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Review of Transport Accessibility Statistics

10 February 2022
Last updated:
25 April 2022

Executive summary

Why we did this review

Accessible transport describes a transport network which allows all users equal opportunity to travel when they want, where they want, how they want, at a price they can afford.  

Accessible transport is a key part of having an equal society. Statistics on the topic should reflect this importance. In our early research for this review, we heard concerns from statistics users that statistics are not adequately reflecting the lived experiences of those who rely on transport to be accessible, nor are they useful to those who want to better understand whether the transport network is meeting the needs of users. 

The responsibility for producing official statistics on transport topics is largely devolved to each of the four nations. This review comes at an important time for transport strategies across the UK. All countries in Great Britain have national strategies for transport which include elements of improving accessibility. Northern Ireland is developing a disability strategy which touches on transport.   

This review was wide-ranging, cutting across many different areas related to statistics about the accessibility of transport. We invited a broad range of organisations to meet with us. We met with statistics users, which included disabled people’s organisations, charities, and independent accessibility committees, and also statistics producers and policy makers. We reviewed statistics from the four nations of the UK to understand what questions are asked about the accessibility of transport and how disability is recorded. Alongside this, we identified sources of administrative data and a wide range of sources of data collected by charities and other non-government organisations. 

What we found  

Whilst many statistics on transport and transport use are well developed, we found that existing official statistics are not fully answering the key questions of those with an interest in the accessibility of transport networks. Across the UK we found differences in the availability of statistics on the accessibility of transport, however many of the concerns and issues in the statistics are common across the UK. We identified examples where statistics have been well developed to meet users’ needs. These are highlighted throughout the report, including in the case study boxes.  

We found five key issues with statistics and data on transport accessibility namely: 

1. Statistics, data and analysis could better reflect the lived experience of disabled people to support a focus on removing barriers to access  

There are many reasons why individuals are not able to access transport in the way they would like. The most mentioned accessibility issues we heard related to the barriers faced by disabled people.   

We heard that there is often inconsistency in the use of questions to identify disabled people and to collect data about specific impairments. This can make it difficult to understand the barriers faced by specific groups, plan improvements, and tell a coherent story when bringing different sources of data together. Even where impairment specific data are collected, small sample sizes can limit what data are published.  

Statistics are largely focused on measuring constituent parts of the transport experience, such as the number of accessible buses, rather than capturing entire journeys. This is significant, as the connections between legs of journeys often pose significant challenges to disabled people. As these are not routinely captured, statistics producers are unable to quantify how many opportunities people have missed out on due to failures or barriers in the transport network as a whole.  

2. A fully inclusive statistical approach is needed to ensure everyone is counted and better decisions are made  

Across a wide range of policy areas, including transport, disabled people are systematically excluded from statistics which are based on surveys. The reasons for this are varied. Some individuals live in establishments such as care homes that are not included in samples based on households. Many survey questionnaires have not been adapted to enable completion by those with some disabilities.  

The National Statistician established the UK Statistics Authority’s Inclusive Data Taskforce in October 2020 to understand how improvements could be made to the UK’s inclusive data holdings across a broad range of areas. The taskforce has published recommendations aimed at ensuring everyone is visible in statistics.  These include recommendations related to the systematic exclusion of some groups from household surveys.  

3. Publishing more statistics, data and analysis could help identify areas for improvement to the accessibility of transport   

After the barriers faced by disabled people, the next three most common barriers to travel we heard about in our research were affordability, safety and journey times. We found that there was scope for more data to be made available as, in some cases, data are being produced by statistics producers but not published or used for analysis. Data associated with railcards is one such example. 

We heard concerns about a lack of information in crime statistics about physical abuse and hate crimes on public transport, particularly towards disabled people. We found that some statistics do exist, but generally only at a high level and with limited detail, meaning it can be difficult to get a coherent understanding of what is happening.        

4. Bringing data and statistics together helps present a coherent story and supports users to answer questions about accessible transport  

We found that both qualitative and quantitative data are needed to understand the experiences of those accessing transport. When qualitative and quantitative data are brought together, they can help to paint an insightful and engaging picture. 

Some statistics users are not aware of the extent of available data and statistics, suggesting that engagement with users could be improved and existing publications could be promoted more. We also found that once users had identified the relevant statistics, data or analysis, many publications provide only a snapshot of experiences, making it difficult to understand how these are changing over time.  

5. Publishing data enables the impact of strategies to be evaluated and improvements to accessibility to be identified 

The development and publication of Government strategies offers a significant opportunity for departments to develop new surveys and other data sources.

In England, we welcome the recent publication by the Department for Transport of the evaluation baseline report and scorecard for the Inclusive Transport Strategy. We are concerned it has taken more than three years following the publication of the strategy for baseline data to be produced, although we recognise some of the delay was unavoidable due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

In Wales, we note there is very limited data about the travel experience of disabled and older people, but welcome the work underway to develop data to support the Wales Transport Strategy’s evaluation framework, including plans to introduce a new National Travel Survey for Wales.  

