26 November 2013
2011 Census Analysis - Method of Travel to Work in England and Wales Report (originally released 13 February 2013)
A production error was discovered in table CT0015 Method of travel to work (alternative), originally published on 13 February 2013. A revised table was published on 19 November 2013. This contains a detailed explanation of the changes that have been made.
These changes have had a small impact on some of the text, tables, charts and maps in this article. It has been updated to reflect correct figures from CT0015. Note, however, that the key points from the article are unaffected by the changes.
ONS apologises for any inconvenience caused.
This article examines the key findings from the 2011 Census on methods of travel to work in England and Wales for the working population aged 16 to 74. It identifies changes in patterns of travel to work from 2001 to 2011 and looks at key differences between regions. It also examines some of the local authority differences.
In 2001, people who recorded their place of work as working mainly at or from home were considered to have their mode of travel to work as working mainly at or from home (available in UV39). In 2011, people working mainly at or from home could record, for example, that they travelled to work as a driver in a car or van, despite being based at home. This extra information is useful for transport planning. As such, where reference is made to the 2011 Census in isolation, figures from QS701EW (301 Kb Excel sheet) are quoted.
This is, however, problematic for making comparisons with the 2001 Census. Therefore, where comparisons are made to the 2001 Census, this article uses CT0015EW (304 Kb Excel sheet) – a 2011 Census method of travel to work table that was generated by deriving home workers using the responses to the workplace address question (as reflected in 2001).
Driving to work (by car or van) was by far the most common method of travel to work1 in England and Wales in 2011. More than half of the working population2 travel to work by this method.
In the 2011 Census, driving to work was the most common form of commuting, with 15.3 million people (57.5 per cent3 of the working population). Of these, 882,000 stated in the workplace address question that they worked mainly at or from home.
In 2011, 4.3 million people (16.4 per cent) commuted to work by public transport, while 2.8 million people (10.7 per cent) walked to work.
In 2011, South Staffordshire was the local authority4 with the highest proportion of people driving to work (75.5 per cent), while Newham had the highest proportion of people commuting by public transport5 (65.5 per cent).
Other findings show that between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of the working population that worked at or from home increased by 1.1 percentage points.
Using the 2001 method for deriving home working, driving to work decreased by 0.8 percentage points. Commuting by car or van as a passenger also decreased by 1.3 percentage points. Consequently, the vehicle occupancy rate6 for cars and vans decreased from 1.11 in 2001 to 1.09 in 2011.
Commuting by public transport increased by 1.4 percentage points. The proportions of people commuting by train and light rail7 increased between 2001 and 2011. There was a slight decrease in the proportion of workers commuting by bus or coach.
In contrast to much of England and Wales, the proportion of people driving to work in London decreased (by 7.1 percentage points). This was offset by increases in public transport use and cycling.
The England and Wales census asked the same question in 2011 as was asked in 2001 (The Census Comparability Report has further details). People in work were asked ‘How do you usually travel to work? Tick the box for the longest part, by distance, of your usual journey to work’. Due to definitional differences, and because the census questionnaire is self-completed by the population of England and Wales, the census estimates of people travelling to work may differ from other sources.
Due to definitional differences, and because the census questionnaire is self-completed by the population of England and Wales, the census estimates of people in employment may differ from other sources as, for example, some respondents may include voluntary work when asked about employment. The most authoritative and up to date estimates of the labour market status, including employment and unemployment, are the labour market statistics that ONS publishes monthly. The census is valuable in providing a detailed picture at the time of the census of the characteristics of the economically active population.
The denominator for all percentages in this article is the population aged 16 to 74 who were working during the week before the census day, which was on 27 March 2011. That is, it includes people who mainly work at or from home. The only exception is where comparisons are made to the National Travel Survey (NTS). The NTS does not include data on home working and therefore home workers are excluded from the 2011 Census results to allow comparison.
Travel to work is measured on the resident population. That is, the statistics presented in this article represent how people who live in the local authority travel to work (as opposed to how people who work in the local authority travel to work).
