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Trip rates continuing to fall before Covid-19, NTS shows

22 August 2020

The average number of trips made by people in England fell again last year and is now more than ten per cent down on levels in the early 2000s, according to the National Travel Survey.

The results of the 2019 NTS may seem irrelevant because of Covid-19 but the data will provide a valuable benchmark for comparing travel behaviour before and after the pandemic. 

The NTS records the travel by residents of England within Great Britain, based on interviews and seven-day travel diary. Almost 13,000 addresses were selected for the 2019 survey and about half of the households agreed to participate.

The DfT’s summary report examines the headline trends for the period 2002 to 2019. 

The annual average number of trips has dropped 11 per cent, from 1,074 in 2002 to 953 in 2019. The 2019 figure was down three per cent on 2018. 

Average distance travelled has fallen ten per cent – from 7,193 miles in 2002 to 6,500. No change was reported between 2018 and 2019. 

Average time spent travelling is down five per cent since 2002, from 390 hours to 370.

Leisure was the most common trip purpose in 2019. It accounted for 26 per cent of trips, followed by shopping (19 per cent) and commuting (15 per cent). 

Summariea of trip types are:

  • Leisure: an average of 247 a year, accounting for 2,691 miles, with 70 per cent by car/van; 16 per cent by foot, and four per cent by bus
  • Shopping: 181 a year, accounting for 700 miles, with 65 per cent by car/van; 25 per cent by foot; and six per cent by bus
  • Commuting: 140 a year, accounting for 1,276 miles, with 61 per cent by car/van; 12 per cent by foot; and eight per cent by bus
  • Business: 28 a year, accounting for 555 miles, with 72 per cent by car/van; eight per cent by foot; and seven per cent by surface rail. 
  • Education: 125 a year, covering 340 miles. 

The fall in trips is mainly due to a 13 per cent drop in people’s car journeys since 2002. The average length of a car trip is unchanged, at 8.4 miles per trip. 

Cars still account for the lion’s share of trips (61 per cent) and distance travelled (77 per cent). On average, people make 580 car trips a year, travelling 5,009 miles. 

Cycling accounts for just two per cent of trips and one per cent of distance travelled. Two-thirds of people cycle once a year or less. Only 14 per cent cycle at least once a week. Men average 24 trips by bicycle a year and women just eight. 

Rail accounts for two per cent of trips and ten per cent of distance travelled. 

Buses account for five per cent of trips and four per cent of distance travelled. 

Walking accounts for 26 per cent of trips but only three per cent of distance travelled. Walking trips fell slightly between 2018 and 2019, averaging 250 trips per person per year. The figure remains 14 per cent above the recent low point  recorded in 2014.

Men made eight per cent fewer trips than women in 2019, but travelled further. Women make more trips for shopping and escort education, which tend to be relatively short, whereas men make more commuting trips, which tend to be longer. 

The DfT is in the process of testing a digital version of the NTS travel diary to replace the  paper-based version. 

Since 2017, data on short walks (more than 50 yards but under one mile) has been collected only on day one of the diary. It was previously collected on day seven but this led to under-reporting. The historic data on walking has been uplifted. 

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