Environmental Audit Committee's new inquiry follows the Social Exclusion Unit’s Making the Connections report from 2003 and the Transport Studies Unit’s recent work, examining how public services planning reflects people’s ability to get access to those services. It will examine, in the context of the transport infrastructure people need, whether Government policy is ensuring that they can get access to key services.
Quote from the Chair
Chair of the Environment Audit Committee, Joan Walley MP said:
"It has been nearly a decade since a ground breaking Government report found that problems with transport provision and the location of services can reinforce social exclusion by preventing people from accessing key local services or activities, such as jobs, learning, healthcare, food shopping or leisure. Recent Government statistics found that the number of people that could access these services still varied between regions and between urban and rural areas. Against a background of Government funding cuts and increases in public transport fares, our inquiry will look at whether this agenda has been sidelined and whether the Government now needs to step in to ensure that health, welfare, education and planning policies play closer attention to how people get to the services they need. Accessibility should not be seen as just a transport problem anymore."
Purpose of the inquiry
The inquiry will specifically examine:
- How are the Government’s current transport policies affecting the accessibility of public services (i.e. whether people get to key services at reasonable cost, in reasonable time and with reasonable ease)?
- Are other policies (such as planning, education, health, welfare and work etc) adversely affecting the accessibility of public services and the environment? Do decisions on the location of public services adequately reflect available public transport infrastructure and the environmental footprint of the transport needed to access them? How significant are any adverse impacts for accessibility and the environment?
- Is the Government’s current approach of requiring the accessibility of public services to be reflected in local transport plans working? How effective is the Department for Transport in furthering the accessibility agenda?
- How should the transport-related accessibility of public services be measured? How can decision-making in government better reflect ‘social’ and accessibility impacts, alongside environmental and other considerations? Do social and accessibility concerns conflict with environmental considerations? Would a measure of the transport accessibility of key public services, in a similar manner as ‘fuel poverty’, be useful for policy-making (and if so, how should it be defined?)
- The impact of broadband networks and the Internet in mitigating the need for transport infrastructure to access public services.
The Committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit written evidence, setting out their views on these issues. More wide ranging responses are also welcome. Submissions should ideally be sent to the Committee by 7 September although later submissions may be accepted. Guidance on preparing submissions is set out below.
The Department for Transport has published annual accessibility statistics since 2007. Data for 2010 show that the proportion of people able to access key services by public transport/walking in a ‘reasonable’ time was highest for employment centres (82%) and the lowest was to hospitals (31%). A greater proportion of the ‘urban population’ could access key services in a ‘reasonable time’ than the ‘rural population’. Accessibility also varied by region.
A report in 2003 by the then Social Exclusion Unit found that problems with transport provision and the location of services can reinforce social exclusion by preventing people from accessing key local services or activities, such as jobs, learning, healthcare, food shopping or leisure. The report was mainly concerned with the accessibility of local services and activities (i.e. whether people get to key services at reasonable cost, in reasonable time and with reasonable ease) and identified five barriers to accessing services: the availability and physical accessibility of transport, cost of transport, services and activities located in inaccessible places, safety and security, and travel horizons.
The Transport Studies Unit has recently concluded a research project that aimed to “promote interdisciplinary collaboration and capacity building to better equip researchers, policymakers and practitioners to address the social challenges in transport now and in the future within the UK context”. The work identified a number of gaps in understanding of the ‘social impacts’ of transport and urged greater engagement between research and policy-makers in this area. A study by the Campaign for Better Transport found that UK cities are among the most car dependent in Europe.
- See Accessibility Statistics Guidance on DfT’s website (PDF 125.41 KB)
- Social Exclusion Unit, Making the Connections: Final Report on Social Exclusion and Transport, 2003. (PDF 588.51 KB)
- Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council
- Campaign for Better Transport’s website