In Part I of our Travel to Work Report 2013 we looked at overall travel to work habits in the UK and how this has evolved in recent years. Highlights from this first report include;

  • The number who travel to work in England and Wales has surpassed 25 million for the first time.
  • This is a staggering 12,000 million commutes per year (allowing for holidays).
  • Since 2001, the number of people who travel to work has risen by +3.6m (+17%).
  • The proportion of the population who travel to work has increased to 44.7% (2001: 41.0%).
  • London: There are +25% more commuters in London than 10 years ago.
  • 9 out of the Top 10 commuter growth districts over the past ten years are in the London Region.

The report uses data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as provided by the Nomis website and where available will show data by Region, Area and Local Authority, all of which are defined on the Nomis website (www.nomisweb.co.uk). Data is released in stages by the ONS and as such, we have had to focus on England and Wales for this report. We do not wish to alienate the good people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK but we don’t have data for those areas. We will of course update the report once available. Whilst data is available from 1991 and 1981, it is based on a 10 percent sample size. To enable comparisons to be made with data from 2011 and 2001, we have simply multiplied the data from the earlier years by a factor of ten. This gives a guide and is clearly not scientifically robust.

The source data is attached to this report (at the bottom of the page) for readers to download but no liability can be accepted for those that do so. We would also ask that you respect the Intellect Property and Copyright of the Bikes.org.uk website, it’s Parent Company and that of the Office for National Statistics and ultimately that of the Crown.

Report Highlights

  • The number who drive to work has exceeded 15 million for the first time.
  • This equates to 7,325 million car commutes per year.
  • Car Passenger numbers continue to decline and are now almost half the ratio of 1981
  • Most popular method of travel to work, after cars, is On Foot (+20%)
  • Underground travellers surpass 1 million for the first time following a +45% growth since 2001
  • Train travellers surpass 1 million for the first time following a +42% growth
  • Congestion Charge helps to slow growth in Car Drivers to just +1% in London (England: +16%)
  • London Bike Scheme helps to grow Bicycle commuters by +109% (162,000) since 2001

201120011991*1981*
Population Estimate56.2m52.4m50.7m49.6m
Travel to Work (Commuters)25.1m21.5m20.3m20.0m
Commuters as % of Population44.7%41.0%40.0%40.3%

The number who travel to work in England and Wales has surpassed 25 million for the first time. This equates to a staggering 12,000 million commutes per year. There has been a +17% rise in commutes since 2001, an increase of +3.6m.

In Part II of our report, we focus on methods of travel to work and how this has evolved in recent years.

Travel to Work by Method

201120011991*1981*
Underground1,029,000710,000487,000427,000
Train1,371,000965,000806,000808,000
Bus1,949,0001,748,0001,967,0003,158,000
Taxi138,000122,000N/AN/A
Motorcycle214,000258,000328,000612,000
Car Driver15,265,00013,050,00011,489,0008,893,000
Car Passenger1,357,0001,477,0001,593,0001,658,000
Bicycle762,000651,000667,000801,000
On Foot2,847,0002,365,0002,480,0003,186,000
Other171,000111,000520,000475,000
Total25,104,00021,457,00020,336,00020,018,000

Data is for England & Wales (source: Nomis). 1991 & 1981 based on 10% sample.

The number of people who drive a car to work has surpassed 15 million for the first time. This equates to a staggering 7,325 million car commutes per year.

Public transport has seen a significant growth since 2001, with both the Underground and Train travellers pass the one million mark. In addition, Bus commuters returned to a level not seen since 1991.

The resurgence of Bus numbers, along with an increase in those traveling to work on a Bicycle and On Foot may be a reflection of the austere times in which we now live. However, numbers for Motorcycles, which includes mopeds & scooters, and Car Passengers has dropped.

The following chart shows the ten and thirty year change in travel to work methods.

