London leads the way in modal shift towards public transport

London’s modal shift from private to public transport, cycling and walking continues apace, and is the main theme behind TfL’s latest Travel in London 6 publication. The 250 page document – which reflects the 2012 calendar year and the 2012/13 financial year – says journey stages in the capital by private transport have declined from 46% in 1993 to 33% in 2012, whereas those made by public transport have increased from 30% to 44% during the same period. John W E Helm looks at the trends.

Rail (London Underground, London Overground, the Docklands light Railway and National Rail) has been a consistently good performer; bus patronage is high, but has levelled off; cycling is on the increase; and walking presents mixed results (depending on how it is measured).

A main driver has been population growth: London’s population declined from around 8 million in 1960 to 6.7 million by 1988, but has since steadily grown to the current 8.2 million mark.  Future projections envisage this will increase to 9.8 million in 2034, and 10.4 million in 2041.

This population growth will have enormous implications for the future of transport: If current patterns persist, an extra 5 million trips per day will be generated between 2011 and 2031 (on top of the current daily tally of 26 million).

TfL used surveys from a variety of sources, and employs two distinct categories to analyse travel volumes: ‘trips’ represent the number of one way movements between the origin and destination points for each specific journey; while  ‘journey stages’ refers to the component parts of each ‘trip’, including any different modes of transport used.

The last 20 years has witnessed changes in usage patterns to both:

Millions of trips

Year Rail LU/DLR Bus/Tram Taxi/PHV Car driver Car passenger Motor cycle Cycle Walk All modes
1993 1.3 1.4 2.1 0.3 6.6 3.6 0.2 0.3 5.2 20.8
2000 1.7 2.0 2.4 0.3 6.8 3.6 0.2 0.3 5.4 22.6
2010 2.3 2.1 4.0 0.3 6.1 3.7 0.2 0.5 6.1 25.3
2011 2.4 2.2 4.1 0.3 5.9 3.7 0.2 0.5 6.2 25.5
2012 2.6 2.4 4.1 0.3 5.9 3.7 0.2 0.5 6.3 25.9


These figures include all originating, or terminating (or both types of) trips in Greater London by residents and non residents, including commuters and tourists.

Millions of journey stages

Year Rail LU DLR Bus/Tram Taxi/PHV Car driver Car passenger Motor cycle Cycle Walk All modes
1993 1.4 2.0 3.1 0.3 6.8 3.7 0.2 0.3 5.2 23.0
2000 1.8 2.6 0.1 3.7 0.4 7.0 3.8 0.2 0.3 5.4 25.3
2010 2.5 3.0 0.2 6.3 0.3 6.3 3.8 0.2 0.5 6.1 29.3
2011 2.7 3.2 0.2 6.4 0.4 6.1 3.9 0.2 0.6 6.2 29.9
2012 2.9 3.3 0.3 6.5 0.4 6.0 3.9 0.2 0.6 6.3 30.3


(Note – due to revision in methodologies, the pre-2007 figures were compiled on a slightly different basis; also, the walk column in latter table only refers to complete all the way trips, which is why the figures are the same on both tables).

Modal split, daily journey stages, showing percentages, 2012
Modal split, daily journey stages, showing percentages, 2012
Different growth rates by different modes
Different growth rates by different modes

London Underground (LU): With 1.229 billion journey stages in 2012/13, and 5% up on the previous year, (2011/12, 1.171 billion), LU has achieved the highest figure yet recorded. Passenger kilometres were also up 6.1% on the previous year, from 9.519 billion passenger kilometres to 10.099 billion passenger kilometres.

Reliability has also increased, and so has the train kilometre-age. In 2000/01, 69.6 million train kilometres were scheduled, of which 64 million kilometres actually run (or 91.6%). By 2012/13, both totals had risen sharply, with 76 operational million train kilometres out of a scheduled 77.5 million train kilometres run (or 97.6%).This is the highest recorded yet this century, and the third consecutive year improvement.

Docklands Light Railway (DLR): Since opening in 1987, the DLR network has continued to expand, which makes historical parallels a bit more problematical. The system was extended to Lewisham (1999), City Airport (2005), Woolwich Arsenal (2009), and more recently to Stratford International (2011). Since 2000/01, passenger kilometres have increased on average by 10% per annum, and journey stages by 9.6% pa. DLR journey stages in 2012/13 rose 16.3% to 100 million, but this figure was masked by the Olympics factor, and the latest extensions.

Reliability (percentage of scheduled trains actually run) has been consistently high: 98.2% (2000/01), 98.5% (2012/13), but not quite as impressive as the 99.2% recorded in the peak year (2006/07). Punctuality is also high (though undefined) with 2012/13 recording the highest so far (98.8%).

In 2012/13, DLR also recorded the highest percentage yearly capacity increase (of any mode), largely due to the substitution of three for two car units. Measured in terms of million place-kilometres (which includes an allowance for standing as well as the number of seats), DLR boasted a 25.7% increase in million place-kilometres (from 2,635 to 3,311), as against LU’s 2.6%, Tramlink’s 7.0%, and London Buses, which fell by 0.6%.

National Rail: The TOCs operating in the ORR designated London & South East (L&SE) area have turned in strong growth figures for well over a decade now: Passenger kilometres increased in every year (except one) from 17.1 billion in 1998/99 to 27.4 billion in 2012/13, a 60.2% rise; and passenger journeys have increased in every year (except two) from 616 million to 1,033 million during the same period, up 67.7%.

