A group of Pembrokeshire College students have come up with a plan to slash carbon emissions caused by coach journeys to and from their college. They shared their vision with us.
The younger generation knows how important sustainability is. When we talk about the climate crisis, we’re talking about the world they will inherit. Sustainable transport matters deeply to many of them – and a group of Pembrokeshire College students recently took action, creating a proposal for a better-integrated public transport system for students travelling to and from the college.
We were so impressed by what they proposed that we set up a meeting so they could present their project to professionals from the transport sector in our region – GWR, TFW and First Cymru. And they excelled.
The group of four students – Blu Grey, Andrew Scott, Lea Alford and Jack Springer – came up with their proposal as part of work undertaken at the college with a visiting student from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The visiting student invited groups of students to present their sustainability-focussed proposals in a Dragon’s Den style competition held at the college.
“The idea was to present an idea to increase sustainability throughout Pembrokeshire College,” says Blu. “We had to consider how feasible it was to apply, how sustainable it was, how economically friendly it was, and how quickly it could be implemented.”
Blu’s group came second, and when the team at South West Wales Connected Community Rail Partnership heard what they had achieved, we wanted to help them to take it further – so we arranged a meeting between the students and representatives from TFW, GWR and First Cymru.
“We were pleased to have the opportunity to present the idea in full to people from the transport sector, so we agreed a meeting date and continued working on the little intricacies of project,” says Blu. “We worked to get more information on how effective and feasible it would be to put into place.”
One of the benefits of the project proposed by Blu’s group is that it can be implemented stage by stage.
“You can change one route at a time,” says Blu. “The main idea behind it is that we have a lot of services for college buses that are almost the exact same as the trains.”
Their solution is to encourage people to use the trains, rather than doubling up with the college bus service, which creates carbon emissions.
“The trains are already in place and the timings we’ve been looking at are when the train service services tend to be less busy – so we really should be utilising publicly available transport instead of running access buses that are creating more carbon emissions, especially when we need to be more environmentally conscious,” says Blu.
“This is just one of the many ideas we’ve been able to put in place to help push things along. With our current calculations, we can save about 30 kilogrammes of carbon emissions a day. That is subject to change due to a lot of information that we still need to research but it’s clear that it’s less carbon emissions per student as well – and hopefully for the lecturers too if they utilise the public transport.”
The students impressed everybody with the quality, vision and intelligence of their presentation, which was given at the South West Wales Connected office at Swansea Railway Station.
“It was wonderful to sit in on the students’ presentation and it was clear to see the level of commitment and hard work they had put into it,” says Sharon Giffard, Guards Manager, Central, GWR. “Their passion to make a difference was evident and they were inspirational. GWR and our local team in Swansea always want to hear from the customers and communities we serve, so it was great to be invited.”
The students were pleased to be able to take their proposal to the next level.
“It was really nerve-wracking initially because it was our first opportunity to do something like this,” says Blu. “While we were nervous, we knew we had every right to be there, because we’d put in the time and effort, external to any of our studies, to get this going. To see it making so much progress is just incredible for all of us.”
Blu adds that the students learned a lot from the transport company representatives that will help them hone their project further:
“We found out how and why public transport is so important to these companies. It would be amazing to implement our idea because at the moment, the college transport isn’t public; it’s private. Having more people on public transport is exactly what these companies want, and we’re giving them a way to achieve that.
“We found out a lot of information on this at the meeting. We found out things we wouldn’t have considered from our viewpoint, and we now have a questionnaire going to other learners at the college to get their views on how travel works for them. We can integrate their views within the project to improve it. We’re also going to pitch this to Pembrokeshire County Council.”
It doesn’t stop there: the students are going to join boards and discussion groups led by South West Wales Connected and 4theRegion, which hosts South West Wales Connected. They hope to help drive changes that support sustainable transport across South West Wales and beyond.
“We’re going to be talking about all the different ways for public transport to be implemented,” says Blu. “My age group – people aged between 14 and 18 – really need public transport, because our parents may not drive, and we aren’t able to drive yet.
“That means any decisions that are being made about public transport are especially going to affect people my age, so we’re really pleased to have the input and to have more opportunities to make progress.”
As for their project, they are looking forward to bringing it to fruition, and have hopes for an improved train service that will also lead drivers to choose trains over their cars, resulting in even more carbon savings.
“We hope to have the end product fully implemented not only for Pembrokeshire College, but also for Coleg Ceredigion, Coleg Sir Gar, and hopefully more,” says Blu. “It’s a system that has been shown to work in colleges in England, so let’s make it work here too.”