‘Public transport’ in this article consists of trains, light rail, buses and coaches.
Vehicle occupancy rate is the sum of drivers and passengers divided by drivers.
‘Light rail’ includes London Underground, trams (such as the Sheffield Supertram) and metro services (such as the Tyne and Wear Metro). Some people may commute to work from a second address. For example, a resident of Cornwall may have a second address in London, and may commute to work from that address by London Underground. This helps to explain why local authorities such as Cornwall, that have no light rail services, have a small number of residents who commute by light rail.
In the 2011 Census, 15.3 million people (57.5 per cent) travelled to work by driving a car or van. A further 1.4 million people (5.1 per cent) commuted to work as passengers in cars or vans, giving a vehicle occupancy rate of 1.09 persons per vehicle.
Some 1.4 million people (5.4 per cent) stated in the 2011 Census that they worked mostly at or from home, while 2.8 million people (10.7 per cent) walked to work and 760,000 (2.9 per cent) cycled to work.
While 1.9 million people (7.3 per cent) commuted to work by bus or coach, 1.4 million people (5.2 per cent) travelled to work by train, and a further 1.0 million people (3.9 per cent) commuted by light rail. Some 214,000 people (0.8 per cent) commuted to work by motorcycle, moped or scooter; while taxis and minicabs were used by 138,000 people (0.5 per cent).
Finally, 171,000 people (0.6 per cent) commuted by other methods (such as by ferry).
Figure 2 compares method of travel to work in 2011 across the English regions and Wales.
In 2011, London had the highest proportion of its resident working population commuting by public transport (49.9 per cent). This was comprised of light rail (22.6 per cent), bus or coach (14.0 per cent) and train (13.3 per cent). Outside of London, public transport use ranged from 6.3 per cent of workers in the South West to 13.1 per cent in the North East.
Conversely, London had the lowest proportion of people commuting by car, taxi or motorcycle (31.4 per cent). Outside of London, the South East (66.8 per cent) had the lowest proportion using such methods, while Wales (75.2 per cent) had the highest.
Home working ranged from 3.7 per cent in the North East to 7.0 per cent in the South West. Walking or cycling to work was least common in the West Midlands (11.9 per cent) while the highest proportion was in the South West (at 17.1 per cent).
All of the English regions and Wales had less than 1 per cent of people commuting by other means (such as by ferry). The West Midlands (0.5 per cent) had the lowest proportion, while the North East (0.9 per cent) had the highest.
|Neath Port Talbot||81.8|
|Walk||City of London||48.4|
|Isles of Scilly||38.5|
|Isles of Scilly||15.9|
|Work from Home||Isles of Scilly||13.3|
|Other||Isles of Scilly||4.3|
|Isle of Wight||2.3|
The rest of this article uses figures from the 2011 Census table that was produced using the 2001 methodology for deriving home workers. Compared with the 2001 Census, the most significant trends for England and Wales were:
An increase in the proportion of people working from home – from 9.2 per cent in 2001 to 10.3 per cent in 2011.
A fall in the percentage of commuters driving to work – from 55.2 per cent in 2001 to 54.5 per cent in 2011. This coincides with a decrease in the proportion commuting to work as passengers in cars or vans: 6.3 per cent in 2001 falling to 5.0 per cent in 2011.
An increase in the use of train and light rail services. Commuting by train increased from 4.1 per cent in 2001 to 5.0 per cent in 2011. Use of light rail increased from 3.0 per cent in 2001 to 3.8 per cent in 2011.
In England and Wales, the proportion of people working mainly at or from home increased from 9.2 per cent in 2001 to 10.3 per cent in 2011. In 2011, the local authorities with the highest proportion of home workers continued to be rural in nature. This is not surprising given the greater prominence of home businesses such as farms in these areas.
Map 1 shows percentage point changes for home working across the local authorities of England and Wales.
An interactive map comparing methods of travel to work is also available.