National Rail (and London Overground) combine punctuality and reliability to produce a single unit of measurement – the PPM (Public Performance Measure). For the L&SE area, a train is said to be ‘on time’ if it arrives no later than five minutes of its scheduled destination arrival time. The results show a general upward improvement, but mask wide variations between operators. The collective PPM has increased from 78% in 2000/01 to 91.0% in 2012/13, though this is slightly down on the 91.7% recorded in 2011/1.

C2C (the London, Tilbury & Southend franchised operator) scored the highest individual PPM with 97% in 2012/13, while London Midland came bottom with 86%.

Crowding (or rather overcrowding) is measured by the PIXC (Passenger in Excess Capacity) yardstick, which divides the number of train passengers by the number of seats (and sometimes standing areas as well) by 100 to produce a benchmark figure. The current limit is less than 5%, and the L&SE average is around 4%.

However, this figure also masks wide variations, and First Great Western has been by far the worst offender for the last three years – with over 18% (2010/11); over 10% (2011/12); and over 9% (2012/3). Conversely, First Capital Connect, London Midland and Southeastern produced the best PIXC results for 2012/13, each with less than 2%.

London Overground (LO): 2008/09 was the first operational year for LO. Like the DLR, the system is being continually expanded which makes comparisons with previous years difficult. Passenger kilometres increased 21.0% from 645 million in 2011/12 to 780 million in 2012/13, while passenger journey stages increased 21.5% from 102.6 million to 124.6 million. About 10% of this growth has been attributed to the opening of the Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction service in December 2012. LO also turned in the second best L&SE PPM 2012/13 score with 96.6%.

Buses: The downward trend in bus patronage was successfully reversed during the late 1990s. Between 2000/01 and 2012/13, bus journey stages increased by 56.8%, and passenger kilometres by 70.5%, but now appears to be levelling off. Bus passenger kilometres, for example, only increased 0.5% between 2011/12 and 2012/13 (from 8.219 billion to 8.258 billion), while bus journey stages actually fell 0.4% from 2.344 billion to 2.335 billion (partly due to easing the rate of service provision).

Both bus reliability and kilometre-age have increased:  In 2000/01, 365 million bus kilometres were run out of the 383 million kilometres scheduled, giving an availability statistic of 95.3%.  By 2012/13 this had risen to 97.6%, the respective figures being 490 million out of 503 million.  Traffic congestion is the main reason for the loss of scheduled mileage.

Average waiting time for high frequency services (with five or more buses per hour) has been cut from 6.8 minutes in 2000/01 to 5.9 minutes in 2012/13; Punctuality of low frequency services (with less than five buses per hour) improved from 67.7% in 2000/01 to 83.6% in 2012/13. (‘On time’ is defined as being between 2½ minutes before and 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time).

Tramlink: London Tramlink became operational in 2000. Since 2001/02, passenger journey stages have grown by 61%, passenger kilometres by 63%, and tram kilometres by 20%. However, reliability although now high at 97.3%, is lower than in every previous years bar one.

Road Traffic: Central London has seen the largest reduction in motor vehicle kilometres since 2000 (down 22.8%). 2013 levels are also well down in Inner London (by 16.1%), Outer London (by 8.1%), and all Greater London roads (by 10.9%). This compares with a 4.5% national (GB) increase during the same period, though this trend is now downward also.

Average traffic speeds (both peak and off peak) have remained stable over the last six years: Outer London (around 30/35 km per hour); Inner London (around 20 km per hour); and Central London – which is not the same as the charging zone – (around 15 km per hour).

The number of non car-owning households in London marginally increased from 41.8% in 2006/07 to 43.2% in 2012/13, as against the 25% average for the rest of the country. The private car/van accounts for 64% of the number of trips nationally, compared to 36% of those made in London.

2013 saw a 4% decrease in the number of licensed taxis and a 7.6% drop in private hire vehicles(phvs) – probably due to older vehicles being phased out – though the number of drivers in both categories has slightly increased.

Cycling: The trend is upward but slowing down.  The number of daily cycle stages increased from 290,000 in 2000 to 580,000 in 2012; and the number of daily cycle trips rose from 270,000 to 500,000 during the same period.

TfL monitors cycle traffic through using automatic cycle counters. Up to 2000, cycling levels remained constant then started to rise. Between 2000/01 and 2012/13, annual cycle flows increased 176%, but the last three years has seen this tapering out with increases whittled down to 15%, 9% and just 1.4%, respectively. A number of factors could be responsible for this, including the holding back of cycling infrastructure projects due to the 2012 Olympics.

TfL has also produced evidence to support its assertion that cycling patterns are affected by seasonal variations, daily average temperatures, and to a lesser extent, rainfall.

Walking:  As a means of travel, walking includes walk all the way ‘trips’ on foot, and walk journey ‘stages’, where the walking is usually done to catch another form of transport (usually to or from the home or other place, to the nearest tube, train or bus stop/ station, at the originating or terminating point).

An in depth analysis by the London Travel Demand Survey (LTDS) covering the period 2006/07 – 2012/13 found significant differences between both types of walk journeys.

The survey – confined to a sample of London residents – discerned that the number of walking trips remained relatively constant over the last seven years, and estimated at around 6.4 million trips per day, of which over two-thirds were over five minutes.

In contrast, walking stages appear to have increased. LTDS says that the number of daily trips involving at least one walking stage of more than five minutes increased from around 2.8 million trips in 2006/07 to 4.3 million trips in 2012/13. Also, that the number of daily walking stages of more than five minutes (as part of a trip involving another transport mode)  increased by 2.2 million over the last seven years to around 5.7 million in 2012/13. More significantly, however, is that this growth has outpaced that of public transport.

Intermediate walk stages at interchange points, eg between bus stops, or between rail and bus, tend to be much shorter than five minutes and were excluded from the study.

639/Jan 14

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