More than a million Scots at risk of Transport Poverty

Norlil Charlton, 45, is a member of local campaign group the Culbokie Action Group  has lost her local bus service to Inverness
16 October 2017

More than 1 million Scots live in areas which are at risk of transport poverty according to new research released today by Sustrans Scotland. 

The findings found that up to 20% of neighbourhoods studied were at risk of transport poverty occurring. But, rather than being kept to remote parts of Scotland, the areas at higher risk were far more likely to be in accessible small towns (28%) or accessible rural locations (30%).

Titled ‘Transport Poverty In Scotland,’ the Sustrans report has been released at the start of Challenge Poverty Week. The findings are the first of their kind carried out in Scotland, and have been welcomed by the Poverty Alliance, Scottish Urban Regeneration Forum and South East Scotland Regional Transport Partnership. 

Transport Poverty comes from when people don’t have access to essential services or work because of a lack of affordable transport options. 

The research uses data on household income, car availability and access to public transport networks, allocate risk ratings to each Scottish data zone. 

It found that the risk of transport poverty was highest in areas with (relatively) low income, high car availability and low access to essential services by public transport. 

However, of the high risk areas, 61% were places where vital services could be reached by bike in 10 minutes or by foot in half an hour.

Sustrans Scotland National Director, John Lauder said: 

“For many of us, the way we get to the shops, or how we travel to the dentist is something we don’t have to worry about.

“However, for more than 1 million Scots, these every day trips that most of us take for granted, can be the difference between getting support and services they need or going without.

“We need a planning system that puts necessary services where people live. People should be able to access shops, schools, healthcare and some places of work within a short distance without the need for a car. 

“And whilst offering greater and safer opportunities for people to choose to make the same journey by bike, it will offer an alternative to being dependent on a car for some.” 

The findings have been welcomed by partner organisations.  

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said: 

“Supporting real alternatives to reliance on cars would bring economic and health across Scotland. 

“Too many people living on low incomes have inadequate access to public transport, and other forms of transport sometimes seem out of reach. By providing better, more integrated transport solutions we can reduce the pressure of rising costs for families across Scotland.” 

Scotland’s Regeneration Forum (SURF) Chief Executive Andy Milne said:

“There is a strong consensus among our 280 cross-sector member organisations that accessible, efficient and affordable transport infrastructure is a vital component in efforts to improve Scotland’s economically challenged places. 

"This welcome research by Sustrans Scotland indicates that as many as a million people in Scotland could be struggling with poor access to transport in their community. SURF would like to see more research and practical action in support of the closer alignment between transport and community regeneration policy and activity.” 

George Eckton, Partnership Director of South East of Scotland Transport Partnership said: 

“This research from Sustrans is timely and important and shows how vital transport is for inclusive growth. 

“We have highlighted the in-work poverty aspects as well of the reliance on the private car in the absence of an accessible transport networks and in our X-Route report with Sustrans, we have highlighted the issues for the active commuters of the future. 

“We are continuing our work with Young Scot going in Year of Young People 2018, so the data identified in the Sustrans report could be helpful for co-designing with communities’ solutions to their transport needs. 

“We have recently asked Scottish Ministers to place the socio economic duty on us as a public body to better enable us to address transport poverty.”  

Transport Poverty in England

Sustrans first raised awareness of transport poverty five years ago with the publication of its ‘Locked Out’ report, which looked at the issue for people living in England.   

It found that while transport and planning policy has focused on the needs of motorists, nearly half of all households in England could already be struggling with the costs of car ownership.  

The absence of practical alternatives – including inadequate and expensive public transport and hostile walking and cycling environments – was, and still is forcing millions of people to choose between debt and social exclusion.

Read our blog on what we think government needs to do to address transport poverty in Scotland

Find out how we define and calculate transport poverty