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Key points

  • In 2020, one third (34%) of people who commuted by public transport, walking or cycling experienced transport difficulties in England.
  • The proportion of people indicating an ‘other’ problem travelling to work doubled in 2020 compared to 2018. This could be due to the survey capturing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transport difficulties when commuting are associated with poorer mental wellbeing, high blood pressure or a lack of time for activities that support good health, such as preparing healthy meals, exercise or getting enough sleep.

This chart looks at the main transport difficulties experienced by employed people (aged 17–59 years) commuting to work by public transport (such as train, bus or tram) or active modes of transport (cycling or walking).

In 2020, around 34% of workers (aged 17–59 years) experienced at least one difficulty with their commute by public or active transport. Around 14.5% said that poor quality was their main difficulty, while 1.8% complained about availability and 2.8% said that services are too expensive.

A focus on improving the quality of public and active transport is needed to address difficulties experienced by commuters using these modes of transport.

  • In the National Travel Survey (NTS) respondents were asked to state if they usually experience any difficulties with travelling to or from work by underground, light rail, tram, train, bus, taxi, bicycle, or foot, and to state which problem creates the most difficulties.
  • The ‘availability’ category included ‘journey not possible by public transport’, ‘lack of cycling lanes’ and ‘poor connections’.
  • The ‘quality’ category included ‘unreliable public transport’, ‘poor information about public transport’, ‘public transport unpleasant’ and ‘concerns over personal safety’.
  • The ‘other’ category included ‘personal disability’, ‘the weather’ and any other reason not mentioned elsewhere.
  • In 2013, the reporting frequency of this question was changed from every year to every other year. Other changes in the NTS include: sample coverage, data collection methodology, interview question content.
  • In 2020, the survey was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Interviews moved from face-to-face to phone interviews, and response rates dropped. Although the survey owners took steps to counteract this by increasing the number of households they reached out to, the sample size was still significantly lower than in previous years. Furthermore, there was some sample bias in the type of people who were most likely to respond (they tended to be richer, more educated, and less likely to come from minority ethnic backgrounds). This was further countered by changes in weighting. These sample size challenges mean that subgroup analysis in 2020 is not recommended.

Source: Health Foundation analysis of Department for Transport, National Travel Survey (NTS), 2002 to 2020.

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