Access to transport

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • People living in rural areas are much more likely to find public transport inconvenient than those living in either small towns or urban areas: around a third compared with less than a tenth.
  • In rural areas, the most common reason for not using public transport is the lack of a service, with around half of the population in the most remote rural areas citing this as a reason.  In urban areas, a common reason is that it takes too long, with around two-fifths citing this as a reason for not using public transport.
  • In view of the problems with transport provision in rural areas, car ownership is often seen to be a necessity for access to employment and services. 1 However, car ownership is far from universal in rural areas.  In accessible, remote and very remote rural areas, around 20% of households do not have access to a car.  The same proportion do not possess a driving licence. 2

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the proportion of people who found public transport either fairly or very inconvenient.

The results are broken down into a six category ‘urban-rural hierarchy’ stretching from the four cities at one end to remote rural areas at the other.  The definitions are: ‘the four cities’: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen; ‘other urban’: population between 10,000 and 125,000; ‘small accessible’: population between 3,000 to 10,000 and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of more than 10,000; ‘small remote’: population between 3,000 to 10,000 and more than 30 minutes drive of a settlement of more than 10,000; ‘accessible rural’: population less than 3,000 and within 30 minutes drive of a settlement of more than 10,000; and ‘remote rural’: population less than 3,000 and more than 30 minutes drive of a settlement of more than 10,000.

This choice of breakdown reflects the recognition that inadequate public transport has received within the Scottish Government as one of the major causes of social exclusion within rural communities,

The second graph shows the relative importance of selected reasons given by people for being non-users of public transport, namely because the service takes too long or because of a lack of a service.  These reasons were selected from a wider selection on the basis that they showed the greatest difference between urban and rural areas.  The precise question asked was ‘would it be possible for you to use public transport for the journey to and from work/school/college/university?’.  Those that answered ‘no’ were then asked for the reasons it was not possible to use public transport, and those that answered ‘yes’ were asked for the reasons they did not use public transport.

The data is again broken down by the six category urban-rural hierarchy.

The data source for both graphs is the Scottish Household Survey (SHS).  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  The SHS is a large government survey designed to be representative of private households and of the adult population in private households in Scotland.  However, the results for 2005 and 2006 in the first graph are very different from those for earlier years, for no obvious reason, thus raising some doubts about the quality of the data.

External links

1. Poverty and social Exclusion in rural Scotland. A report by the Rural Poverty and Inclusion Working Group, Scottish Government, 2001, page 11. 
2. Scottish Household Survey bulletin 6, Scottish Executive, 2001, tables 36 and 37.