Commuting Trends in England

Commuting Trends in England


Andrew Scott, Department for Transport


Uses National Travel Survey data to investigate trends in commuting patterns over time (1988/92 - 2014) in England. Explores travel behaviour in light of economic, social and demographic shifts, using some innovative analytic methods.


Eight billion commuting journeys are made in England each year, accounting for 20% of all miles travelled. Three in ten English adults travel to work on a typical day, and almost half do so at least once per week. The need for people to get to work leads to significant demands on England’s transport network, particularly in urban areas.

The UK Department for Transport is responsible for ensuring that the transport system supports productivity and economic growth in a sustainable way that drives up transport user satisfaction. To inform these aims, we have commissioned analyses to inform our understanding of commuting across all modes.

This paper will present findings from that project, based on secondary analysis of National Travel Survey (NTS) data for England from 1988/92 to 2014. This time series approach has identified significant economic, social and demographic changes that are impacting on people’s commuting behaviour.
In particular, we will highlight how:
• changes in the employment market (for example the rise of self-employed workers) has impacted overall commuting patterns;
• use of different modes has varied over the time period, and explore individuals’ willingness to switch to more sustainable modes;
• home working is impacting on commuting behaviour throughout the week;
• a more efficient transport system has affected workers’ travel horizons; and
• commuting in London is shifting rapidly towards active and public modes.

Using an innovative approach of analysing NTS data, we demonstrate how these shifts have impacted on congestion on strategic and local roads, and on the bus and national rail networks.

Finally, the paper discusses how this analysis relates to the Department’s policies and strategic direction.


Association for European Transport