10 Years of Accessibility Planning in the UK - What Has Been Achieved?

10 Years of Accessibility Planning in the UK - What Has Been Achieved?

WINNER OF The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


D Halden, Derek Halden, Consulting,


In 1998 government policy in the UK introduced the new strategic objective of accessibility in national transport policy. This paper reviews what has been achieved and prospects for the future.


In recognition that not all demand for transport could be met, transport policy in the UK was reviewed in the early 1990s. One stream of policy development to emerge, was that land uses and transport could be better integrated through accessibility planning. This theme was further developed in the 1997 manifesto of the incoming government to put access for people to places at the heart of transport policy.

The concept of accessibility planning is to deliver seamless connections for people and businesses between origins and destinations, and to influence land use and service planning to develop in accessible locations. These ambitious goals require major changes in the delivery of transport and planning functions in the UK. Over the least 10 years progress has been slow but steady.

This paper draws from work by the author helping national government develop the accessibility planning agenda, including comparisons between the different approaches adopted in England, Scotland and Wales.

This includes work by the author for government departments covering: a 1999 strategic review of how to integrate accessibility planning into policy, planning and project delivery; 2002 guidance on accessibility appraisals; 2004 guidance on the accessibility planning process; and ongoing work to inform and monitor cross-sectoral action to improve access.

At key stages, the accessibility planning agenda has been driven from outwith transport, including the 2003 Cabinet Office review 'Making the Connections' and the 2006 Treasury 'Eddington Review'. One reason for this is that improving accessibility reduces the number of motorised miles travelled so does not help to grow the transport sector. In financial terms the UK transport sector loses when people walk to a local destination (at no cost) rather than use motorised transport paying for trips to a more distant location.

Despite these challenges, successful accessibility planners working within the transport sector, have shown how they can expand the influence and effectiveness of transport planning by tacking agendas such as access to work and access to health that are high political and administrative priorities.

The paper also reviews why measuring value of time in economic appraisals can result in partial and distorted views of accessibility change, not least due to the impacticality of including all walking trips, and achieving adequate segmentation of travel markets by value of time. Illustrations will be taken from longitudinal case studies, showing that the benefits of transport investment can be fully captured in accurately measured accessibility change.

Moving forward, UK transport is progressively moving towards investment in end to end journeys improving access to places. In 2009, the first 10 years of accessibility planning appear to have laid the foundations for more effective future delivery.


Association for European Transport