Travellers facing disruption from rain and floods required for study

Issue date: 02 May 2012

water drops

Following the wettest April on record in the UK, researchers at UWE, Bristol and the University of Leeds are calling for travellers who have faced disruption due to the recent wind, rain and flooding to share their experiences.

Experts from the UWE's Institute for Sustainability, Health and Environment are involved in a £1.2m study to find out how people react when a major event interferes with their usual travel plans.

These 'major events' could include adverse weather, flooding, transport strikes or a terrorist attack or day to day incidences within the family such as illness or a car breakdown which disrupt normal travel patterns.

Dr Tim Chatterton, Senior Research Fellow at UWE, explains, “Most studies into travel habits investigate how people typically choose to travel on a day-to-day basis. This study is different in that we are focussing on how people cope when they are forced to make changes to their usual transport choices because of circumstances outside of their control.

“The on-going wet weather has meant that many travellers have had to change their plans, either because events and activities were cancelled or because certain routes were flooded and transport options unavailable.

“We are asking people who have experienced disruption in their usual travel plans due to the adverse weather to come forward and answer a few simple questions about: how they have been affected; how they coped; and what measures they had to take including whether they decided not to travel.”

People can get involved by reporting their experiences through an online survey at:

It is hoped the study will help inform policy makers as to how workplaces, schools and other public institutions could be restructured to avoid putting pressure on the transport network when a major event takes place. Also, understanding how people react when they are forced to alter their typical travel schedule could help identify how to plan transport services, and even encourage people to make more energy efficient travel choices in the future.

Dr Chatterton continues: “If we can understand how people react when changes to their traditional travel patterns are forced upon them, we can try to understand how we could motivate them to make changes more permanently and choose a more environmentally friendly option for their day to day transport.

“So if for example, a person has a good experience using the local bus service when they are forced to leave their car at home due to the weather, would this make them more likely to use the bus again in the future?

“Also importantly the study will build a clear picture of the relationship between the transport network and the institutions which generate travel – such as schools, workplaces and retail centres.

“Many of the problems in the transport system are created by external factors rather than the transport system itself.

“Surveys we have completed in the past have shown, for example, people's greatest anxiety when faced with wintry weather conditions is not actually the impact on the transport network but the resulting school closures.

“So one of the areas we'll be looking to understand is how schools could be re-organised to be more flexible in such circumstances, could staff be shared, for example, to keep the schools open?

“By looking at how people currently react to travel disruption, the project will also help identify potential problems caused by climate change, where more frequent heat-waves and extreme rainfall may increase the risk of disruption in the future.

“The results of this three year project will be fed into a panel of representatives from across industry, education, health and retail to provide advice on how they could work better with the transport system in the future, when a major event causes disruption.”

The University of the West of England is working with the following partners on the three year study led by the Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Leeds and funded by a grant from the Research Council UK's Energy Programme: University of Aberdeen's Centre for Transport Research, University of Brighton, Glasgow University, University of Lancaster, and the Open University.

Further information on the project is available at

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