches 49% of all trips.” There is a high proportion, 40%, of people who travel less than several times a month. According to Central Milton Keynes there are 30 million visitors a year. This means that occasional leisure travel should be a key part of the station travel plan.

Company Business (12%) has the highest percentage of high carbon transport; 19% is by taxi and 18% is by drop off /pick up and 15% is drive alone. Commuting is also 25% of all journeys. Commuting is important as according to the figures form London Midland at peak-times there are trains that are very full with as many as 304 passengers getting off at one time. The station has to be able to cope with this. Network Rail will be employing over 2000 people in new offices close to the station, this and the increased expansion of Milton Keynes means that it crucial to achieve modal shift away from single occupancy car use in the future for those travelling to the station.
Therefore from the research we decided to concentrate on the commuter market, the leisure market and the business market. The commuter market of travel to the station on a regular basis was difficult to access as London Midland did not have access to the data base of season ticket holders that Silverlink used to hold so other means of accessing the commuters to the station had to found. As regards the leisure and business market the station officer sought views and feedback from The Centre Milton Keynes, which holds the Theatre and the Gallery and the cinema complex, and from the Chamber of Commerce.

Feedback from business and leisure was the problems of lack of signage and that Milton Keynes was hard to find your way around.

Common experience at Milton Keynes Station.
Key points from the Chamber of Commerce,

  • Investors and business visitors get lost when they come to Milton Keynes as illustrated by the story of one investor who was considering investing £20 million but lost on his way from the station to the meeting and spent an hour trying to find his meeting place without success and as a result decided not to return to Milton Keynes .

  • Businesses drive out of Milton Keynes to meet people because it is so difficult to find your way around Milton Keynes.

  • There are no street signs to the area called the Hub that includes many restaurants as well as the Chamber of Commerce, nor is it marked on many maps.

  • Never mention getting people out of their cars or modal shift, but you can mention accessibility, productivity, and selling the brand of Milton Keynes

Key points from the Centre MK,

  • Many people do not know that there is a first class Modern Art Gallery that people come to from London, or lakes and sailing facilities and a “Snowdome”.

  • People have huge problems finding their way to key venues and destinations

  • The theatre does not advertise any buses on it posters, it just says 25 minute walk or taxi from the station even though there are buses every five minutes to the theatre..

  • Many different transport projects are going on and businesses are tired of being asked for money for transport.

  • Home Retail, who employ 2000 people who are based in the centre, less than 100 m from a bus stop with buses going every few minutes to the station, employ a shuttle bus to take people from their office to the station and to their two other sites, because they have found it too difficult to discover bus information.

From Further Research

Milton Keynes has a collection of 200 pieces of public art, top businesses, a first class theatre, several beautiful lakes, some high frequency bus routes, an eco park, a museum, 272 km of dedicated cycle routes, historic villages and towns around it. However many people who use the station have no awareness of these opportunities and many of these facts are a very well kept secret. There is at present a scarcity of information about Milton Keynes and its accessibility by public transport at the station.

Both the steering group and the business community were keen to see the station as a gateway to all the opportunities of Milton Keynes and in the words of the business community “sell the brand of Milton Keynes” With the planned expansion of Milton Keynes and the predicted growth in congestion it is also crucial to reduce the amount of drop off and pick up by car at the station as well as single occupancy car use otherwise the station will cease to be accessible to residents of Milton Keynes. The challenges were how to make best use of the planned exciting projects which would benefit the station and really make a difference in fulfilling the aims of the station travel plan. The dominance of the car and the availability of parking reduces the chances of demand management in the short term, although in the longer term congestion will become more of an issue.. It is difficult to target those who travel to Milton Keynes Station as they come from a very dispersed area: both the urban area and the rural villages surrounding Milton Keynes and there is no season ticket postcode data. However the most successful methods of “Modal Shift” have been as a result of Personalised Travel Planning and Workplace Travel Planning. The Sustainable Transport Demonstration Towns of Darlington, Worcester, and Peterborough have shown that widespread personalised travel has reduced car use by between 9% and 12%. Workplace Travel Planning can reduce car use by up to 25% according to the DfT. The key theme about both these procedures is that information on travel options is given to people in the simplest form and with a personal touch. Milton Keynes has one of the best and most successful “Carshare” schemes in the country and business has been very keen to be involved in the station travel plan. Therefore with the key findings of lack of information and the lack of demand management possibilities and the keenness of business it was decided to concentrate on information improvements and personalised and workplace travel planning.

