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Commuting in London and the South East – Some Background Trends.

By R.L. Mackett, M. Madden and C.A. Nash


The past two decades have seen some significant changes in the pattern of commuting to Central London. The total number of passengers entering Central London by all modes in the morning peak has dropped by some 20% (Fig.2). Yet private traffic has grown in absolute terms, to form some 20% of the total in 1983 compared with 14% in 1961. As a result, congestion has worsened and traffic speeds declined (Table 1). All public transport modes have declined in patronage, but for British Rail the decline has been concentrated within Greater London (Fig.3). From outside Greater London; traffic grew until the mid 1970's. Since then there has been a modest decline.\ud \ud These changes are no doubt what most analysts would expect of a society of rising car ownership - decentralisation of jobs and homes, and increased use of car instead of public transport. But at a more detailed level, there are some surprises. For instance, despite the economic recession, the decline in morning peak trips to London by all modes appears to have slowed down in recent years. In this same period the longer distance rail market began a modest decline. At the same time, there have been considerable shifts in the pattern of commuting by County of origin (Table 2). The perod 1961-71 saw a straightforward decentralisation of the homes of Greater London workers, with the numbers in Greater London and Essex declining and everywhere else increasing. Between 1971 and 1981, the pattern has been very different. Commuting from Essex has resumed rapid growth,-with an absolute increase exceeded only by the boom in commuting from Hertfordshire. Growth in the traditional commuter area of Surrey has been very slow, whilst from Buckinghamshire commuting has declined. These changes have led to a view that dormitory areas, like people, can go through a life cycle of growth, maturity and decline. Of course it should be remembered that a considerable proportion of these commuters, particularly from the adjacent counties, are only just crossing the Greater London boundaries and not proceeding to Inner London (Fig.4). From districts adjacent to Greater London this is particularly pronounced (Fig.5). \ud \ud What are the reasons for these changes in patterns of commuting into Central London? Have we now reached the stage where the market has stabilised, or will commuting resume declining? Will the longer distance end of the commuter market continue to decline? Will the counties north east of London continue to take over the role of dormitories from counties south of the Thames? \ud \ud These are very complicated issues, involving interactions between rising incomes, transport policy, planning and land-use policies and the job and housing markets. In this paper it is intended to examine what can be learned from a broad view of the developments using published data. Future papers will examine survey data on the decisions of individual commuters, and consider ways of modelling these interactions, following on from work previously reported in the course of a preceding project (Johnson and Nash, 1983; Mackett, 1984). \ud \ud In the next section, the changes in the location of population and jobs over the period and some of the factors which may have caused these changes are considered. Then trends in the labour market, in housing, in incomes and car ownership and in public transport fares and services are reviewed. Finally, developments in three towns at varying distances from Central London, which illustrate the sorts of changes that are taking place at the local level, are discussed. \ud \ud The following text will refer to a number of subdivisions of London and the South East - Central London, Inner London, Outer London, Outer Metropolitan Area and Rest of the South East. These are illustrated and defined in Fig. 1, and in the Appendix of definitions

Publisher: Institute of Transport Studies, University of Leeds
Year: 1985
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