2011 vs 20012011 vs 1981
Number% ChangeNumber% Change
Underground+319,000+45%+602,000+141%
Train+406,000+42%+564,000+70%
Bus+202,000+12%-1,208,000-38%
Taxi+16,000+13%+138,000N/A
Motorcycle-44,000-17%-398,000-65%
Car Driver+2,214,000+17%+6,371,000+72%
Car Passenger-120,000-8%-300,000-18%
Bicycle+111,000+17%-38,000-5%
On Foot+482,000+20%-339,000-11%
Other+61,000+55%-303,000-64%
Total+3,646,000+17%+5,086,000+25.4%

Car Drivers account for 2.2m of the 3.6m overall increase in commuters since 2001 and is a +17% increase over the past ten years. Public Transport (train, bus, underground) has seen the greatest growth (+27%) with both Train and Underground commuters increasing by over +40%.

Eco-Friendly options such as people going to work On Foot or on a Bicycle, increased by almost 600,000 to 3.6 million, with the proportion going On Foot increasingly slightly to 11.3% of the total.

Bikes are not in total favour though as Motorbikes have seen a significant fall in recent years, -65% since 1981.

Car Drivers dominate the daily commute with over 60% of the total journeys. The closest to this is the collective total of those using Public Transport (17% of the total) and then those who travel to work On Foot. The following chart shows the ratio of commuters by method of transport for each of the past four Census periods;

2011200119911981
Underground4.1%3.3%2.4%2.1%
Train5.5%4.5%4.0%4.0%
Bus7.8%8.1%9.7%15.8%
Taxi0.5%0.6%N/AN/A
Motorcycle0.9%1.2%1.6%3.1%
Car Driver60.8%60.8%56.5%44.4%
Car Passenger5.4%6.9%7.8%8.3%
Bicycle3.0%3.0%3.3%4.0%
On Foot11.3%11.0%12.2%15.9%
Other0.7%0.5%2.6%2.4%
Total100%100%100%100%

Data is for England and Wales (source: Nomis).

Travel to Work by Car

The number of people who drive a car to work has surpassed 15 million for the first time, and is a +17% increase on 2001. However, an ever increasing number of these car journeys are single occupancy with the percentage of Car Passengers to Car Drivers at it’s lowest ever level and at a ratio that is now almost half that of 1981.

The number of cars and vans available for use by households in England and Wales increased from 23.9 million to 27.3 million between 2001 and 2011. In 2001 there were on average 11 cars per 10 households whereas in 2011 there were 12 cars per 10 households. The proportion of households with access to no cars or one car declined over the decade whereas the proportion with two or more cars rose. London was the only region where the number of cars and vans was lower than the number of households.

201120011991*1981*
Car Passengers as a % of Car Drivers8.9%11.3%13.9%18.6%

Car AvailabilityCar DriversCommuters:CarsSharing
 Number%Number%20112001 
England and Wales27.3m+14%15.3m+17%55.9%54.6%8.9%
England25.7m+14%14.3m+16%55.8%54.5%8.8%
Wales1.6m+20%0.9m+27%57.5%54.7%10.1%
North East1.2m+20%0.7m+25%61.8%59.7%11.4%
North West3.3m+15%2.0m+19%61.3%58.9%9.8%
Yorkshire2.5m+17%1.5m+22%60.8%58.7%10.5%
East Midlands2.4m+18%1.4m+22%59.8%58.0%9.2%
West Midlands2.8m+15%1.6m+18%59.8%58.2%9.4%
East England3.2m+14%1.8m+16%54.4%53.6%8.2%
London2.7m+2%1.1m+1%42.1%42.5%6.2%
South East4.8m+12%2.6m+13%53.9%53.9%7.7%
South West3.0m+16%1.6m+19%53.5%52.4%8.3%

Note: Car Availability refers to the total number of cars available to a household and the % is the 2011 vs 2001 change. Car Drivers is the number who travel to work by this method, the % again refers to the 2011 vs 2001 change. Commuters:Cars is simply the number of Car Drivers divided into Car Availability. Sharing is the ratio of people who travel to work as a Car Passenger as a percentage of Car Drivers.

The numbers of cars available for use in households increased by +14% from 2001 to 2011, with the highest Regions being Wales (+20%) and the along Eastern England, North East (+20%), Yorkshire (+17%) and East Midlands (+18%). In contrast, the increase in London was just 2%, somewhat off the +14% average across England and Wales.

Whilst you may expect the increase in the number of cars used to travel to work to be inline with the increase in the availability of cars, it in fact grew at a faster rate (+17%). This was the case in all bar one of the Regions too, the exception being London where cars used to commute increased by just +1%.