The City of London had the third largest percentage point increase in home working (at 4.4 percentage points). For the most part however, rural local authorities had the largest proportional increases in home working. The South East (1.9 percentage points) and the South West (1.6 percentage points) were the regions with the largest increases.
It may be that some workers have taken advantage of the technological innovations of the last decade that can remove the need to commute to a central office. This is likely to be more beneficial to workers living in rural locations as their potential commuting distances are likely to be longer than for their urban counterparts.
More than 20 local authorities had a reduction of 0.1 percentage points or more in the proportion of people working from home. The London Borough of Newham had the largest proportional decrease (1.4 percentage points). However, in all 348 local authorities of England and Wales, the actual number of home workers increased between 2001 and 2011.
The Labour Force Survey (LFS), an ONS sample survey, asks a question on home working. Comparisons with the census, however, should be treated with caution as LFS data are produced for the UK (covering Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales). It is also produced for people of all ages. Therefore it includes working people aged 75 and over.
The LFS asks whether the respondent is ‘working from home in [their] main job?’ with the following response options:
In own home
In the same grounds or buildings as home
In different places using home as a base
Somewhere quite different from home
Not all of the people selecting the third option would be classified as home workers in the 2001 and 2011 Census (the workplace address question provides the option for ‘no fixed place’).
The proportion of people classified in options 1 to 3 in the LFS increased from 10.8 per cent in 2001 to 13.0 per cent in 2011. These percentages are greater than the census figures. Nevertheless, like the census, the LFS shows a pattern of an increasing proportion of workers who work from home.
Between 2001 and 2011, driving to work decreased by 0.8 percentage points and commuting to work as a passenger decreased by 1.3 percentage points. Figure 4 shows contrasting patterns for these changes across the English regions and Wales.
In 2001, London had by far the lowest driver rate at 33.5 per cent. This had reduced to 26.1 per cent by 2011. Five of the English regions and Wales experienced an increase in the proportion of workers who drove to work. At 3.5 percentage points, the North East had the largest growth.
A proportional decrease in passengers was seen across the nine English regions and Wales. The North East and Wales (both 2.3 percentage points) had the largest decreases.
These changes mean that Wales and the North East have had the largest decreases in vehicle occupancy rate. Wales decreased to 1.10 in 2011 from 1.15 in 2001, while the North East decreased to 1.12 in 2011 from 1.17 in 2001.
Boston is one of only five local authorities to have had an increase in the proportion of commuters travelling to work as car or van passengers (3.2 percentage points). This increase is likely to be related in part to Eastern European migrants employed in agricultural work. Such work may involve communal transport to various locations.
Other local authorities with high passenger rates in 2011 are in areas that have traditionally had large single site employers. For example, the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Copeland, Cumbria employs over 10,000 people1. A single site with a large number of employees is more conducive to car sharing than multiple employers spread across a larger area. This may explain why at 9.4 per cent of workers, Copeland has the fifth highest rate of passenger commuting out of the 348 local authorities in England and Wales.
Likewise, changes to employment concentrations resulting from closures to large scale industrial employers may have contributed to the relatively high reductions in vehicle occupancy rates in Wales and the North East.
An interactive map comparing methods of travel to work is also available.
London and some neighbouring local authorities generally saw a reduction in drivers, as did places like Oxford and Cambridge. Such decreases in and around London are unsurprising given the introduction of the London Congestion Charge in 2003. Indeed, in 2011 there were 58,000 fewer workers living in London who drove to work compared with 2001.
While modal shift may explain some of the changes, it may be that investment in public transport (such as the introduction of the Oyster card system in 2003) enabled the working population of London to increase by 680,000; an increase of 20.4 per cent on 2001.
While public transport increased as a whole, commuting by bus or coach decreased.
|Method||2001||2011||Percentage Point Change|
|Bus or Coach||7.4||7.2||-0.2|
Urban centres outside of London experienced declining proportions of workers using coaches and buses. Excluding Bristol (where walking and cycling increased), the 10 local authorities with largest percentage point decreases in public transport use saw above average increases in the percentage of people driving to work.
|Bristol, City of||-3.1||-3.1||5.8|
For the most part, where proportion of households with access to one or more cars or vans has increased, the proportion of workers using public transport has decreased.
