Access to Education and Employment in Remote Rural Areas: the Highlands and Islands, Scotland As a Case Study
N Coleman, Steer Davies Gleave, UK
?Accessibility? is unequally distributed in rural areas, not only to places or villages, but also for individuals. Researchers have been aware of the accessibility challenge or transport poverty of remote rural areas for many years ? low (and often declining) population density means that public transport services are rarely commercially viable, and are costly to support. Long distances and a greater reliance on private transport incur a high cost on rural residents. Furthermore, the difficulties of access to further education and employment can restrict regeneration/ economic activity in remote rural areas.
Yet, to date, little research has focussed on the personal trade offs between cost/journey time and private/public transport made by rural residents, or understanding decision making relating to continuing in education or taking up employment in remote rural areas.
The Highlands and Islands region of Northern Scotland is one of the most remote rural areas of Europe, and is the most sparsely populated area in the UK, with a population density of less than 12 persons/km2 - comparable to areas of Scandinavia and Western Ireland (The Scottish average is 65.5 persons/km2 and UK average 242).
This study, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, in January 2004 has the primary objective of assessing the impact of high travel costs on individuals? decisions regarding employment and education, to inform policy makers and employers/education providers regarding investment, and transport planning decisions.
The project focuses on two case study areas. It is being undertaken using:
* extensive GIS mapping of employment/education provision and transport provision;
* socio demographic analysis;
* extensive consultation with transport providers/employers and education providers and key organisations including Job Centres, Enterprise Councils and local authorities;
* surveys of local residents to test willingness to pay/thresholds for journeys; and
* detailed one to one interviews to explore in depth local issues/individual decision making.
Association for European Transport