This growth differential results in an increase in the number of cars being used for commuting. In 2001 54.6% of available cars were used to travel to work, whereas in 2011 this had grown to 55.9%. Again, all Regions bar London showed an increase.

The following chart shows the ten year change (2011 vs 2001) on the number of cars available to households in England and Wales alongside the ten year change in the number of cars used to travel to work.

Travel to Work by Method & Region

The data showing travel to work methods by region is too great to show on a webpage, however, we have attached the source data to the end of this report for those wanting to delve deeper into the stats. The summary by Region is shown in the following table, specifically highlighting the number of people who travel to work by method (Number), the ten year change from the 2001 Census to the 2011 Census (% Change) and the ratio of commuters by method (% total). Data is rounded for ease of display but the actual data is shown in the attachments (see below).

WalesNorth East
Number% Change% totalNumber% Change% total
Underground1,000+69%0.1%29,000+31%2.6%
Train27,000+87%2.1%14,000+54%1.3%
Bus63,000+1%4.9%108,000-5%9.7%
Taxi6,500+9%0.5%9,000+24%0.8%
Motorcycle7,500-13%0.6%5,000-27%0.5%
Car Driver919,000+27%71.2%711,000+25%64.0%
Car Passenger93,000-13%7.2%81,000-14%7.3%
Bicycle20,000+20%1.5%20,000+21%1.8%
On Foot145,000+18%11.2%123,000+16%11.0%
Other8,500+35%0.7%11,000+29%1.0%
Total1,290,000+21%100%1,110,000+16%100%

North WestYorkshire
Number% Change% totalNumber% Change% total
Underground21,000+30%0.7%11,000+37%0.5%
Train89,000+65%2.9%58,000+83%2.5%
Bus267,000+8%8.7%207,000-10%8.9%
Taxi26,000+12%0.9%16,000+41%0.7%
Motorcycle20,000-25%0.6%16,000-23%0.7%
Car Driver2,021,000+19%65.5%1,490,000+22%64.3%
Car Passenger198,000-9%6.4%156,000-3%6.7%
Bicycle70,000+7%2.3%62,000-2%2.7%
On Foot352,000+18%11.4%286,000+20%12.3%
Other20,000+50%0.6%15,000+54%0.6%
Total3,085,000+16%100%2,317,000+16%100%

East MidlandsWest Midlands
Number% Change% totalNumber% Change% total
Underground6,500+400%0.3%6,500+56%0.3%
Train29,000+53%1.4%65,000+82%2.7%
Bus132,000-1%6.5%195,000-5%8.1%
Taxi9,000+11%0.4%13,000+30%0.6%
Motorcycle16,000-22%0.8%16,000-22%0.7%
Car Driver1,409,000+22%69.2%1,650,000+18%68.3%
Car Passenger129,000-3%6.4%155,000-8%6.4%
Bicycle59,000-6%2.9%50,000-4%2.1%
On Foot237,000+18%11.6%251,000+13%10.4%
Other12,000+57%0.6%14,000+75%0.6%
Total2,038,000+17%100%2,416,000+14%100%

East EnglandLondon
Number% Change% totalNumber% Change% total
Underground33,000+53%1.2%902,000+44%23.8%
Train205,000+31%7.6%533,000+32%14.0%
Bus106,000+3%4.0%562,000+52%14.8%
Taxi13,000+13%0.5%20,000-6%0.5%
Motorcycle22,000-22%0.8%46,000-3%1.2%
Car Driver1,757,000+16%65.4%1,120,000+1%29.5%
Car Passenger144,000-5%5.3%70,000-17%1.8%
Bicycle101,000+1%3.7%162,000+109%4.3%
On Foot289,000+24%10.7%353,000+26%9.3%
Other18,000+50%0.7%29,000+106%0.8%
Total2,688,000+15%100%3,796,000+25%100%

South EastSouth West
Number% Change% totalNumber% Change% total
Underground15,000+71%0.4%3,000+61%0.1%
Train312,000+43%7.8%39,000+84%1.6%
Bus190,000+12%4.8%120,000+4%5.0%
Taxi17,000+5%0.4%7,500+9%0.3%
Motorcycle36,000-17%0.9%28,000-18%1.2%
Car Driver2,591,000+13%65.1%1,596,000+19%67.0%
Car Passenger200,000-9%5.0%132,000-8%5.5%
Bicycle128,000+7%3.2%90,000+18%3.8%
On Foot464,000+20%11.6%348,000+25%14.6%
Other28,000+45%0.7%18,000+39%0.7%
Total3,981,000+14%100%2,382,000+17%100%

Travel to Work by Car

With 16.6 million of us taking 7,325 million car journeys to/from work every year, the car is by far the most popular method of commuting in the UK. Accounting for two-thirds of all travel, car commutes are at the highest ever levels.

