Rural environments are often perceived as areas of low demand for travel. Whilst urban areas are thriving in trialling more connected and digital new mobility services, rural areas struggle to attract investments in this area. The Assessing Sustainable Transport Solutions (AsSeTS) for Rural Mobility project improved the knowledge base around demand for new mobility services, exploring alternative data sources.
The project was funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) under the DfT-CPC Collaborative Programme, and was developed and delivered between April 2020 and March 2021. The project aligns with the UK Government’s commitment to ‘Build Back Better’, to support growth through significant investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation, and to pursue growth that levels up every part of the UK, enabling the transition towards Net Zero.
Part of this vision to ‘level up’ the country includes, through improved transport services, rural and semi-rural communities having access to the same opportunities and key services as urban populations. DfT is currently exploring options for taking a Rural Strategy forward.
The project identified ways to improve accessibility and transport solutions in rural environments by improving the knowledge base around demand for new mobility services. This was achieved by exploring alternative data sources to represent demand for travel in a rural context and o use new data sources to create (beyond this project) a demand model, and exploring tailored interventions to the rural areas by establishing the relationship between population density and travel demand and estimating the effectiveness of different New Mobility Services (NMS) solutions for meeting expectations for rural transport demand.
In doing so, the project identifies and suggests ways to remove barriers which prevent NMS being commercially viable in rural areas by using data-driven approaches to understand typical daily travel patterns and identifying new mobility services which can be deployed commercially, and those that will be likely to require on-going financial support, in order to provide socially necessary services.
The benefits of the adoption of a data-driven approach for the introduction of on-demand mobility in rural areas are to derive recent, at scale and comprehensive information on residents’ travel patterns and habits. The Mobile Network Data at trip-chain level enables quick access to a large user base, which in turn emphasises the link between places and existing connections between the urban periphery and rural areas.
This data-driven approach will allow Local Authorities to plan flexible mobility services tailored to residents’ travel needs, including when periods of uncertainties linked to Covid-19 lockdowns occur. The transferability of the AsSeTS data-driven approach to other rural areas supports the introduction of new mobility services for people and goods and creates added value for councils and mobility providers.