The government is aiming to positively change its travel by 50% during the Olympics to help manage demand on the capital’s transport system. The Department for Transport is at the forefront of this initiative. Operation StepChange is designed to see how well we’re prepared for the Games later this year, but it’s not just staff that have been trying out new patterns of traveling to work, but ministers too.
Reporter: The government is aiming to positively change its travel by 50% during the Olympics to help manage demand on the capital’s transport system. The Department for Transport is at the forefront of this initiative. Operation Step Change is designed to see how well we’re prepared for the Games later this year. But it’s not just staff who’ve been trying out new patterns of travelling to work. We caught up with minister Mike Penning outside the Palace of Westminster at 8.30 in the morning.
Mike Penning, Minister for Transport: Good morning.
Reporter: Good morning. What brings you here at this time in the morning?
Mike Penning: Well, Operation Step Change means we need to look at our hours, get out of some of the traditional routines; so leaving home at 6.15 this morning into the Commons, and now walking across to the department.
Reporter: How important is it for government to lead when it comes to changing people’s travel habits during the Olympics?
Mike Penning: Well, the capacity is going to be an issue, and so we need to make sure that we lead, we’re showing how we can do it, how our civil servants can do it, and then we’re not asking the public to do something that we’re not doing.
Reporter: We joined Secretary of State Justine Greening who was walking to Number 10 for a Cabinet meeting.
What brings you walking this morning?
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport: Well, across the whole department we’re trying to re-route, re-mode, re-time and just generally reduce our travel, so I’m re-moding at the moment.
Reporter: Good, good.
Justine Greening: and having a good old walk up to Cabinet, which does me a lot of good.
Reporter: How important is it for government departments to, sort of, set by example our need to change patterns of travel during the Olympics?
Justine Greening: I think it does matter, and we know it can make a real difference. And actually I think it can show people that really they might have picked one way of getting in to work, one time of going in to work, but actually there are options, and maybe if they take a little bit of time to think about it, they might actually have a more pleasant journey - I’ve certainly had a more pleasant trip up to Cabinet than I normally do.
Reporter: Also attending Cabinet was Francis Maude, who had cycled to work.
Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office: I’m particularly keen this week, during Step Change, to get the bike out again, pump up the tyres and get going. Actually, it’s great; you feel great afterwards - a bit puffed but it gets the circulation going. I think it’s great. It’s: actually it’s about: it’s a good thing to do anyway. We will need to do it for the Olympics and to explore in this week what are the different ways of doing it. But actually I’m really keen that over time, we in the civil service get better at people working a bit more from home sometimes, because that can ease congestion, can be better for people’s lives; people can be much more productive if they are working a bit more of the time from home. So I think it’s great that we’ve got the need, as well as the opportunity, to explore doing things a bit differently in future.
Reporter: It’s not just about travel, but the way we work and making use of the technology available. And that’s why later on, Justine Greening and Francis Maude met face to face thanks to video conferencing.
Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport [excerpt from video speech]: Hello, and thank you very much for inviting me to speak to you today.
Reporter: For Norman Baker, the minister responsible for alternatives to travel, re-moding isn’t something confined to Operation Step Change; it’s a daily pattern of working, and this includes pre-recording speeches on video.
Norman Baker: Well, I’m very keen to use this opportunity to record speeches remotely. First of all, it lets me get to audiences that wouldn’t otherwise have a message from the department or from the minister. Secondly, of course, it’s much better value than travelling maybe hundreds of miles to make a ten-minute speech. By doing this here in ten minutes, I can save ministerial time, I can save public money by not using transport, and we can cut carbon by not having an unnecessary journey. So it’s all to the good; and this is the way, I think, we should be going: maximising our time, minimising our impact on the environment. But I think it is very important that all of us get in the groove of looking at matters in a different way, realising the value of remote working, of working in different, flexible hours, and approaching life from a different way. And I think those approaches have many gains to be got for the government, many gains to be got for the environment and many gains to be got for the economy.