The Role of the National Travel Survey in Informing Policy Decisions

The Role of the National Travel Survey in Informing Policy Decisions


R Betts, O Christophersen, T Budd, Department for Transport, UK


The paper presents detailed analysis of data from the National Travel Survey in Great Britain to show how an understanding of the variation in travel patterns among different socio-demographic groups can be used to inform policy decisions.


The National Travel Survey (NTS) is a large, random probability, household survey which has been run continuously by the Department of Transport in Great Britain since 1988. The survey collects detailed information on the key characteristics of each participating household and each household member. In addition, all individuals, including children, are asked to complete a 7 day travel diary, allowing travel patterns to be linked to individual and household characteristics. The survey currently collects information from around 8,500 households and 20,000 individuals each year, providing a rich dataset for analysis.

Recent analysis of the NTS data has revealed striking differences in travel patterns and trends between different socio-demographic groups. For example, travel among women and the elderly is changing rapidly as a higher proportion hold a driving licence and have access to a car, resulting in marked increases in car driving among these groups. At the same time, travel among young adults is generally declining.

These trends have important implications for key areas of transport policy, including strategic Departmental objectives on improving road safety, tackling congestion and protecting the environment. This paper will explore how detailed analysis of NTS data can be used to inform central policy questions, such as:

What are the implications of changing travel patterns for achieving road accident targets? And what implications does this have for setting realistic but challenging targets for reducing road accidents into the future?
What are the implications of the increase in car travel by women and older people for future congestion levels? And to what extent might this be counteracted by the fall in travel among young people?
What scope is there to promote mode shift to more sustainable forms of travel? How can this be achieved most effectively?

This work is being carried out in close collaboration with policy teams working on these areas in the Department for Transport. The paper will demonstrate the value of using travel survey data to understand the complexities of travel behaviour and therefore to support better informed policy making.


Association for European Transport