New report reveals dramatic shifts in transport trends in UK cities


A new report from the Urban Transport Group (UTG) reveals that ageing urban populations, rapid bus passenger decline and huge growth in private hire vehicles are some of the major travel shifts that are currently taking place in UK cities.

The group’s report, Number crunch: Transport trends in the city regions, identifies some of the most defining patterns of the past decade and projected future trends that are changing the face of the UK’s major city regions such as London, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, and the way that people travel within them.

Drawing on data from the Urban Transport Group’s unique ‘Data Hub’, a free and interactive online tool, the report also looks at the wider context for these changes such as population growth and economic performance.

Key trends identified in the report include:

• The big shift to rail – as more people opt for the rapid access into and between cities that only rail can provide, regional rail patronage outside London has grown by 36% over the past 10 years, and rail usage in London and the Southeast grew by 44% over the same period, while the UK’s expanding urban tram and light rail networks have also boomed with growth of 44% over the last decade;

• Future shock – the impacts of transformative technological change and new business models are now being felt at scale, with the number of private hire vehicles (PHVs) soaring nationally by 41% between 2007 and 2017, and even faster growth in cities such as London where PHV numbers have almost doubled since 2007;

• Bigger but older – city region populations are forecast to grow faster than elsewhere, with an overall growth of 19%, but the age of residents is increasing dramatically with the number of people over 75 years old expected to grow by 80% between 2014 and 2039, from 1.3 million people to 2.4 million, which could have major implications for urban transport, such as concessionary travel budgets and the accessibility of travel networks;

• Bus troubles – the bus, which nationally still accounts for 70% of all public transport journeys, is in decline across the city regions, with patronage outside of London falling by 11%, from 1.1 billion in 2009/10 to 937 million in 2016/17.

Other trends from the report include:

• Nationally, people are travelling less often, including for shopping, commuting and business;

• Nationally, levels of cycling remain very low, but there is evidence that investment boosts numbers, with London seeing 50% growth in a decade since finance was increased; and

• Van traffic is increasing and forecast to increase further.

“We’ve crunched the numbers to identify some of the defining transport, economic and population trends for the UK’s largest city regions over the last decade,” said Jonathan Bray, director of the Urban Transport Group.

“The report also shows how we are tackling the issues that the data and analysis highlights, from winning new powers for our members to improve bus services and making the case for reform of the archaic taxi and PHV legislation, to building an evidence base for further investment in urban and regional rail, and promoting best practice on urban cycling and walking.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).