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Review of Transport Accessibility Statistics

10 February 2022
Last updated:
25 April 2022


Why we did this review

In April 2021 we began a systemic review to understand whether statistics related to the accessibility of transport are meeting user needs. Accessible transport describes a transport network which allows all users equal opportunity to travel when they want, where they want, how they want, and at a price they can afford.

Accessible transport is a key part of having an equal society, and 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. 

Our vision is that statistics should serve the public good. For statistics to serve the public good they need to provide a reliable evidence base for policy creation and evaluation and be informative for the general public. As the regulator of official statistics in the UK, we are able to independently examine issues which are important to society and make recommendations for the improvement of statistics. This is underpinned by the Code of Practice for Statistics, which advocates the trustworthiness, quality, and value of statistics. We want to ensure that statistics are serving the widest possible range of users, and that the statistics are accessible and able to be understood by anyone with an interest in them.

The statistical system has committed to improving inclusivity in data and statistics. In 2020, the UK Statistics Authority published its strategy Statistics for the Public Good, with a commitment to increasing inclusivity in data, statistics and analysis. Inclusivity in this context means ensuring statistics reflect the experiences of everyone in our society, so that everyone counts, is counted, and no one is forgotten. In 2020, the National Statistician established the Inclusive Data Taskforce to develop recommendations on how to improve the inclusivity of UK data.

This review comes at an important time for transport strategies across the UK. In England, the Department for Transport has published the Inclusive Transport Strategy (November 2020); Transport Scotland has published Going Further: Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework (July 2016) and the National Transport Strategy 2 (December 2020), Wales Transport Strategy 2021 was published by Welsh Government in March 2021 and Northern Ireland are developing a Disability Strategy, which will touch on accessible transport, as part of a larger Social Inclusion Strategy from the Department of Communities. Additionally, the Cabinet Office Disability Unit published the Government’s UK wide National Disability Strategy in July 2021, which intends to improve the everyday lives of disabled people, including the journeys they take. 

It is essential that statistics are available to objectively assess whether these strategies are achieving their aims.

Our review approach 

To carry out this review we developed three research questions which we used as a framework for desk research and interviews with users and producers of statistics.

  • Do the existing statistics reflect the lived experiences of those relying on transport to be accessible?
  • Do the existing statistics help answer the key questions of those with an interest in understanding the accessibility of transport networks?
  • Do the statistics provide a comprehensive and reliable evidence base to inform decision making about improvements to the accessibility of our transport networks?

Importantly, we did not predefine what we meant by “accessibility of transport”, as we wanted to hear from users of data and statistics how they defined this term. We found that it means different things in different contexts and to different people. For some, it refers to transport being accessible to people who require adjustments in order to travel easily, such as disabled people or people with prams or bicycles. For others, accessible transport refers to transport being affordable for the people who want to use it, or it refers to location, for example transport being as accessible in rural locations as it is in urban locations.

We also wanted to understand from users how they defined the “transport network”. We found that this broadly included public transport (vehicles such as buses and trains which operate at regular times on fixed routes for public use), taxi and private hire vehicle services, the road network (including motorway service stations and the provision for bicycles) and pavements. Some users also referred to the transport network as including airplanes and ferries.

As transport is a devolved matter, we reviewed statistics from the four nations of the UK. To reflect this, 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. A full list of the organisations we spoke to as part of this review is provided in Annex A.

In addition to our user engagement, we reviewed transport-related statistical surveys to understand what questions are asked about the accessibility of transport, and how disability is recorded. Alongside this we identified sources of administrative data about the accessibility of transport. Through our stakeholder engagement we identified a wide range of sources of data collected by charities and other non-Government organisations. A full list of the statistics and surveys we reviewed is provided in Annex B. 

The statistical landscape

The responsibility for producing official statistics on transport topics is largely devolved to each of the four nations.

In England, the Department for Transport publishes statistics and draws on data from other organisations, including the Office of Rail and Road and Transport Focus. Their main publication on accessibility, Transport: disability and accessibility statistics, was published for the first time in March 2021, and includes a wide range of statistics.

The Department for Transport published The Inclusive Transport Strategy: Achieving Equal Access for Disabled People in July 2018. A strategy evaluation baseline report and scorecard were published in January 2022, and the Department for Transport has committed to publishing a final evaluation report in 2024. The baseline report and scorecard provide baseline estimates for the evaluation, and reflect the views and experiences of both disabled people and non-disabled people whose experience and usage of transport may be different.

In Scotland, Transport Scotland have produced a new statistics publication on accessible transport: Disability and Transport: Findings from the Scottish Household Survey, published in July 2021.

In July 2016, Transport Scotland published a ten-year strategy to improve travel for disabled people Going Further: Scotland’s Accessible Travel Framework. In February 2020, Transport Scotland published the National Transport Strategy 2 and subsequently a Delivery Plan 2020 to 2022 and a Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy. The Accessible Travel Framework supports the Reducing Inequalities priority within the National Transport Strategy.

In Wales, there is very limited data about the accessibility of transport, and no current household transport survey.

Welsh Government published Llwybr Newydd: The Wales Transport Strategy 2021 in March 2021. This is a 20-year strategy for an accessible, sustainable, and efficient transport system, and outlines the need for a new national travel survey to provide an evaluation framework. The development of the Strategy was supported by research and engagement with industry stakeholders and users, as set out in this background report. Work is underway to develop a new National Travel Survey for Wales.

Data are collected across Great Britain by the Office of Rail and Road, which publishes statistics on Passenger Assistance and Disabled Persons Railcards, and Transport Focus, which publishes statistics more broadly on passenger views and attitudes.

In Northern Ireland, management information data from Translink (the public transport provider), and statistics from the Travel Survey for Northern Ireland about the accessibility of transport, were previously brought together in the Department for Infrastructure’s publication Northern Ireland Transport Statistics. Work is now underway to develop a new Public Transport Statistics report which will include Official Statistics based on Translink data. The Northern Ireland Executive is developing an Outcomes-based Programme for Government, and strategies are being developed which cut across departments to address societal issues. The Department for Communities is leading on the development of four new cross-departmental Social Inclusion Strategies, including a Disability Strategy. This will set the strategic framework within which all departments will seek to address the inclusion of disabled people, for example, influencing the work by the Department for Infrastructure on regional transport planning.

In England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland there are transport accessibility committees who advise the respective government departments on what their priorities are, including data and statistics. The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) in England, the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) and the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (IMTAC) in Northern Ireland consider the needs of disabled people in regard to transport and provide advice to Ministers based on this. The committees also provide advice and support the development of new statistics in this area. In Wales, Transport for Wales has an Accessibility Panel which provides advice on rail services.

Due to limitations in the availability of data, some think tanks, charities and policy officials also commission their own research. For example, Disability Equality Scotland carry out weekly surveys to collect data which can include topics related to transport. These findings may be used by government transport departments to gain insights, but primarily these organisations are commissioning their own research as a means to gain insights which are of interest to their work.

In the case of some charities or Disabled People’s Organisations this often means investigating issues which are most relevant to their members. For example, Guide Dogs have carried out research with blind and partially sighted people on the impact of vehicles parked on pavements.

Such organisations often use qualitative statistical methods, where smaller groups of participants are asked to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or experiences. This is in contrast to the quantitative methods used by government transport departments, which typically involve larger groups of participants completing a survey. Qualitative methods are often favoured because they can provide richer insights. For example, Go Upstream’s Future Journeys Observatory carries out weekly discussions with members about topics related to journeys to gain qualitative insights into the travel priorities, concerns and hopes of disabled people. This is of particular relevance due to changes made to the transport network during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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