An interactive map comparing methods of travel to work is also available.
|2001||2011||Percentage Point Change|
|Nottingham Express Transit||Ashfield||0.0||2.1||2.0|
|Tyne and Wear Metro||South Tyneside||6.8||8.8||2.0|
Table 5 shows for 2001 and 2011 the real prices (judged against the Retail Prices Index (RPI)) of travelling by train (both regulated and unregulated fares), by bus or by coach, and the cost of the four main elements of motoring1. The real prices are shown relative to the base year (1991).
|Real (2011) prices.1 Index 1991 = 100|
|Rail Fares||Bus and Coach Fares||Purchase of a Vehicle||Vehicle Maintenance||Petrol and Oil||Tax and Insurance|
|decadal percentage change|
Rail fares (15 per cent) and bus and coach fares (19 per cent) increased in real terms in the 10 years to 2011. Running a motor vehicle became even more expensive; vehicle maintenance (25 per cent), petrol and oil (30 per cent) and tax and insurance (43 per cent) all increasing relative to the RPI.
However, the initial cost of purchasing a vehicle fell 41 per cent. This may in part be due to a shift towards used cars making up a greater proportion of the car sales market2. Nevertheless, this may partly explain the increase in car ownership. In turn, this may also explain the increase in commuting by driving in some areas outside of London and the South East.
The opposite patterns in London and neighbouring local authorities may in part be assigned to the London Congestion Charge. What’s more, the dense and highly integrated public transport network provides an alternative that offers commuters a similar degree of flexibility to that provided by a private car.
All other modes of travel to work decreased from 14.8 per cent in 2001 to 14.3 per cent in 2011.
|Method||2001||2011||Percentage Point Change|
The City of London tops the list of local authorities with the greatest proportion of commuters who walked to work in 2011 (45.8 per cent). While it does not have a large resident population, the City of London does have a large number of workers. It is likely, therefore, that many of the borough’s inhabitants work nearby.
The proportion of commuters cycling to work stayed roughly constant at 2.8 per cent. Cambridge – with 29.0 per cent in 2011 – had by far the largest proportion of cycling commuters in 2011, with Oxford (17.1 per cent) coming next.
In terms of percentage point change since 2001, London occupies eight of the top 10 local authorities with increasing proportions of cyclists. Bristol (2.9 percentage points) had the ninth largest increase in the proportion of workers cycling to work, which perhaps reflects the fact that in 2008 it became Britain’s first Cycling City1.
London boroughs, islands (for example, the Isles of Scilly) and coastal local authorities (for example Plymouth) continue to have the highest proportion of workers commuting by motorcycle and scooter. 344 local authorities experienced a decrease between 2001 and 2011, with York having the largest percentage point decrease of motorcyclists (1.0 per cent in 2011 down from 1.8 per cent in 2001).
Although use of taxis has remained proportionally constant for commuting to work in England and Wales as a whole (at 0.5 per cent), use of such vehicles in London has declined by 0.2 percentage points.
Ferry and hovercraft services are likely to make up the majority of the other means of commuting to work. This is particularly true for commuters in Isles of Scilly, Isle of Wight, South Tyneside and Gosport. Greenwich (0.4 percentage points) was the borough with the largest proportional increase in commuting by other means in London, reflecting the growth of London’s river services.
Of the 2.7 million people who were classified as home workers using the 2001 definition, just over half also selected ‘working mainly at or from home’ in the method of travel to work question.
Of the 2.7 million home workers identified from the workplace address question, Kensington and Chelsea (65.2 per cent) and Blaenau Gwent (33.8 per cent) had respectively the highest and lowest proportions of home workers as defined by the method of travel to work response.