3.Action Plan Highlights.
1. Step Change in Information Provision: New Maps and Improved Website. S1.1 and S1.2

Although there are colour-coded high frequency buses and detailed bus information, there is no simple map of the key destinations and the key bus and cycle routes. Detailed bus information is there for those who already have decided to use the bus but for those that would not normally use the bus there is not the simple promotional material and information that makes bus use seem an easy alternative to using the car. There is nothing to make a visitor aware that there is a theatre and an art gallery which are only ten minutes away by bus, , and that the shopping centre is five minutes away by bus. with a frequency of less than five minutes. We are working with the Heritage officer to produce maps with iconic photos of key venues so that people can see at a glance the key venues and opportunities and that they are easily accessible by public transport. Arriva have offered to pay for these simple maps. This will provide a step change in information.

We will then develop these maps further both as a printed version and mainly on the web. We aim to cover key businesses and key services, such as Parks, Leisure, Health, Further Education and Skills Training, Tourism and Culture both within Milton Keynes and in the historic towns and villages around Milton Keynes etc. All these simplified maps will include the key public transport services. At present there is no simple free map that includes both the job centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau and the key bus routes. Frequently people believe that unless you have a car you cannot access many family days out and this can create considerable social exclusion. However if at a glance people can see that several bus routes go past Gulliver’s theme park with its statues of dinosaurs’, family days out for those without cars can become accessible. Milton Keynes Council in its 2008 LTP annual progress report states that “Transport is not an end in itself, rather a means of accessing day-to-day activities” These maps then not only promote sustainable transport, but also act as a support to the Local Area Agreement targets as they both promote and make accessible opportunities for learning and skills or sports or recreation. They also make the city and its destinations available and easy to access for those who regularly travel to and from the station.

2. Information Kiosk at the station. S3.1

We are working closely with Discover MK which is a heritage, tourism, and travel information centre in the shopping centre. It is a coalition of Milton Keynes Council, Heritage Department, Destination MK (the tourist information organisation) and Arriva. We are going to set up an information kiosk in the station, which will be open from 6.00am to 8.00pm which will promote Carshare MK, taxi share where there is not the opportunity to car share or a suitable bus route, cycling, walking and buses. Business and venues will pay to have their information at the kiosk and their venue / business marked on a very large map on the wall and visitors can be handed a customised A5 map for the venue with the key bus and cycling routes. As all travellers to the station have to travel through the station concourse it seems the ideal place to promote Car Share, bus use and provide personalised travel planning. This is the most targeted method of promoting sustainable travel to the station. The kiosk also provides an excellent resource for visitors who can ask questions about destinations and travel. If somebody is asking about the theatre then the person in the kiosk can also promote similar venues such as the Art Gallery or if someone is asking about the Snow Dome, they can also be told about the activities on Willen Lake.

3. Workplace travel planning. S3.2

Businesses would normally pay £26,000, according to the Guidance from the DfT on Workplace Travel Planning, to employ a Travel Plan coordinator and then they would still probably pay for cycle parking, shuttle buses, promotions etc. This means that if a firm is not able or does not want to pay for a travel plan coordinator then frequently the travel plan is delegated to someone in the company who has little knowledge of travel planning. MKC council would produce a package of help with workplace travel planning that would only cost £10,000. This means that they would provide help and advice with the creation of a Travel Plan using I-trace, cycle stand installation, liaison with the bus company so that businesses could jointly fund a shuttle bus or work with Arriva to enhance an existing service. MK Council would also run promotional events for cycling, Carshare etc in the companies themselves..

. 4. Information provision in major projects so that getting on a bus seems easier than getting into a taxi.

Station Square is being rebuilt with Growth Area Funding and the station itself is being significantly enhanced and improved with National Station Improvement Programme money. This gives us a huge opportunity to really embed public transport into the design. People make a decision on how to travel when they are in a hurry, Most people these days have hectic lives, with jobs families, hobbies and travel choices have to be made very simple. A major generator of travel is leisure and people often chose leisure opportunities because they see them or hear about them in the course of their daily lives. The idea is to have a frieze of the key destinations with the relevant coloured bus routes beside them and the key cycle routes, on the platforms, up the walls of the stairs and on the over-bridge and then followed out to the bus stops so that customers would be able to get on the correct bus without thinking and also become aware subliminally of the travel opportunities and opportunities for leisure. The frieze would probably be created from key iconic photos of Milton Keynes and iconic public art in Milton Keynes. However we created a mock up to give people ideas of what it might look like using Beryl Cook images in order to provoke discussion and debate.

