Com­mut­ing jobs drive rail pas­sen­ger growth

Rail (UK) - - News - An­drew Ro­den Con­tribut­ing Writer [email protected]­me­ @AndyRo­den1

THE to­tal num­ber of peo­ple who made a jour­ney by rail in 201214 was 79% higher than in 1996-98, ac­cord­ing to a re­port com­mis­sioned by the In­de­pen­dent Travel Com­mis­sion (ITC).

How­ever, the av­er­age length of trip for a spe­cific travel pur­pose has fallen by 1.5 miles to 30.5 miles in the same pe­riod. And there has been a 7% de­cline in the av­er­age miles trav­elled per year per rail ‘trip-maker’, to 6,381.

Wider Fac­tors af­fect­ing the long-term growth in Rail Travel, writ­ten by Ian Wil­liams and Kaveh Ja­han­shahi, says job growth in Eng­land and Wales in sec­tors which tra­di­tion­ally at­tract a high pro­por­tion of rail com­muters may have con­trib­uted to the in­crease.

These in­clude the likes of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal work, and real es­tate ser­vices al­most dou­bling be­tween 1996 and 2018. The re­port’s au­thors es­ti­mate that job growth in pro­fes­sional, sci­en­tific and tech­ni­cal work has cre­ated an ad­di­tional 190,000 rail com­muters, while em­ploy­ment in­creases in in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices have led to an ex­tra 90,000 com­muters.

An­other fac­tor high­lighted is a 49% in­crease in the num­ber of jobs in Lon­don since 1995 (com­pared with an over­all av­er­age across Eng­land and Wales of 27%), and that sec­tors that have ex­pe­ri­enced rapid growth have also done so in Lon­don.

The over­all 27% em­ploy­ment growth fig­ures has cre­ated an in­crease in the num­ber of rail com­muters of at least 41%. How­ever, the re­port adds that the cal­cu­la­tion “is likely to un­der­es­ti­mate sig­nif­i­cantly” the full con­tri­bu­tion to rail com­mut­ing growth that re­sults from chang­ing trends in em­ploy­ment lo­ca­tion.

Changes in where peo­ple live could also have driven rail pas­sen­ger growth. The re­port found that since the 1990s pop­u­la­tion growth has been most rapid in dense ur­ban ar­eas, and that peo­ple of work­ing age are now more likely to live in such lo­ca­tions rather than in ru­ral ar­eas - mak­ing com­mut­ing by car less at­trac­tive than rail in some places.

In ru­ral ar­eas, ev­ery ex­tra 100 res­i­dent com­muters gen­er­ates 62 ex­tra car com­muters and six rail com­muters. In the Dense Lon­don band, the same num­ber of ex­tra res­i­dent com­muters cre­ates 51 car com­muters and 49 rail com­muters.

In­creased home-work­ing has also had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact in re­duc­ing weekly com­muter trips by rail, with the au­thors ar­gu­ing that it will likely con­trib­ute to a fu­ture de­cline in peak pe­riod rail use.

Growth in the num­ber of busi­ness trips by rail was not due to in­di­vid­ual rail trav­ellers mak­ing more trips, but rather an in­crease in the num­ber of work­ers mak­ing busi­ness trips by rail.

This has been ac­cel­er­ated by rapid growth in of­fice-based em­ploy­ment sec­tors, changes in com­pany car tax­a­tion, and a rapid de­cline in car own­er­ship in dense ur­ban ar­eas - the re­port adds that those in house­holds with­out cars

are three times more likely to make busi­ness trips by rail. It con­cludes that changes in em­ploy­ment struc­ture alone have re­sulted in 38% growth in rail busi­ness jour­neys.

In as­sess­ing the fu­ture of rail de­mand, the re­port con­cludes that while the fac­tors it ex­plores are largely ex­ter­nal to the op­er­a­tion of the rail in­dus­try, they have a ma­jor im­pact on de­mand. It also points out that while it has ex­am­ined fac­tors in­de­pen­dently, in re­al­ity “they are of­ten heav­ily in­ter­twined”, and that while some fac­tors did not sup­port rail growth in the 1980s, this started to change in the mid-1990s.

How­ever, it warns that while poli­cies that in­flu­ence lev­els of car own­er­ship, road con­ges­tion, em­ploy­ment pat­terns and the lo­ca­tions of jobs and hous­ing may have con­trib­uted to the rise in pas­sen­ger num­bers, “it is not clear that those in­flu­ences would nec­es­sar­ily con­tinue to sup­port rail growth”.

The re­port points out that a surge in peo­ple mov­ing to ru­ral lo­ca­tions, or struc­tural changes in the econ­omy lead­ing to a de­cline in of­fice-based em­ploy­ment or growth in man­u­fac­tur­ing, could re­vert to the sit­u­a­tion be­fore the 1990s where pas­sen­ger de­mand was in grad­ual de­cline.

It rec­om­mends that wider in­flu­ences on de­mand are con­sid­ered to pro­vide bet­ter longterm fore­casts and re­spon­sive­ness to pol­icy mea­sures; that plan­ning and land use pol­icy changes should be ex­am­ined for their likely in­flu­ence on travel pat­terns and rail de­mand; and that data col­lec­tion and pro­cess­ing are im­proved to make it eas­ier to un­der­stand the im­pact of spa­tial and in­dus­trial changes on pas­sen­ger num­bers.

Net­work Rail Chair­man and ITC pa­tron Sir Peter Hendy said: “The ITC’s re­port il­lus­trates the im­por­tance of joined-up pol­icy mak­ing if we are to con­tinue to en­joy the re­nais­sance in rail us­age that has been such a fea­ture of the last two decades.”

ITC Di­rec­tor Dr Matthew Ni­blett added: “A shift to­wards a knowl­edge-based econ­omy has clearly shaped the con­tem­po­rary rail­way pas­sen­ger boom. While rail in­vest­ment has ac­cel­er­ated since pri­vati­sa­tion, it is clear that the growth in pas­sen­ger num­bers is also down to fac­tors beyond the rail in­dus­try’s con­trol.

“With Brexit on the hori­zon, an in­dus­trial strat­egy de­vel­op­ing, and a hous­ing short­age in the South East and Lon­don con­tin­u­ing, it’s im­por­tant that eco­nomic and plan­ning chal­lenges are con­sid­ered along­side trans­port pol­icy, as is the case with the East West Rail and North­ern Pow­er­house Rail projects.”

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