Following public disclosure of an intent to raise toll charges by 50% , the Tamar Bridge & Torpoint Ferry joint committee sought to undertake a large scale Public Consultation exercise to capture not only feedback regarding the proposed toll increases – but also to capture attitudinal (and behavioural) data on a number of other key issues – including the Publics opinion as to what ‘criteria’ tolls should be based on (in addition to size and weight), how often future toll increases should take place and what improvements to each service would they like to see undertaken.
The challenge, within a demanding time-frame, was to develop and implement a methodology which ensured representivity of ‘typical’ users of either service – and provided a number of ‘accessible’ ways in which these users could register their views.
A dual-methodology was recommended which combined the use of self-completion questionnaires (which were either sent via mail to those ‘registered’ for the Tamar TAG system, or handed out by Bridge and Ferry staff) with an online survey. The online survey was promoted and accessible in a number of ways – for example, a TAG user was sent a personalised email containing a ‘link’ to the online survey whilst other users could access the survey directly from the web site – either having been prompted by the self-completion survey (but choosing to fill out the survey online) or having seen or heard of the consultation. The response to the survey was further complemented by many of the Public sending hand-written comments and feedback directly to the committee – which was also used at the analysis and reporting stage.
A total of 22,698 self-completion surveys were either mailed or handed-out – generating a total response rate of 15% – although demonstrating the correlation between response rate and ‘relationship’, 40% response rate was achieved amongst Tamar TAG holders (i.e. those having a direct relationship with the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry).
Not only are online surveys a more cost-effective methodology, but when used in tandem with postal surveys, can be seen to increase accessibility and response – a further 3,186 responses were received from the e-mail links sent to TAG users (27% response rate).
As perhaps expected, strong sentiments were displayed, although in many cases there were positive comments regarding the actual management and running of the Bridge and Ferry – combined with more than half of all respondents stating a number of improvements which the committee could consider implementing in the next few years.