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Home-working linked to fall in number of journeys made in England

Published 02/09/2015

The fall in trips was largely due to fewer car journeys, the survey found
The fall in trips was largely due to fewer car journeys, the survey found

The average number of journeys made by people in England each year has reached its lowest recorded level.

Official figures show that the number of trips fell to 921 last year.

This is the lowest level since records began in the 1960s and a reduction of 16% from 1995/97.

The National Travel Survey (NTS), released by the Department for Transport (DfT), found that since the mid-2000s the fall in trips by English residents within Britain had largely been due to fewer car journeys, despite the proportion of households with access to a car remaining roughly unchanged.

The average distance travelled by car had also fallen.

The NTS reported that declining mileage was a factor in the broad levelling off of traffic over the past decade, leading to a debate over whether car use had peaked.

But Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said people were being more careful in managing how much they travelled.

"The failure of much lower pump prices to trigger a revival in car use has been one of the most surprising trends recently," he explained.

"From July to November 2014, the cost of petrol plummeted 10p a litre, saving more than a fiver a tank.

"Rather than encouraging more mileage, petrol consumption fell nearly 2% (from October/December 2013 to the same period last year)."

Since the mid-1990s, trips for shopping, commuting and visiting friends have fallen consistently.

The NTS said one possible explanation for 43 fewer shopping trips being taken last year than in 2002 was the spread of online ordering and home deliveries.

Four in five households ordered goods either online, by telephone or post in 2014, with the most common items being clothes, books, CDs and travel tickets.

The travel survey noted that although some of these purchases may have replaced a shopping trip, in other cases it could result in a new trip to collect the item.

London mayor Boris Johnson has said that commercial vehicles delivering online shopping orders were clogging up the capital's roads and called for measures to reduce their numbers.

He predicted that by 2031 there would be a 20% increase in white van traffic because of internet shopping.

Meanwhile, the NTS said that commuting accounted for 19 fewer trips in 2014 than 12 years earlier.

It also noted that 5% of employed people worked from home last year.

The report concluded: "Overall, the increase of the proportion of people who work from home could be linked to the decrease in commuting trips overall, although the scale of this effect would be likely to be small as home-working still accounts for a small proportion of the employed population."

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "Our habits are changing and while the number of shopping trips we make as individuals are down sharply, light commercial traffic is on the increase as the number of home deliveries grow.

"Across Britain van mileage is rising faster than that by any other vehicle type, up 6% over the past 12 months."

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