• The average distance travelled per person in Great Britain has increased from 4,400km per person in 1952 to 13,300km per person in 2019.
  • The total distance travelled in Great Britain has increased from 218 billion kilometres in 1952 to 864 billion kilometres in 2019.
  • In 2019, private transport (car, van, motorcycle and taxi) accounted for 86% of the total distance travelled, compared with just 30% in 1952.

This chart shows the distance travelled by different modes of transport between 1952 and 2019 in Great Britain. These are expressed as total number of kilometres and kilometres per head, to account for population change.

Transport can affect health directly – but also indirectly, through its relationship with the wider determinants of health. The four main aspects of transport that affect health outcomes are active travel, air and noise pollution, road safety, and enabling social and economic participation and access to public services.

  • In 1952, people travelled 218 billion passenger kilometres a year and 30% of this distance was attributed to travel by private vehicle; by 2019, 86% of this distance was attributed to travel by private vehicle.
  • Between 1990 and 2019 passenger distance travelled increased from 40 billon kilometres to 83 billion kilometres.
  • Between 1952 and 2019, the distance travelled by bus declined from 92 billion kilometres to 33 billion kilometres, and the distance travelled by pedal cycle declined from 23 billion kilometres to 6 billion kilometres.

Preference for travel by private transport can lead to underinvestment in other forms of transport, which in turn can restrict the mobility of people without access to private transport. The planning of infrastructure and new developments should support a fairer, greener and healthier transport system.

  • Private transport includes: cars, van, taxi and motorcycle.
  • Rail includes: national rail, underground and tram.

Source: Department of Transport, National Travel Survey and Office for National Statistics, UK population estimates

Further reading

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How transport offers a route to better health

25 February 2021

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Transport affects the health of people across society, in multiple ways. Investing in transport is...

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