Transport statistics GB 2013

The DfT’s annual compendium of transport statistics is a treasure trove for number crunchers. John W E Helm investigates.

Hidden behind some of the more sensational grabbing headlines fronting the latest 2013 DFT Transport Statistics GB, comes the stark and grim reminder that government expenditure on UK transport has now declined for four consecutive years: It currently stands at £19.3bn, and is well down from the £23bn (at outturn, not 2012/3 prices) of the 2009/10 peak year.

These cuts affect both capital and current (revenue) expenditure, and they apply to the whole of the UK (including Northern Ireland), and not just Great Britain. Treasury figures show that the national road sector has been hardest hit, with expenditure down 31.8%, followed by local roads (16.3%), local public transport (12.5%) and railways (11.9%) since 2009/10. The remaining sector (other transport) actually recorded a sight increase (1.3%).

The statistics also show how these five sectors make up the national expenditure pot with: railways (35%), local roads (26%), local public transport (18%), national roads (15%) and other transport (6%).

Now for some of the details:


Farebox receipts from fare paying passengers only covers slightly more than half the total estimated bus operating revenue in England, according to TSGB. During the financial year 2011/2, this was computed at £5.514bn, of which £3.059bn (55.5%) came from passenger receipts, with the balance from publically-funded sources: namely, contracted service grants, £1.009bn (18.3%); concessionary travel payments, £1.010bn (18.3%); and BSOG, £0.437bn (7.9%).

This pattern was broadly repeated throughout the England, with London, the metropolitan, and the non metropolitan areas turning in similar farebox ratios (of just over half the proceeds).  However, London was found to be far more dependent on tendered or contracted services (accounting for 26.5% of its total revenue), and far less dependent on concessionary agreements (accounting for 10.7%) than the areas outside. In the English non metropolitan areas, for instance, these ratios were nearly reversed, amounting to 16.0% and 22.3% respectively.

Public support, however, is being pruned. Bus Service Operators’ Grant (BSOG) in England has been cut back from £463m in the peak 2008/09 year by 25.5% to £345m in 2012/13. Likewise, gross public transport support grants are down 27% to £1.009bn in 2011/2 (the latest figures) from a £1.383bn high in 2008/9, and concessionary payments are also being affected, but less severely, down 3.1% in 2012/3 to £1.010bn, from £1.042bn in 2011/2.

(These figures refer to England only. There is no comparable financial breakdown in TSGB for Scotland and Wales).

Annual bus passenger journey numbers increased 10.8% from 4.632 billion in 2004/5 (the last year when comparable records are available) to 5.130 billion in 2012/3, but annual local bus mileage fell 3.4% from 1.623 billion to 1.572 billion during the same period. However, these results mask wide regional variations, and are distorted by the London factor. Passenger journey numbers in the capital rose, for instance, in every year (bar one) by 28.5% since 2004/5, whereas numbers fell elsewhere (after increasing initially), as was the case with the English metropolitan areas (down 6.3%), Scotland (down 8.0%) and Wales (down 11.4%), or rose less sharply, as in the case of the English non-metropolitan areas (up 8.9%). There were similar variations with the bus mileage figures. Apart from London (up 3.4%), the four other areas recorded decreases, the worst cases being Wales (down 11.1%) and Scotland (down 9.0%).

Between 2004/5 and 2012/3, the GB commercial bus mileage (excluding London) dropped 3.3% from 1.047 billion to 1.012 billion, and the corresponding figure for local authority supported mileage fell 8.8% from 0.284 billion to 0.259 billion miles.

Roads, vehicles & accidents

Traffic forecasts quoted by TSGB envisage a 43% increase in traffic volumes between 2010 and 2040 (two wheeled vehicles excluded). The highest growth area is expected in light goods vehicles (of 3½ tons weight or under) with a projected 80% increase in numbers, but buses & coaches get the lowest rating and are only expected to increase by 1%.

Road expenditure in England amounted to £7.132bn in 2011/2, of which £1.868.6bn went on motorway and trunk road construction and maintenance, and a further £0.371bn was spent on motorway DFBO (design, build, finance & operate) service payments to contractors.

The number of licensed road vehicles continues to increase and stood at 34.5m in 2012, including 28.7 million private cars. The number of HGVs, however, continues to drop and now stands at 461,000 (as against a 511,000 peak in 2007).

In 1994, petrol engines powered 93% of all (UK) cars. Now that proportion is around two-thirds, with diesel accounting for most of the rest. Alternative fuels are now beginning to make inroads: Hybrid/electric cars are up from 82,100 (2010), to 102,000 (2011), and 125,000 (2012), with electric cars also coming along, from 1,500 to 2,600 and 4,100 over the same period.

TSGB says that 25% of households are without cars or vans. London has the highest proportion (with 45%), and the southeast the lowest (at 16%). At the other extreme, 31% of households have two or more cars, with almost exactly opposite regional distribution with the southeast (with 40%), and London (at 16%).

Road casualties continue to decline: In 2012, there were 1,754 fatalities and 194,000 injuries (of which around 23,000 were serious). Fatalities fell below 2,000 for the first time in 2010, below 3,000 in 2007, and below 4,000 in 1993, down from a post war peak of 7,985 in 1966.

Of the 1,754 fatalities recorded in 2012, the four largest categories were motorists (801), pedestrians (420), motorcyclists (328) and pedal cyclists (118).

Expressed in terms of fatality rate per mode per billion passenger kilometre for the period 2003-12, motorcyclists come out top with 93, followed by pedestrians (31), pedal cyclists (27), cars (2), vans (1), with buses, coaches, planes and trains each scoring a negligible nought.

Globally, the UK compares favourably: (provisional) 2012 international road deaths by per million population size  records a GB figure of 28, with only Northern Ireland (26) and Malta (22) scoring lower. The three worst offenders are cited as South Korea (110), the United States (108) and Lithuania (100).


The oft-quoted statement that passenger journey numbers ‘have more than doubled from more since privatisation,’ should be tempered with a bit of scepticism. Indeed, they have risen from 735 million in 1994/95 to 1,503 million in 2012/13; however, since privatisation single journeys involving two or three different trains, are regarded as two or three different journeys, and not as a single one as would have been in the case in British Rail days. So a considerable element of double/multiple counting exists in figures quoted.

Government financial support for the national network has grown for the third consecutive year and is now £5.060bn (2012/13), though this is still well below the 2006/07 peak year of £7.278bn (2012/3 prices).

The direct rail grant to Network Rail for 2012/13 increased to £3.780bn (2011/12, £3.745bn), the £164m PTE grant is down (2011/12, £214m), and the government now receives more from the franchised operators than it pays out in subsidises, premiums having risen to a record £420m (2011/12, £131m). However, the main news is that ‘other government support’ – the catch all term for DfT support for the British Transport Police, rail pensions, Passenger Focus, the Rail Heritage Committee, and the rump of what is left of British Rail – has more than doubled to a staggering £1.536bn (2011/12, 0.708bn).

TSGB says that the average age of passenger rolling stock (in all categories) has increased every year from 15.13 years in 2007/08 to 18.64 years in 2012/13.

There were 293 fatalities on the network in 2012/13, but these included 238 suicides and 39 trespassers. Only four passengers died (but not in train accidents).

Since privatisation
Since privatisation single journeys involving two or more different trains are regarded as two or three different journeys, not as a single one as would have been the case in BR days.  Trains meet at Reading.

638/Jan 14


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