It is then important that the design is carried through to bus stops etc so that station square carries on the theme of “easy to use public transport”. Here are some artistic ideas for possible designs on bus shelters that we created in order to stimulate debate. The final design will fit in with all the other work on transport information and with the urban design.

5. An innovative project to improve cycling along the V6 which is a major East to West route running past the station.

The cycling key route is currently being installed on the V6-Grafton Street from the Haversham roundabout to Denbigh and Bletchley. One of the many aims of this route is to encourage residents to cycle into Central Milton Keynes, by improving the ease of navigation, safety and reducing perceived risk, etc. This type of installation has never been seen before and we are now mirroring routes in Europe. We have also labelled route sections to ensure ease of navigation…Yellow will take you into Central Milton Keynes / Green will take you away from Central Milton Keynes and towards Bletchley and Haversham.

A variety of features have been installed, such as:

  • New signs – new key cycle route signs will be installed to supplement the arrows on the floor. These signs will be split into categories – Yellow, Green and Blue. The Yellow sign will point towards CMK and the distance to CMK, the Green sign will point away from CMK and the distance to Haversham/Bletchley and the Blue will give information on the feeder routes. The blue signs will show the closest estate and final destination (an example of the sign itself is attached)
  • Thermoplastic arrows – colour coded thermoplastic arrows that are anti-skid will be installed to supplement the new signs. They are placed on the approach to the junction and after completion of the junction.

  • Landscape enhancements – landscape enhancement will be taking place on the route, both at junction to improve sight lines and along corridors to reduce perceived risk.

  • Improvements in lighting – Improvements in lighting will be taking place in a variety of areas to improve security and reduce perceived risk. The columns will be re-designed.

  • Improvements within underpasses – Improvements will be made to the underpasses on the route. The underpasses will be cleaned, painted and covered in an anti-graffiti substance.

4. Key Lessons Learned
1. Concept of Travel Plans.

The main challenge to my mind was that the Station Travel Plan was based on the concept of travel plans such as school travel plans, workplace travel plans and Personalised Travel Planning. All these travel plans had a travel plan coordinator who talked to the people at whom the plan was aimed at. The station travel plan at its outset seemed to lack this personal touch which is so crucial to changing travel behaviour and there was the difficulty in how to target the people travelling to the station from all over Milton Keynes and surrounding villages, which is why we came up with the concept of the station kiosk.

2. Policy Framework.

The lack of revenue funding as opposed to capital funding which is a key problems for all sustainable transport projects meant that it was vital to have partnership working and getting committed buy in from all the partners. This meant really looking at the policy framework behind station travel plans and partnership working.

Partnership working and pooling resources is a key message from government and is exemplified by the Local Strategic Partnerships and the Local Area Agreements. The latest change which really affects this is the Comprehensive Area Assessments which are the Audit office’s means of assessing both the council and the key agencies in their delivery on the areas priorities. The CAA also has financial rewards for reducing CO2 emissions beyond the target in N1 186 for climate change which fits in excellently with the station travel plan. This means that the benefits of the station travel plan have to be seen as supporting all aspects of the area. Therefore improved transport and information at the station supports accessibility, economic regeneration, access to services and tourism and leisure and reducing CO2 emissions. When it explained like that funding streams and budgets can be used justifiably for the station travel plan.

3. Language.

It was important to find the right language for different partners. Many people were unsure about the idea of getting people out of their cars especially business, but if you spoke about accessibility, and “selling the brand” there was great enthusiasm for the project

It is important to explain and follow continuously the point that transport information is about the destination. People do not want to know about buses, they want to know how to get to a destination by bus and if it is easier than by car. |Explaining this can be difficult and time consuming but is crucial to get people on board.
4. Working with Partners

Councils have to plan ahead and get clearance from many different people. This means that the planning process can seem slow and frustrating although it is crucial for accountability. Commercial companies and sponsors are keen to act fast as the world of business does not stand still. It is a difficult balancing act to fully plan and consult on an issue and follow council procedures which can sometimes be time consuming without loosing the enthusiasm of business who want to get on with the practical side however committed they are to the station travel plan. It is a balancing act between people who have very different demands on them and the exciting lesson in Milton Keynes is that despite this there is real eagerness for the different organisations to work together.

Victoria Harvey

Milton Keynes Station Travel Plan Officer May 2009

List of the logos of the organisations who have participated in the Steering group for Milton Keynes Station Travel Plan.

Milton Keynes Hackney Carriage Association,

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