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'Rated transport

ANALYSIS

When NCE's reporters set out to test how integrated the UK's transport network is their hopes were hardly high. What they found in terms of infrastructure quality and regularity of service was (mostly) a pleasant surprise.

But when asked to score their trips for the quality of integration, all but one had to qualify their enthusiasm due to the difficulty in finding out information about their journeys - hence the 6/10 aggregate mark.

Public transport in this country is structured to deal with regular journeys - ie those that require relatively little information for travellers.

The South East's commuting network might often be unpleasant to travel on, but it achieves daily people movement on a scale unimaginable a generation ago. Elsewhere, the car is more commonly used for the regular trips, but the bus, particularly, and the train takes much of the strain.

It is on occasional and unplanned trips that people will turn without thought to the car. There are plenty of reasons - comfort, safety and the practicality of transporting luggage and children for example - but number one must be perceived ease.

The perception of ease is the key - because, given the congested nature of the UK's roads, the journey may not be easy at all. But armed with a decent map and tuned into a good local radio station, most people will back themselves to reach their destination within a reasonable time.

After all, if they get lost, they can always pull over and ask the way. Contrast this with the feeling of panic which takes over anyone who has just realised they are travelling on the wrong train and bus and it's clear why trusting to your devices is seen as the better option.

The growth of digital television creates the opportunity for the development of a comprehensive and cheap interactive travel information service.

Combined with attention to the other shortfalls identified in our research - particularly the threatening nature of many of the UK's transport interchanges - a step change in travel patterns could be achieved.

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