A record number of people are now reliant on a car or van to go to work with dependence high even in urban areas.
16.7 million workers in England and Wales get to ‘the office’ either by driving themselves or catching a lift. That’s 62.7% of the employed population aged 16-74.
Reliance is greatest in Wales where 74.2% of employed people aged 16-74 use a car or van.
After Wales comes the East Midlands (71.7%) and then the West Midlands (71.1%). This is the full regional split:
(To see how the journey to work is undertaken in your area you can see the data broken down by local authority here.)
Even in London 29.8% of working residents commute by car or van ahead of the underground (22.6%), buses (14%) and trains (13.3%).
The average length of a commuter trip by car/van varies little across English regions and Wales at about ten miles. It is highest in the South East (11.2 miles) and lowest in London (8.6 miles).
While almost three-quarters (73.4%) of rural workers in England and Wales now journey to work by car or van, these methods of travel also dominate the commute in urban areas (outside of London) with 67.1% of people either driving themselves or catching a lift.
The numbers are revealed in an RAC Foundation report called The Car and the Commute. The research takes journey to work data from the 2011 Census and compares it to land use information to give a detailed picture of car dependency across England and Wales. It also uses National Travel Survey data.
While it is difficult to compare data on the journey to work from the 2001 Census with that of 2011 because of a change in the way the question was asked, it does look as if there has been a small decrease in the proportion of people using a car to get to work. However population growth means the absolute number is at its highest ever.
The coalition government has rightly prioritised efforts to get the nation working, but Westminster politicians must remember how the nation actually travels to work. People are still driving despite a decade in which the cost of running a car has outstripped wage inflation. The reason for this is that most people have no practical choice.
Previous RAC Foundation research shows that 800,000 of the poorest car-owning households already spend more than a quarter of their disposable income on buying and running a vehicle. The danger is that people will be put off from taking up employment because they just can’t afford the commute.
Something for the Chancellor to think about as the Autumn Statement approaches.