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Paper 20th October 2005 - TTSAC(05)3


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1. Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this paper is to seek the views of Members of the Committee on possible developments to Scottish Executive (SE) Transport Statistics publications and other outputs.

1.2 Views are sought on:

  • the frequency of appearance of the publications;
  • the timing of the publications;
  • possible improvements to Scottish Transport Statistics;
  • possible improvements to other Transport Statistics publications;
  • whether there is a need for any new publications, or new formats for publications;
  • the Transport Statistics web site.

1.3 Members of the Committee are invited to comment on these matters, and on any other points that they wish to raise regarding SE Transport Statistics publications and other outputs.

2. Frequency of appearance of publications

2.1 Members of the Committee are sent copies of each of the branch's publications as and when they appear, which is usually in the following months:

  • Key Road Accident Statistics - June
  • Scottish Transport Statistics - August
  • Key Transport Statistics ("fact card") - August, with further edition(s) as and when appropriate (e.g. the main update might be in December)
  • Household Transport - November
  • Road Accidents Scotland - November
  • Transport Across Scotland(biennial) - December
  • Scottish Household Survey (SHS) Travel Diary results - March
  • Bus and Coach Statistics - March
  • Travel by Scottish residents(biennial) - April, subject to the availability of National Travel Survey results for Scotland

The branch also provides further SHS Transport-related results in short articles for the quarterly Scottish Transport Review and in some of the quarterly releases of SHS results.

2.2 At present, most publications appear annually ( Transport Across Scotland and Travel by Scottish residents appear less often because the SHS is not designed to provide annual results for local authority areas, and because the National Travel Survey sample for Scotland as a whole is too small for detailed analysis of the results for a single year). Should these current frequencies continue? For example, SHS Travel Diary results and Bus and Coach Statistics may be of interest to only a small proportion of users of statistics about Transport. Do they need to appear annually? The Travel Diary is the most "specialised" part of the SHS, and its main results do not change greatly from year to year. Of the figures which appear in Bus and Coach Statistics, the most important ones (e.g. local bus passenger numbers, vehicle-kilometres, and some of the results of some of the SHS's bus-related questions) appear each year in Scottish Transport Statistics and Household Transport. If SHS Travel Diary results and Bus and Coach Statistics were each to appear only in alternate years, the branch would "save" perhaps 20 person-days per year, which could be used to produce other publications or analyses. Would Members of the Committee be content for SHS Travel Diary results and Bus and Coach Statistics to be published biennially? Would they favour any other changes to the frequency of the existing publications?

3. Timing of publications

3.1 When should Scottish Transport Statistics (STS) be published? Traditionally, it has appeared in August. This usually allows figures for the previous calendar year on various topics to appear not long after they become available (e.g., this year, DfT published vehicle licensing statistics for 2004 in May, and road traffic estimates, road freight survey results and National Travel Survey results for 2004 in July). However, the timetable for including material in STS is a "tight" one, and sometimes changes to (or problems with) data suppliers' systems prevent figures for the previous calendar year being available in time (e.g. DfT did not finalise the traffic figures for 2001 in time for their inclusion in STS 2002). Or, figures may arrive only a few days before STS is finalised for the printer, and including them "at the last-minute" risks errors (particularly for statistics which appear in several places in STS). Publishing STS in October (which is when Transport Statistics Great Britain appears) would reduce greatly the likelihood of such problems affecting the figures for the latest calendar year. It would also allow us to include some figures for the latest financial year. This year, DfT changed its survey of bus and coach operators in order to produce the main results more quickly, and moved its Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics forward from late November to early September. Assuming that DfT will continue to publish this bulletin in early September, publishing STS in October would allow us to include the main "bus" figures for the latest financial year. Or, we could publish STS in late November (or, maybe, early December), as that should allow us to include the results of DfT's "ports" and "waterborne freight" surveys (which appear in October and November). There is no "perfect" time to publish STS: it is a case of balancing some figures becoming "old" and others becoming available. When should Scottish Transport Statistics be published? Would Members of the Committee be content for it to be published in, say, October or November? Or would they prefer another time of year - if so, when and why?

3.2 A change in the month in which Scottish Transport Statistics was published could have some effect on the timing of the other publications. For example, if STS appears two or three months later than at present, some of the work which is currently done in June/July could be rescheduled to August/September, allowing us to start work earlier on some of our other publications. Or, we could continue to do most of the work on STS within our current timetable (e.g. obtaining/updating tables based on data which become available in June/July), and make new versions of many STS tables (or possibly whole chapters of the forthcoming publication?) available on the SE Web site in (say) August. Then there would be no delay in our making those figures available, even though the printed version of the publication would not appear until 2-3 months later. If Scottish Transport Statistics were published later in the year, which of these two approaches would Members of the Committee prefer, and why?