In Scotland, we welcome the development and publication of new analysis of the experience of disabled travellers based on the Scottish Household Survey. However, we are concerned that, whilst many of the identified metrics are now produced, baseline data and updates have not been published together in one place to allow the impact of the Accessible Travel Framework to be easily monitored. We welcome plans set out in the Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy for the National Transport Strategy 2 on how the strategy will be evaluated, drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data. 

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Infrastructure are developing a new Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan. An Executive Disability Strategy is currently also under development, led by the Department for Communities. Monitoring and reporting arrangements for the Strategy are to be confirmed and proposed arrangements will form part of the public consultation on the draft Strategy.   

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Our recommendations

We have identified the following recommendations for producers of transport statistics.   

  1. Develop statistics which reflect the lived experience of disabled people to support a focus on removing barriers to access

1.1 As part of their development of a new survey of disabled people exploring barriers to social participation, the Cabinet Office Disability Unit should produce statistics exploring the reasons why disabled people are unable to access transport as much as they would like, including around confidence to travel, and the issues faced between legs of journeys including experiences of changing between transport modes.

1.2 During the development of their new public transport statistics report, the Department for Infrastructure should explore ways to produce statistics about the accessibility of buses and coaches for those with a wide of range of accessibility issues, for example through passenger experience surveys.

1.3 During the development of the new National Travel Survey for Wales, Transport for Wales should review their sampling frame and questionnaire to ensure it follows best practice on reflecting lived experience.

1.4 All producers should ensure they use the current relevant harmonised questions (long lasting health conditions and illness, activity restriction, and impairments), or more granular questions which are compatible with the harmonised standards, and should keep informed of ONS developments of new measures of disability. Producers should be prepared to trial or implement new harmonised questions when available from the GSS Harmonisation Team.

1.5 As part of their work to develop new harmonised standards, the GSS Harmonisation Team should develop high level groupings to enable publication to data that represent different experiences – for example high level barrier groupings, and/or high-level impairment groupings such as visible/invisible impairment, or mobility/cognitive/sensory.  

  1. Develop fully inclusive statistical approaches to ensure everyone is counted

2.1 The Inclusive Data Taskforce set out recommendations to support producers to be more inclusive with their data. Producers should put in place plans to deliver relevant recommendations, for example those under Principle 1 to ‘create an environment of trust and trustworthiness which allows and encourages everyone to count and be counted in UK data and evidence’ and recommendation 3.7 to evaluate the coverage of non-private household population groups in UK data and take the necessary action to address those missing from the current data. Further details in Annex C.

2.2 To support the delivery of this recommendation, the GSS should develop guidance around ensuring surveys can be completed by those with disabilities. Producers should ensure their collection methods and outputs reflect best practice guidance.

  1. Publish more statistics, data and analysis to help identify areas for improvements to the accessibility of transport

3.1 Following the current audit of station accessibility being led by the Department for Transport, the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail and Road should work together to publish, and regularly update, statistics about the accessibility of train stations across GB, covering accessible infrastructure to support those with different types of disabilities (such as step free access for those with mobility impairments) and geographical breakdowns.

3.2 The Department for Transport should explore whether new or existing data (for example the English National Travel Survey) can be used to fill data gaps highlighted in the report, for example around community and coach travel.

3.3 Transport Scotland and Transport for Wales should publish internal analysis on journey times, and seek user engagement on what else is needed to support local understanding and policy development.

3.4 Office of Rail and Road should work with the Department for Transport and the Rail Delivery Group to develop a publication about the use and impact of railcards, drawing on data from Rail Delivery Group and other sources, such as the English National Travel Survey.

3.5 All statistics producers should explore where further demographic breakdowns of survey data provide new insights into the experiences of different population groups, and publish data where this could be of interest to users. For example, new urban-rural splits of national figures, and more age breakdowns, such as focussing on the experiences of younger adults.  

  1. Bring data and statistics together into one place, to tell a coherent story and support users answer questions about accessible transport

4.1 All producers should improve their user engagement and awareness of user needs, particularly in light of the GSS User Engagement Strategy, to improve awareness of their statistics, and ensure that they are continuing to develop their outputs to meet users’ requirements.

4.2 Statistics producers in policy departments should support users to find and interpret relevant statistics about the accessibility of transport in their devolved administration. For example:

      • Welsh Government could develop a new publication drawing on the available data about the accessibility of transport specific to Wales, including Census 2021 data to set out relevant demographics and the new data sources mentioned within this report.
      • The Department for Infrastructure could ensure that its new statistics publication on public transport includes, or signposts users towards, available data about the accessibility of transport specific to Northern Ireland, including Census 2021 data about relevant demographics and the new data sources mentioned within this report.
      • Transport Scotland could continue to develop their Disability and Transport publication to ensure it supports Government and the public to monitor whether the National Transport Strategy and Accessible Travel Framework are achieving their desired outcomes, introducing time series data and drawing on other sources of data where already available.
  1. Publish data to enable the impact of strategies to be evaluated and improvements to accessibility identified

5.1 Policy departments should draw on the expertise of statisticians, and other analytical professionals, to be clear with users about how they, and the public, will be able to evaluate the short-term and long-term impacts of their transport strategies.

5.2 Statistics producers in policy departments should publish data, metrics and statistics which support the evaluation of strategies in accessible formats to enable those with an interest to carry out their own analysis, and track progress over time. 

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