Can an exception to the 5 mile rule be made?

QUESTION:

We have been asked to use the Potters Club more.
It is an excellent environment for quiet meetings with business clients, especially those new to the potteries.
Can an exception (to the 5 mile rule) be made so that we may expense business coffees / lunches (within the specified limits) at the Potters Club?
This would not be to the exclusion of our excellent catering on campus, but provide a complementary additional option.

ANSWER:

Thank you for getting in touch. Your query appears to make reference to two separate sections of the Travel Policy.

Wherever possible, colleagues who are entertaining external clients should use the University’s catering services as their first choice.

The 5 mile rule applies only when staff are claiming for the cost of their own meals, if they are away from the University’s sites on University business.

More information about the Travel Policy can be viewed on the Finance website.

Why are ‘change of base’ payments for travel made through salary and not as travel claims?

QUESTION:

I note a previous question regarding travel cost support for Staff whose place of work changes. Having been moved in September I have been receiving these payments. My question is why are these payments for travel made through our salary and not the normal travel claims? Paying through salary means they are subject to tax etc. virtually halving their value.

 

ANSWER:

Thank you for your question which on the face of it does seem as if we are operating a different arrangements for both types of travel claims.  The reason for the difference, however,  is that we are allowed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to pay for business journeys tax free which includes travelling between sites and visits to customers etc.  HMRC do not allow us to pay  ‘ordinary commuting’ which means travelling  to and from home on the same basis and this has to be taxed.  The Change of Base allowance is a contribution to the additional travelling costs you incur as a result of travelling from home to work and therefore unfortunately we are bound by the HMRC regulations and are required to tax this allowance.

Can a shuttle bus drop-off point be added to College Road?

QUESTION:
I have been using the shuttle bus to travel between sites for meetings and training etc and find it very convenient.

Would it be possible for the shuttle to drop off and pick up at College Road as well as this is where I normally need to be and quite a few of the people I have been travelling with as well.

It is quite a long walk from Leek Road especially for people with mobility problems.

 
ANSWER:
Thank you for the feedback. We have only been operating the shuttle service for a very short time and need to properly understand demand before we look at making any changes. We do appreciate the benefit of having more than one drop off and pick up point, so will consider this as we review the effectiveness of the service.

Why was the X1 bus service removed?

QUESTION:
Can you please indicate the reasons why the X1 bus service was replaced by a number of minibuses and whether the rumours now circulating are true that it was due to the University no longer able to afford the costs involved in supporting this service?

 

ANSWER:
The University has, for the last few years, subsidised the X1 bus route to provide an inter-site travel option for our students and staff between the Beaconside and Stoke-on-Trent campuses. The restrictions of bus timetabling to try and meet everyone’s requirements meant that the arrival and departure times were not meeting student demands. Feedback from students and staff has been negative so we wanted to address this. We had lengthy discussions with Bakers Coaches and London Midland, who were also a partner in the X1 but found that we could not significantly improve the timetable. We had to consider the cost of the subsidy against the quality of service for our students and reached the decision that we could no longer justify the investment. We decided instead to invest in a free shuttle service between campuses as an alternative that we hope students and staff will appreciate.

Could the University provide subsidised/free rail travel between Stoke and Stafford?

QUESTION:
Dear Executive

I am an academic member of staff living in Stoke and mainly working in Stafford, although my Faculty is based at Stoke. I do not drive to work – I used to get the X1 bus but now I get the shuttle, train or catch a lift with colleagues. I am also keen to promote collaborations between staff and students between campuses.

Would it solve several issues at once if the university were to provide subsidised/free rail travel between Stoke and Stafford and link the Stafford campus to the railway station with a free shuttle bus service?

This would simultaneously address car parking issues, facilitate inter-campus meetings, promote collaborative working between staff and students, solve current difficulties with the shuttle bus service, link the Stafford campus to the rail network (which would benefit everybody) and make a definitive and strong statement of intent reinforcing the University’s green credentials.

Thank you.

 
ANSWER:
Thank you so much for making this suggestion. We are always grateful for ideas and will look into the feasibility of this with the various parties that would need to be involved.

 

Will you be able to book a place on the new minibus?

QUESTION:
As I don’t drive I use the X1 to travel to Stafford from Stoke, although this is not on daily basis. When I do use the bus I need to be able to guarantee getting there for a specific time – for meetings or teaching. Will there be an option to book a place on the mini-bus on a particular time or date? I would not want to have to leave the office an hour earlier to give myself two chances on getting a bus – that does not seem an effective use of time.
Also who will have priority for places – students or staff? When we had a mini-bus previously the priority was staff and students could be asked to give up a place if there were staff wishing to use it. I am assuming that this will no longer the case. Will it just be ‘first come first on’?

 
ANSWER:
The shuttle minibus service between Stoke and Stafford will be free of charge, with student or staff cards required to board. The service will run hourly between 7am and 7pm and will be a direct service. We are in the process of finalising timetables and all other details and will publish this information to RSS as soon as the detail is confirmed.

