New research by Transport for the North (TfN) has revealed that 3.3 million people from across the North of England live in areas with a significant risk of transport-related social exclusion (TRSE). Quadrant Transport investigates the research findings and how TfN aims to reduce the risk of TRSE.
TRSE is a complex issue with many potential causes and consequences, but the ultimate result is that people are prevented from participating in the opportunities and communities around them because of poor mobility and connectivity.
TfN, in conjunction with Social Research Associates and Temple, engaged with over 3,000 members of the public and experts from across the North to understand the impacts of the transport system on everyday life.
Following this, TfN developed a data tool to measure the risk of TRSE across England – analysing access to jobs, education, healthcare and key services, and the population’s vulnerability to social exclusion.
TRSE Is Caused By Unrealibility And High Costs
The research estimated that 3.3 million people in the North of England, or 21.3% of the population, live in areas in which there is a relatively high risk of social exclusion because of issues with the transport system.
These areas are widely distributed across the North but are particularly concentrated in former manufacturing and mining communities, coastal areas, and smaller towns and cities.
Quadrant Transport spoke to TfN’s Chief Executive, Martin Tugwell, about the research, who said: “TRSE means being unable to access opportunities, key services, and community life as much as needed, and facing major obstacles in everyday life through the wider impacts of having to travel to access critical destinations.
“These wider impacts include the cost and time entailed in using the transport system and the impacts of stress and anxiety linked with using the transport system. Together, these impacts can contribute to a vicious cycle of poverty, isolation, and poor access to basic services.”
Continuing, Martin revealed that TRSE is caused by the combination of fragmentation, unreliability, and high costs in the public transport system, such as “poor conditions for walking, cycling, and wheeling in car-dominated environments; and the high levels of car dependency that result from this.
“This leads to poor access to key destinations for those primarily dependent on public transport and active travel, alongside forced car ownership, in which households are compelled to have access to a car, despite the costs of car access causing them significant hardship.
“The data analysis presented in our report estimates that 3.3 million people in the North – or 21.3% of the population – live in areas with a high risk of TRSE.”
These are areas in which there is poor access to key destinations by public transport, high levels of car dependency, and significant vulnerability to social exclusion based on socioeconomic and demographic factors.
People With Disabilities Are Affected Majorly By TRSE
The need to reduce transport-related social exclusion is high, and seeing over 3 million people at risk is extremely worrying. TRSE can have a fundamental impact on everyday life, including the ability to access good quality work and education opportunities, key services including health care, as well as leisure, recreation, and community life.
Alongside this, the research demonstrates the need to reduce TRSE in the North and the impacts that are faced by specific population groups. Talking about this, Martin expressed that TRSE has “a disproportionate effect on people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, people with caring responsibilities, and those on low incomes and in insecure work.
Because of this, it reflects and exacerbates wider patterns of social and economic inequality – contributing to financial hardship, poor physical and mental health, and social isolation.
TfN Is Aiming To Reduce TRSE Risk By Improving The Transport System
Martin told Quadrant Transport that reducing the level of TRSE in the North and the impacts faced by specific population groups requires “significant investment in local public transport services.
“These services should be integrated across boundaries and modes, and provide a viable and reliable access to opportunities, key services, and community life for those travelling outside of peak periods and core commuter routes.
“This, along with transforming car-dominated environments to enable active travel, should support a context in which having unconstrained access to a car is not a prerequisite for social inclusion.”
As a sub-national transport body, TfN’s role is to set a vision for the transport system, and to provide statutory advice on planning and priorities for large scale transport investment.
Martin ended by revealing that TfN is currently developing a Socially Inclusive Transport Strategy which will set out how it will continue to develop evidence and raise the profile on the issue, and how TfN will work with local authorities and other stakeholders to address TRSE. This strategy is expected to be published in 2023.