Published on
April 26, 2022

RideTandem on BBC Radio 4

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This week, BBC Radio 4 invited RideTandem CEO Alex Shapland-Howes into their studio to speak about the current state of the workplace transport sector and how RideTandem are providing huge support to organisations across the country. 

Below is a transcript of the conversation and you can listen to the full interview here.

Sangita Myska: 
Alex, the phrase you often use is transport poverty, what does that mean?”

Alex Shapland-Howes:
“Transport poverty is the confluence of poverty and the lack of good value options for people. So this can have a huge impact on their lives and I think sometimes for those of us that live in big cities, it's hard to imagine quite how much that can impact one's life. I’ve met cleaners who are taking taxis to work every single day, using their whole first hour's wage just to get to work because there's literally no other option. I've met other people, Dads who are turning down jobs because they literally have no way to get there because the bus route got cut a few years ago. It’s not just jobs, it's healthcare, it's education, it's the affordable supermarket in the big town nearby…it’s remarkable how much transport can have an impact on your everyday life.”

“This solution (workplace shuttles) will survive if it can get bottoms on seats, does it have enough user appeal to make sure this happens?”

“I think one of the key challenges is that if you're in the village and you've got no transport options then its definitely an improvement. If you're in your own car (if that's the competition) then I think it's less straightforward. With some of these services, you'll press your app and the bus will be with you in 5 minutes but you can press the button at the same time the next day and suddenly it's a 35-minute wait. If you’re trying to get to work then that really doesn't work for you, so that kind of reliability is a challenge.”

“Alex, do you think there’s actually a reasonable pressure on local authorities at least breaking even with these schemes, particularly in our straightened times financially?”

“I think realistically, if you want these schemes to last beyond the initial pilot funding then there's going to have to be some ongoing support from the local authority or potentially central government or, as we do, potentially also from an employer. So we work with a number of employers who have got sites in the middle of nowhere who struggle to recruit people because they literally have no way of getting people to the site. We work with employers like Royal Mail or Banham Poultry who literally can’t get people to their site unless they chip into the costs of the transport.”

“Over the last 2 years, our passengers have earned £10m in wages for jobs that they had literally no other way to get to other than the fact that we (RideTandem) provided them transport.”

“Things are about to get worse, potentially, before they get better. In October, the temporary support that the government put in place to support the bus companies through the pandemic comes to an end. At that point, there's a whole load of services that are not commercially profitable for the bus companies that are just going to get cut.”

“Is the technology currently available an industry disruptor?”

“I think it depends on how big your magic money tree is. So if it's big enough that every time you press your app, the bus is with you in 5 mins and goes wherever you want to directly, if you've got so many buses running that that's possible, then maybe. Ultimately the system at its best will have a blend of DRT services where that makes the most sense, fixed routes services where that makes the most sense and potentially services like ours where employers are getting shuttles for their employees to get to work. So ultimately DRT is not the only solution, it's just part of the fabric.”

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