Will a minibus be big enough to replace the X1 service?

QUESTION:
I don’t know if this is something that you are able to answer, but I have a concern regarding the changes to the bus service. I am not a driver so rely on the X1 bus to get me from Stoke to Black Heath Lane. I gather that there will be a mini bus shuttle in place, which is great, but at the moment, the international students pretty much fill a double decker, and there has been times that because they have completely filled the bus, I have had to stand all the way. I’m just worried that a mini bus may not be big enough, and that if it is full of students, there wont be room for me to get on the bus, therefore meaning that I will be an hour late for work due to waiting for the next one?

 

ANSWER:
We are working with faculty colleagues to make sure that we have the best information possible about demand for the bus service before confirming our timetable. By managing the service in-house we will have the flexibility to respond to any issues very quickly.

How will changes to the X1 service affect intersite travel?

Executive have received several questions around the recent X1 bus service announcement. Please note that they have been placed together within this featured post to avoid repetition.

QUESTIONS:
1) The X1 bus service provides an excellent link between the Stoke and Stafford campuses as well as shuttle service to / from Stafford rail station and Beaconside. One of the issues however is the need to pay up front for the journey and reclaim this later.

Would it be feasible for staff to be able to show their staff cards in exchange for free travel thereby saving the need for them to reclaim this expense in due course?

2) I understand that the X1 bus will only go between Stoke and Stone from September, rather than on to Beaconside. If so, this is a potential problem, especially for the international students studying Computing in Stafford where the majority live in Stoke, and have travelled to and from Stafford via the X1 bus in the past. It also hinders our attempts to get to staff to use the bus for inter-site travel, and makes staff at Beaconside who are aware of the discussions on the “estates strategy” start to feel more isolated. I also hear the frequency is reducing, to one bus every two hours.
I know Baker is an outside company, but I seem to remember that we subsidise the company to some extent to support the intersite bus system? So we might have a say on their routes and timings. What plans are in place if Bakers are indeed abandoning Beaconside to enable students to travel there and back to Stoke where many of them live?

3) The X1 Bakerbus service that connects both campuses is under review (http://www.bakerbus.com/route-changes/) and it is going to operate between Hanley and Stone (also with reduced frequency) from September. A number of students and staff rely on that service daily to get to Beaconside. Does the University have any input on this, as this will affect people’s daily commute both in terms of additional travel time and cost?

 

ANSWER:
The X1 bus service will be curtailed from the beginning of September to run between Hanley and Stone only. The University has decided to operate a shuttle minibus service between Stoke and Stafford exclusively for students and staff, which will be free of charge.

To board the minibus, student or staff cards will be required. The service will run hourly between 7am and 7pm and will be a direct service. We are in the process of finalising timetables etc and will publish this information to RSS as soon as the detail is confirmed.

Are there any planned incentives to encourage more people to car share?

QUESTION:
The University is regularly promoting ‘sustainable travel’ and being ‘green’.

With this in mind, are there any planned incentives to encourage more people to car share?

Lots of people work similar hours and live in close proximity so it would make sense. However there is currently nothing in place to encourage more staff to do this.

 

ANSWER:
The University has been a member of the Staffordshire Share-a-lift scheme for several years now. This car share database will allow individuals to search for car sharers either from the University or the wider community, the latter increasing the possibility of finding a car share partner. In addition, as part of the sustainable travel plan, a guaranteed lift home scheme provides car sharers a lift home in the event of an emergency. (Terms and conditions apply.)

Looking forward, once the landscaping improvements have completed and the car park management strategy has embedded, the University will be in a position to investigate guaranteed parking spaces for car sharers, although the exact mechanisms for managing this process will need to be considered in the future.

Where practical could the University not allow flexible start and finish times for those staff that are interested to allow for a greater use of public transport?

QUESTION:
The recent travel questionnaire assumes that everybody has a choice in the way they travel to work.

I would love to use public transport rather than the car but the total inflexibility of my start and finish times means that this is impossible (I would arrive at work either very early or very late and would have similar issues when leaving at the end of the day!)

Where practical could the University not allow flexible start and finish times for those staff that are interested to allow for a greater use of public transport?

 
ANSWER:
The survey forms the first part of an exciting new local travel planning initiative to encourage us to become less reliant on the car. It is appreciated that not everyone is able to do this with the local transport links currently available. The survey does seek views on how this may be improved to enable more people to be less reliant on the car.

The University does encourage flexibility in working arrangements where this is possible to accommodate and meets the needs of the business. Many areas of the University operate on a flexi-time system which does allow flexible start and finish times.

It may be helpful if you discussed your personal circumstances with either your line manager and/or Personnel Officer to explore whether any flexibility in your working pattern could be accommodated. There are , however, going to be some roles where this is not possible and it is important, therefore, that we capture as many views as possible via the survey on the current transport available to help inform improvements going forward.