The Crown Estate and Savills Partner to Transform Employee and Visitor Greener Travel

25/01/2021

Over the past two years, The Crown Estate has partnered with Savills to identify opportunities to positively influence how users of their retail and leisure destinations travel to these locations. Together, they are rolling out Sustainable Travel Plans across The Crown Estate’s Regional retail portfolio, introducing measures to encourage more people to use more sustainable forms of transport to visit or get to work in the future, such as walking, cycling and using public transport. Over time, this will generate significant environmental and social benefits.

Encouraging daily exercise and supporting customer employee wellbeing

Enhancing the park environment

Cutting emissions and improving air quality

Situation

The Crown Estate’s Regional portfolio includes some of the best places to work, shop, live and enjoy across the country, as well as industrial and business parks. Its aim is to respond to the needs and experiences of its customers and local communities to best shape these destinations. 

The impact of Covid-19 on how people travel to shop and work has reinforced the need for resilient and sustainable travel infrastructure, offering people more options to walk, cycle, use electric vehicles and to access public transport networks. The Crown Estate partnered with Savills in 2019, as the managing agent, to create Sustainable Travel Plans for 13 retail and shopping parks across its Regional retail portfolio. These plans were informed by an extensive exercise gathering baseline data against which to compare improvements.

The Crown Estate’s sustainable travel planning objectives are as follows:

  • Set a baseline for how customer employees currently travel to and from their workplace, to measure against. 
  • Raise awareness and increase attractiveness of travelling by sustainable modes for all destination users.
  • Improving physical infrastructure, such as cycle parking facilities for customer employees, to encourage travel by non-car modes.
  • Influence behaviour change and reduce single occupancy car use, where safe to do so.

The Crown Estate has initially focused on raising awareness of the different travel options available through investment in digital infrastructure. The Savills Insights app is one example, which gives customer employees access to travel information so they can make informed decisions on their travel choices. It also makes it easier and more convenient for people to use public transport post-Covid as it displays live changes to timetables and bus times.

Actions

The Savills Sustainability team worked with its Centre Management teams and The Crown Estate to develop bespoke Travel Plans for each site, following a three-phase approach:

  1. Review: Assess site accessibility and undertake travel surveys to establish a baseline (Phase 1).
  2. Planning: Develop site-specific action plans (Phase 2).
  3. Delivery: Monitor site performance (Phase 3).

Phase 1: Assess site accessibility and opportunities

Savills collated information for each site on current accessibility options. This included public transport timetables and maps showing pedestrian, cycle and public transport routes to and from the site. It also covered travel-related infrastructure and facilities on site, such as bus shelters, car parking and electric vehicle charging, as well as existing site Travel Plans, customer Travel Plans and details of engagement on sustainable travel, such as events.

Savills Insights, an app which allows two-way communication between the customer (employees and store managers) and the property management team, was used to survey customer employees to provide baseline data for each asset across the portfolio. 644 customer employees responded over a month from 10 sites.

In addition, the customer employee surveys strengthened Savills’ understanding of how customer employees currently travel and the most suitable improvement measures for each location.

Barriers to sustainable travel identified through customer employee surveys included:

  • Low awareness of local public transport connectivity and cycle networks.
  • Insufficient connectivity and facilities, such as direct bus services and secure cycle parking.
  • Absence of incentives to opt for sustainable modes, such as discounts for customer employees on fares.

Savills reviewed this information, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each site. Strengths included existing cycling infrastructure, direct bus services and customer engagement, whilst opportunities included building stakeholder relationships on sustainable travel, advertising bus services, introducing bike hire schemes, expanding car sharing through the Savills Insights app and partnering with local bus companies to shuttle visitors to and from nearby stations. Weaknesses and threats included lack of high quality local cycle networks on some sites, low levels of interest in some areas and limited space for facilities such as showers.