There are however signs that certain parts of the UK may be reaching saturation point. The number of people commuting by car, as a driver, in London has hardly changed since 2001, increasing by just +1%. One contributing factor that may have played a significant part in this low growth rate, is the introduction in Feb 2003 of the London Congestion Charge. London has the lowest increase of any Region, with its close neighbour, the South East, registering the next lowest increase at +13%. However, the South East still has the highest number of Car Drivers, with commuting numbers of 2.6 million.

Wales and the Eastern Regions of England have seen the highest growth rates over the past 10 years; Wales (+27%), North East (+25%), Yorkshire (+22%), East Midlands (+22%). These Regions have the lowest actual numbers but we’ll need to delve deeper into the stats to understand this pattern more.

In terms of saturation, Wales has the greatest ratio of people commuting in a car, whether this be as a driver or a passenger. At 78.4% this is higher than any of the England Regions, which range from 75.6% (West Midlands) to just 31.3% (London).

The following table shows both the Top 10 and Bottom 10 Districts in England and Wales by number who travel to work by car.

Top 10 by DistrictBottom 10 by District
  1. Birmingham 235,000
  2. Leeds 201,000
  3. Sheffield 135,000
  4. Bradford 131,000
  5. Kirkless 126,000
  6. Wigan 104,000
  7. Wakefield 100,000
  8. Dudley 99,000
  9. Manchester 96,000
  10. Liverpool 96,000
  1. City of London 145
  2. West Somerset 8,400
  3. Islington 9,800
  4. Kensington & Chelsea 10,400
  5. Westminster 10,500
  6. Camden 10,900
  7. Hammersmith & Fulham 12,000
  8. Tower Hamlets 13,500
  9. Christchurch 13,600
  10. Purbeck 13,900

Travel to Work by Public Transport

As you may have expected, the highest ratio of commuters who use Public Transport is in the London Region with more than half of all commuters (52.6%) using the Underground, Trains or Buses to travel to work. This is the highest ever ratio the London region has seen for users of Public Transport, which now total two million following a +43% rise since the Census in 2001.

In the previous section, we saw how the Eastern Regions of England had the highest growth rates for Car commutes, however, this contrasts sharply with the growth rates for Public Transport as these regions have the lowest increases for this method of commute; North East (+4%), Yorkshire (+3%), East Midlands (+9%).

The following chart shows the 10 year change in commuters using Public Transport.

This next chart shows the ratio of Public Transport commuters as a percentage of the total number. As we have previously seen, the London region is by far the highest and is in sharp contrast to that of Wales (7.1%) and the South West (6.8%) region. Is this a reflection of the quality and availability of Public Transport in those regions or simply a reflection of the rural aspect of those regions?

Eco-Friendly Travel to Work

In this age of modern transportation, is it great to see that the most popular method of travel to work, after cars, is the simple eco-friendly mode of walking. There are close to 3 million of us who choose this method, an increase of +20% over the past 10 years, which is also one of the highest growth rates. The other eco-friendly option is the Bicycle and it’s great to see that these numbers continue to rise, latterly by +17%.

You will see in the following chart that London has the highest growth rate in this sector, primarily due to a +109% increase in Bicycle commuters. Can the London Mayor claim success for this following the recent introduction of the so-called Boris Bikes?

The following chart shows the 10 year change in commuters using Eco-Friendly methods such as Bicycles or On Foot.

We will be taking a much closer look at Cyclists in Part III of our Travel to Work Report.

Notes

Data Source: 2011 Census data from Nomis
Copyright: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2013

Data Source: 2011 Census: Quick Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales
Copyright: Office for National Statistics © Crown Copyright 2013