Table 7 shows a breakdown of home workers (as defined by workplace address) by method of travel to work.
|Work mainly at or from home||52.2|
|Driving a car or van||29.9|
|Bus, minibus or coach||1.6|
|Passenger in a car or van||1.2|
|Underground, metro, light rail, tram||1.2|
|Motorcycle, scooter or moped||0.2|
|Other method of travel to work||1.5|
The ‘other method of travel to work’ category (1.5 per cent) had a larger share of travel to work for the home workers than for all workers aged 16 to 74. This may reflect the above average number of agricultural workers who stated that they worked from home in the workplace address question. Such workers may be referring to the use of tractors and other agricultural machinery as their method of travel to work.
The National Travel Survey (NTS) is a sample survey implemented by the National Centre for Social Research on behalf of the Department for Transport. This provides a breakdown of how people travel to work where work is a different place to home.
The data are for the whole of Great Britain (covering Scotland as well as England and Wales). It is produced for people of all ages and so also includes working people aged 75 and over. Comparisons between the 2011 Census and the 2011 NTS should, therefore, be treated with some caution.
The degree of refinement is limited by the NTS combining surface rail and London Underground commuters. Furthermore, whereas the census combines bus and coach commuters, these are split across local bus and other public transport in the NTS.
Excluding home workers (i.e. including only people commuting to work as the denominator), the 2011 Census showed a very slight decrease from 2001 in the proportion of commuters who drove to work (60.7 per cent in 2011 from 60.8 per cent in 2001). The NTS showed a larger decrease over this time, falling from 61.2 per cent to 58.1 per cent. The NTS indicated a slight increase in commuting by motorcycle, whereas the 2011 Census showed a decrease.
Nevertheless, the NTS shows similar patterns to the 2011 Census and Table 8 shows that, with the exception of car and van passengers, the 2011 proportions are broadly similar.
|2001 National Travel Survey||2011 National Travel Survey||2001 Census||20111 Census|
|Public and Other Transport||15.0||16.9||17.0||18.8|
This publication follows the 2011 Census Population and Household Estimates for England and Wales. The census provides estimates of the characteristics of all people and households in England and Wales on census night. These are produced for a variety of users including government, local and unitary authorities, business and communities. The census provides population statistics from a national to local level. This article discusses the results for England and Wales.
2001 Census data are available via the Neighbourhood Statistics website. Relevant table numbers are provided in all download files within this publication.
Interactive data visualisations developed by ONS are also available to aid interpretation of the results.
Future releases from the 2011 Census will include more detail in cross tabulations, and tabulations at other geographies. These include wards, health areas, parliamentary constituencies, postcode sectors and national parks. Further information on future releases is available online in the 2011 Census Prospectus.
ONS has ensured that the data collected meet users' needs via an extensive 2011 Census outputs consultation process in order to ensure that the 2011 Census outputs will be of increased use in the planning of housing, education, health and transport services in future years.
Figures in this publication may not sum due to rounding. Maps in this document have been generated using data rounded to one decimal place.
ONS is responsible for carrying out the census in England and Wales. Simultaneous but separate censuses took place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. These were run by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) respectively.
A person's place of usual residence is in most cases the address at which they stay the majority of the time. For many people this will be their permanent or family home. If a member of the armed forces did not have a permanent or family address at which they are usually resident, they were recorded as usually resident at their base address.
All key terms used in this publication are explained in the 2011 Census glossary. Information on the 2011 Census Geography Products for England and Wales is also available.
All census population estimates were extensively quality assured, using other national and local sources of information for comparison and review by a series of quality assurance panels. An extensive range of quality assurance, evaluation and methodology papers were published alongside the first release in July 2012 and have been updated in this release, including a Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) document (152.8 Kb Pdf) .
The 2011 Census achieved its overall target response rate of 94 per cent of the usually resident population of England and Wales, and over 80 per cent in all local and unitary authorities. The population estimate for England and Wales of 56.1 million is estimated with 95 per cent confidence to be accurate to within +/- 85,000 (0.15 per cent).
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