4. Improving Scottish Transport Statistics

4.1 Members of the Committee will recall the discussion at the previous meeting, following which various improvements which they (or other users) had requested were made to Scottish Transport Statistics 2005: nine new tables and an index were added, and some tables were expanded to provide more information.

4.2 We are starting to think about possible improvements for STS 2006, and have already received some suggestions from users. The possibilities which may be considered include the following:

  • extracting the "time-series" parts from the tables of SHS results, as the survey has now been running sufficiently long to warrant having separate "time-series" tables;
  • using the space which would then become available in the current SHS tables to include some more breakdowns of the latest year's results;
  • adding a table of the Scottish results of DfT's "bus punctuality" survey;
  • asking DfT if it can also provide road freight "tonne-kilometre" figures for Tables 3.3 to 3.8 inclusive, which currently give only "tonnes lifted" figures;
  • adding a table showing different years' overall figures for "time lost per vehicle kilometre" (rather than trying to add a "trends" section to Table 6.8);
  • adding a table showing journey time information from the NADICS web site for selected routes by time of day;
  • adding tables showing carbon dioxide emissions allocated to Scotland in the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and showing emissions per passenger-kilometre for various modes of transport;
  • dropping Table 8.11, because there are no more figures for "passengers in excess of capacity";
  • expanding Table 9.2 to show more routes within Scotland and/or adding a table to show passenger traffic between Scottish airports in the latest year.

NB: all the above are possibilities: there is no guarantee that any one in particular will be made.

4.3 As it may not be possible to make all the changes which have been suggested, Members of the Committee are asked: which of these possible changes do they favour? and are there any that they advise against? Would Members like any other improvements made - if so, what and why?

5. Improving other publications

5.1 We also intend to improve other publications, as and when appropriate. For example, in a year or so, we will amend the Household Transport, SHS Travel Diary results and (in due course) Transport Across Scotland bulletins in order to provide results from the new questions that were added to the SHS in 2005. We will add analyses of contributory factors, and other new road accident statistics information collected with effect from 2005, to Road Accidents Scotland. Are there other improvements that Members of the Committee would like made to Transport Statistics publications and, if so, what are they?

5.2 It should be noted that Section 2 listed only publications for which the Transport Statistics branch has "editorial control". There are other Scottish Executive publications which include statistics about aspects of Transport in Scotland, for which the Transport Statistics branch is not directly responsible, such as Transport Indicators for Scotland (or whatever succeeds it - see paper T&TSAC[05] 2 - although the branch provides the statistics, "editorial control" lies with policy colleagues and Ministers), the "transport-related" SHS Topic Reports (see below) and the SHS Annual Report (the branch contributes to decisions on the content of SHS publications, without having "editorial control" over them). If Members of the Committee wish to suggest improvements to such publications, the Transport Statistics branch will be happy to pass their comments on to, or put them in touch with, the appropriate people within SE.

5.3 Views would be welcomed on possible subjects for further SHS Topic Reports. These provide "in depth" analysis of particular topics; focus on the results which are relevant to particular policy issues; and look at the SHS's results in the context of information available from other sources. They are written by external experts (e.g. academics or transport consultants), and are based mainly on SHS data / results (up to a third of the analysis can be based on non-SHS statistics). The first two Topic Reports (on "Accessibility and Transport" and on "Mode Choice") should be published in October, and one on "Long-Distance Commuters" may be commissioned within the next few months. As the survey has been running for almost seven years, the large accumulated sample enables Topic Reports to look in detail at (e.g.) particular sub-groups of the population.

6. Possible new publications

6.1 At last year's meeting, Members of the Committee were asked if there was a need for new publications, and (if so) what topics should they cover. The discussion that followed did not establish a clear requirement for a new publication on any particular topic or of any particular type. For ease of reference, the material which appeared in last year's paper appears below, followed by the relevant extract from the minutes. Clearly, there is no point in the Committee going over the same ground again this year - on the other hand, there may be other points that Members of the Committee would wish to make this year.

6.2 One possibility for developing a new publication would be to take the material from one of the chapters of Scottish Transport Statistics, and use it as a starting-point for a separate publication on that topic. Depending upon the availability of additional data on that topic, such a publication could also include a lot of extra material (e.g. Bus and Coach Statistics covers much more than the "bus and coach" chapter of Scottish Transport Statistics). If a new publication were created in that way, one might well "prune" the corresponding chapter of Scottish Transport Statistics, as there would be no need for it to "duplicate" some of the material in the new publication (Scottish Transport Statistics does not cover bus and coach statistics, road accident statistics or SHS results in detail, because we have other publications on those topics).

