The West of England’s mass transit project aims to transform the way people move around the region, dramatically improving congestion and air quality while reducing carbon emissions.
It represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revolutionise travel in the region by providing a high-capacity public transport network with fast, frequent and reliable services that will be developed and delivered over several years.
Copper was brought on board to support West of England Combined Authorities with early stakeholder engagement to better understand the needs of local people, providing evidence of a strong Strategic Outline Business Case.
A history of false starts for major infrastructure in the region meant some stakeholders were sceptical about the likely success of new projects. This was compounded by the project being in extremely early stages, with the concept of mass transit ill-defined. The
There was an added layer of complexity with the project spanning several councils all with distinctive demographics, geography, and politics. The region needed to ‘speak with one voice’ in its support for the project given the competitive nature of central government funding.
To add further challenge, Covid-19 restrictions ruled out face-to-face events meaning all engagement activity had to take place online, with the risk that some community stakeholders might be excluded.
Our approach hinged around early, transparent engagement on the objectives of the mass transport project to establish its purpose and solidify the concept in the minds of stakeholders. In doing so, we aimed to build understanding and trust around the project.
We began engaging stakeholder groups early while scheme options were still in development to understand their priorities for a mass transit system.
The first stage saw us run a series of internal workshops with partner unitary authorities to explore the vision and values of mass transit. We crafted a clear narrative that all partner organisations could sign up to and use in their communications, enabling us to establish a single voice and alignment around views.
We supported live briefings and three webinars with a wide range of stakeholders from MPs to grass-root community groups. In addition, we were careful to select interactive engagement tools to bring new voices into the conversation and enable input and feedback representative of the locality.
By consulting early, we laid strong foundations for future engagement based on mutual trust and respect. Starting a dialogue with stakeholders warmed them up for consultation. It helped us secure meaningful, representative, qualitative and quantitative feedback that reflected the needs of communities and stakeholders and influenced the development of a Strategic Outline Business Case.