BT called on all parties involved in tackling congestion on British roads to look at increased use of broadband communications as part of the solution.
In a report published on October 7, entitled Broadband: the role for communications in beating congestion, the company suggests that flexible working and staggered commuting times, the ability to work from home and increased take-up of online shopping could make a major contribution to an issue which the CBI estimates costs the UK £20bn a year.
Department for Transport data show that of the distance we travel by cars and taxis (81 per cent of the total distance driven), almost three-fifths (59 per cent) can be accounted for by a combination of commuting (25 per cent), business travel (15 per cent), shopping (12 per cent) and personal business (seven per cent).
A 10 per cent reduction in these areas (six per cent of the total distance travelled) would save 14.5 billion miles a year. This equates to 17 million cars foregoing a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats or about three years’ growth in car and taxi traffic at today’s rates. BT believes that this could be substituted by broadband communications activities such as flexible working and on-line shopping.
Commuting accounts for twenty-five per cent of car mileage. Achieving a 10 per cent target reduction in this area will require a commitment by employers to support and encourage appropriate flexible and remote working.
Research carried out by NOP in 2003 found that among internet users who travel to work every weekday, 23 per cent would like the option of working from home but that the proportion of employers prepared allow them to so do was much lower, at 13 per cent.
BT also believes that 10 per cent of business mileage could be eliminated by conferencing (audio, video and web). Only about two per cent of Britain’s 1.9 million businesses currently use conference calling so there is ample room for growth.
Paul Reynolds, chief executive, BT Wholesale said that “by the next summer broadband will be available to more than 99 per cent of the UK’s population. It’s time to start thinking about how people can start using our new national communications network innovatively and creatively. Travel substitution is just one of the ways we envisage it making a difference. As BT’s own experience shows and our academic colleagues from the University of Bradford point out in this report, mobile working benefits employers – greatly improving property costs, improving work performance and reducing absenteeism and recruitment costs. But it also offers clear benefits to employees and our communities as a whole. Most of the mobile workers interviewed by Sustainable Telework (SUSTEL), a major European research project on teleworking in which BT was a partner, thought working in this way provided a better work/life balance and quality of life“.
Digby Jones, director general, CBI said that “The UK must be ambitious. We cannot afford to lag behind our European and international competitors on transport. The UK has the capacity to be a leader in innovation and the adoption of new technologies for the development of high value services. We need to harness this ability and use these technologies to reduce the need for unnecessary travel and to facilitate efficient, speedy and effortless journeys“. And Edmund King, executive director, RAC Foundation, concludes that “if each employee could work from home just one day per week, for example, we would see a twenty per cent cut in traffic, equivalent to the school run. Today’s technology is better and cheaper so more employees have the chance to work from home, at least some of the time” .
Em Foco – Pessoa