6.3 Is there a need for new publications which are not based on Scottish Transport Statistics topics (which generally reflect modes of transport and/or sources of data)? For example, DfT has a series of "Focus on …" publications on (e.g.) "personal travel", "public transport", "roads", "freight" and "ports". Each brings together figures from a range of sources (e.g. Focus on Personal Travel contains many National Travel Survey results, plus some statistics on personal travel from other sources). Such publications do not appear annually and, by their nature, may not provide up-to-date figures: their purpose is to provide a "broad overview" of the statistics on a particular topic.

6.4 Would a Summary Transport Statistics bulletin be useful, to provide an "overview" of the main trends in transport in Scotland? It could be created simply by copying (most of) the material on pages 13 to 37 of the latest edition of Scottish Transport Statistics. As a Summary bulletin would have only a couple of dozen pages, some readers might find the material more "accessible" than what appears in Scottish Transport Statistics (does this appear daunting, because of its size - currently 298 pages?). As the Summary bulletin would simply "repackage" some material from Scottish Transport Statistics, it could be prepared quickly (once the latter had been sent to the printer), and the two could be published on the same day.

6.5 The concept of a Summary bulletin could be developed further. For example, a larger bulletin could include a commentary, by a named external expert author, drawing on information from other sources (in the same way as the SHS Topic Reports aim to augment the analysis of the SHS data with other material). The timescale within which the figures for Scottish Transport Statistics are gathered, and the rules governing the release of National Statistics, make it unlikely that an external author could receive all of the figures for a Summary bulletin sufficient early to enable the commentary to be produced in time for the bulletin to be published on the same day as Scottish Transport Statistics. Therefore, an "expanded" Summary bulletin would have to appear a month or two later: the "price" to be paid for the expert commentary would be a delay in the appearance of the Summary bulletin (plus, of course, the expert's fee).

6.6 Members of the Committee were also asked for views on the formats / styles which might be used for new publications. DfT's "Focus on …" publications have what may be considered a more "user-friendly" format than "traditional" statistical publications: a "coffee-table" style, with a mixture of text, small tables and small charts. They also use colour and graphics, but that is not essential: one could produce them in the same efficient and economical way as our current publications (i.e. in black-and-white, using Word and Excel), although they might then have less "visual impact".

6.7 The following paragraphs from the minutes of last year's meeting summarise the discussion that took place then:

6.4 Developments of Publications - The possibility of DfT style 'topic reports' for specialised areas was discussed. Would Aviation and Maritime Statistics merit their own publications? Probably not: other Committee members did not express interest in these. The Civil Aviation Authority is the principal source of "aviation" data, and made a lot of detailed tables available on its website, and DfT is the main source of statistics on water transport, for example publishing some more detailed port-by-port figures. Mr Davison referred to aviation's increasing environmental effect. Ms Roberts said that DfT did not currently produce a statistical bulletin on aviation but would be prepared to consider it if there was thought to be value in it. It was agreed that nothing be done just now.

6.5 Mr Dixon asked if a "Summary Transport Statistics" bulletin would be useful to provide an overview of the main trends in transport in Scotland. Dr Connolly said that a summary by an expert of what lay behind the trends (e.g. why the lengths of shopping trips have grown), and their implications, would be very useful. Ms Roberts agreed that ad hoc articles commissioned from academics or industry experts would help get behind the figures but should not delay the publication. However, other committee members noted that the selection of points would be subjective, and emphasised the need to distinguish between the data and their interpretation. Mr Dixon concluded that there was no clear requirement for any particular type of new publication.

6.8 Members' views on these matters would be welcomed. For example:

  • are any new publications needed?
  • if so, what topics should they cover?
  • and what formats / styles should they have?

7. Transport Statistics Web site

7.1 Members of the Committee are reminded that the Transport Statistics part of the SE Web site provides access to (e.g.)

  • the "on-line" version of every Transport Statistics publication since Spring 1998;
  • Excel spreadsheet versions of all the tables in the latest edition of each publication;
  • Excel spreadsheet versions of some tables in some earlier editions of some publications;
  • updated versions of some of the "key" tables in Scottish Transport Statistics, in cases when new data become available several months before the next edition is published;
  • some extra road accidents statistics tables;
  • other relevant information, and links to other Web sites.

7.2 All this material can be found at www.scotland.gov.uk/transtat . More information about the Web site is given on page 296 of Scottish Transport Statistics, which also gives addresses that can be used to go direct to certain parts of the site.

7.3 Members of the Committee who have used this site are invited to comment on it. Members of the Committee are also asked to suggest any additional material that they feel should be provided there.

8. Other possible outputs

8.1 Would Members of the Committee like the SE Transport Statistics branch to produce other kinds of output? If so, what would they like to see produced, and why it is needed?