Phase 2: Set out site objectives and develop an action plan  

Working with The Crown Estate, Savills developed action plans for each site, based on information collected from the customer surveys. These plans set out site-specific initiatives to achieve sustainable travel planning objectives, prioritising safety and security.

Long-term initiatives included in the action plans, which deliver on the objectives, include:

  • Raising awareness and increasing attractiveness of travelling by sustainable modes: Establish site-wide travel forums with customers and offer public transport discounts where appropriate. Use the Savills Insights app to provide customers with live information on sustainable travel options, such as bus timetables, in addition to a communication platform.
  • Improving physical infrastructure to encourage travel by non-car modes: Increase cycle spaces and lockers where possible, and other physical infrastructure to support people cycling or walking to work and leisure, where safe to do so. Explore infrastructure opportunities beyond site boundaries, working with local partners.
  • Reducing single occupancy car use: Post-Covid, introduce site-specific car sharing groups when safe to do so, following a pilot with a local authority partner.

Phase 3: Monitoring site performance

Annual customer employee travel surveys at each site will continue to be undertaken in order to benchmark performance against the original survey results with the Savills Insights app. These will monitor changes and evaluate the effectiveness of different initiatives. They will also inform how targets may continue to evolve, such as percentage reductions in car use and increases in sustainable travel use in the coming years.

Benefits

Benefits for people working on site include:

  • Increasing opportunities for daily exercise through cycling and walking, supporting health and wellbeing.
  • Enhancing the local environment for employees and visitors through reduced congestion and emissions.
  • Helping people save money by using modes of travel other than the car.

Benefits for The Crown Estate and customers:

  • Supporting their sustainability goals and demonstrating their environmental credentials.
  • Reducing parking spaces needed for employees, freeing them up for shoppers and other potential uses.
  • Contributing to a healthier and more productive workforce.

Benefits for local communities:

  • Minimising the impact of the park on local road networks, reducing congestion, delays and queueing.
  • Reducing the impact on air quality and noise.

Challenges & Achievements

CUSTOMERS

 

How to engage with customers on sustainable travel?

Savills continues to lead day-to-day engagement with customer businesses, including making travel information available to customer employees via store managers, as well as sharing real time travel information via the Savills Insights app. They will encourage store managers to ensure that all new starters are registered on the app and aware of travel features, as well as uploading information to customer intranets where possible. They will also provide customers with regular updates – including an annual review of sustainable travel initiatives and plans for the future – via the Savills Insights app, emails to store managers, site-wide travel forums and customer meetings.

HABITS

 

How to transform customer employee travel habits?

For many sites, behaviour change is the biggest challenge. The first step is raising awareness and making sure that people are aware of options to use alternative sustainable modes and the potential associated health and financial benefits. This can be done via technology and tools people already use, as well as through customers’ employee induction processes. Forging effective partnerships with local stakeholders is also key. Savills and The Crown Estate have worked with customers, local authorities and other stakeholders to make live travel information easily available via the Savills Insights app. This includes bus timetables, tube service updates and train departures and arrivals.

In some locations, the Savills team has also secured discounts to incentivise sustainable travel for a period of time, such as 30% discounts on a monthly bus pass for all customer employees at Rushden in 2018/19. In addition, physical measures such as free shuttle buses from nearby train stations and improved on-site facilities for cyclists can make alternatives to private car use more convenient, encouraging behavioural change. These are being considered across the portfolio for the future.

Through their long-standing relationship, Savills and The Crown Estate have collaborated successfully to improve sustainability performance, from increasing energy efficiency to rolling out electric vehicle charging points for shoppers (more here).

“We are committed to making our retail destinations more sustainable in the future. We have partnered with Savills to improve and facilitate more sustainable means of transport for staff and visitors accessing our destinations and have been working closely with our customers, local authorities and bus operators, with the aim to encourage active lifestyles, improve local environments and air quality for everyone.”

Jo Francis, Head of Operations at The Crown Estate