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  • THaT Consultancy

National Travel Survey 2021

(Results published 31 August 2022)


Key findings:


  • we are travelling less and making shorter journeys

but


  • use of non-car based modes of travel has fallen back below pre-pandemic levels

and

  • car use has increased above pre-pandemic level



General observations


In 2021 bus and rail travel was below 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels.


The boost in cycling seen during 2020 was not maintained and cycle use fell back to pre-pandemic levels.


The boost in walking seen during 2020 only fell slightly and remained above pre-pandemic levels.



Trends in trips taken, miles travelled, and hours spent travelling England 2002 – 2021

(Source: Dept for Transport)



A word of caution when interpreting and presenting statistics


The old adage “lies, damned lies and statistics” is as applicable to the output from the National Travel Survey as it is to any other large dataset.


By analysing the output from the National Travel Survey slightly differently (eg by focusing on the number of trips by each mode of travel, rather than the total distance travelled by each mode of travel) we could, for example, challenge the second and third bullet points above and argue that car use has fallen below pre-pandemic levels and the use of non-car based modes of travel has increased.


In our opinion it is important to focus on the total distance travelled by each mode of travel, rather than simply on the number of trips by each mode.


Total number of trips per year per person


2019 953 trips

2020 739 trips

2021 757 trips


The total number of trips per person in 2021 was 21% lower than in 2019 i.e. pre-Covid.


Total distance travelled per year per person


2019 6500 miles

2020 4334 miles

2021 4329 miles


The total distance travelled, per person, in 2021 was 33% lower than in 2019.


Average trip length


The average trip length calculated from the above data is:


2019 6.8 miles

2020 5.9 miles

2021 5.7 miles


The average trip length in 2021 was 16% shorter than in 2019.


Car travel


Travel by car was the most popular mode of travel in 2021 accounting for 80% of the total distance travelled and 59% of the total number of trips.


The equivalent figures in 2019 (pre-Covid) were 77% and 61%.


Walking


In 2021 walking accounted for 5% of the total distance travelled and 31% of the total number of trips.


The equivalent figures in 2019 were 3% and 26%.


Bus


In 2021 travel by bus accounted for 3% of the total distance travelled and 3% of the total number of trips.


The equivalent figures in 2019 were 4% and 5%.


Rail


In 2021 travel by rail accounted for 7% of the total distance travelled and 1% of the total number of trips.


The equivalent figures in 2019 were 10% and 2%.


Cycling


In 2021 cycling accounted for 1% of the total distance travelled and 2% of the total number of trips.


The equivalent figures in 2019 were the same.


All non-car based modes of travel


The non-car based modes of travel are walking, bus, rail and cycle.


In 2021 non-car based modes of travel accounted for 16% of the total distance travelled and 37% of the total number of trips.


The equivalent figures in 2019 were 18% of the total distance travelled and 35% of the total number of trips.


Trip purpose


In each of the last three years “shopping” has been the most popular trip purpose. Shopping trips represented 18% of all trips in 2021 and 19% of all trips in both 2020 and 2019.


In both 2020 and 2021 “other including just walk” was the second most popular trip purpose, representing 14% of all trips in 2021 and 15% in 2020.


In 2019 “other including just walk” represented only 6% of all trips and was not in the top three trip purposes. In that year “personal business” occupied third place representing 9% of all trips in that year.


“Commuting” was the second most popular trip purpose in 2019 and the third most popular in both 2020 and 2021. “Commuting” represented 13% of all trips in 2021, 12% in 2020 and 15% in 2019.


THaT Opinion


The latest National Travel Survey data clearly suggests that as the country emerges from the pandemic the government will face a difficult challenge to increase, or perhaps even sustain, the use of more sustainable modes of travel in preference to the private car.


It will be interesting to see whether the 2022 survey paints a more encouraging picture.

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