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Swallowing the green pill Pfizer is developing a 'green' commuter strategy.

Traffic congestion is forcing Britain's largest employers to look at radical ways of encouraging staff to leave their cars at home when they go to work.

Increasingly, employers like BAA are realising that efforts to run their businesses more efficiently are being undermined by their own staff.

At London's Heathrow Airport, BAA offers staff heavily subsidised bus travel to keep them off the roads feeding into one of the world's busiest airports.

This week it emerged that pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer is developing its own 'green' commuting strategy (see News). It wants to persuade staff at its factory and research centre in Sandwich, Kent, to stop driving to work and switch to alternative modes of transport.

Pfizer's Sandwich plant employs 4,000 staff - almost as many people as live in the town itself. Most of these travel to work by car and the narrow streets and lanes around the site become congested at rush hour.

It is inevitable that congestion by Pfizer-related traffic will worsen over the next five years. Building a £104M extension at the site is expected to bring in another 1,000 staff and prompted the company to seek a transportation manager to devise a 'green' commuting strategy aimed at reducing car use.

Driving the strategy will be the knowledge that increasing congestion will make future investment in the plant less financially attractive. Costs of bringing contractors to the site could rise to compensate for subsequent delays.

Staff could find commuting unattractive if they are constantly faced with clogged roads.

Pfizer's new transportation manager will have to work out ways of encouraging car sharing, cycling or bus use. And whoever gets the job will have their work cut out. The company's own efforts so far have had little effect on car use.

'We have had car sharing days and cycle to work days but they have not had a fantastic amount of success,' admits Pfizer technical director Maurice Jones.

Like BAA at Heathrow, Pfizer runs subsidised buses to bring staff to the site, but these have only convinced a few people to ditch their cars at home.

But the new transportation manager will have plenty of material to work from. So far the company has held focus group sessions with staff to find out why they are so attached to their cars.

The company has also produced a postcode map of the Sandwich area showing where staff live, so it can help local bus operators tailor their routes to the needs of Pfizer employees.

Developing a credible transport plan is vital to Pfizer's efforts to strengthen its case for improvements in the local transport infrastructure.

Part of the new manager's role will be to lobby politicians and officials at local and national

government level for more transport cash.

Lobbying will also be directed at local bus operators and possibly train operators if Railtrack could

be persuaded to extend the rail network to Pfizer's front door.

Andrew Bolton

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