A 400,000 euro research project aims to help to bring about better quality public transport throughout Europe by encouraging service operators to share best practice and highlighting areas for improvement. Newcastle University in England is leading the project, which will identify examples of good timekeeping, customer care, service availability and other factors, which vary between operators. The 18-month EQUIP project - Extending the Quality of Public Transport - is funded by the European Commission and will compile information largely supplied by operators, resulting in a database and a self-assessment handbook to allow quality to be rated. The Newcastle team is collaborating with local authorities, public transport providers and universities in Austria, Finland, Holland, Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The results are expected to be of considerable interest to governments. The EQUIP project is running in parallel with the European Union Citizens' Network programme, which favours an integrated approach to public transport and is designed to support public transport in contributing to: - Economic development and employment; - Cutting congestion, pollution and noise; - Reducing social exclusion; - Improving quality of life. These new initiatives recognise that road building is not the answer to reducing congestion in cities because it simply encourages more cars. During the next 18 months, the EQUIP consortium will approach transport providers throughout Europe and ask them to participate in the study by supplying information about their operations, ranging from performance indicators to staffing levels. Although sources of information will remain secret, in many cases for commercial reasons, a database and a self-assessment handbook for benchmarking quality will be created for all of the partner organisations to draw from, encouraging a new spirit of co-operation across Europe. Dr Jessica Anderson of the EQUIP team at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne said: "Public transport varies enormously across Europe in terms of the level of service, organisation and performance. In some cities, it is highly regulated and in others completely deregulated. Our role is a benchmarking exercise, which will enable comparisons to be made. This will help operators to understand how they can improve and give them an incentive to act. Good performance will be recognised and rewarded, leading to a continuous cycle of improvement locally and throughout Europe."