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National Travel Survey

Traffic jam

The only annual survey to look at how, why, when and where we travel.

The National Travel Survey is used by the Government to develop its transport policy and make sure transport plans meet England's travel needs.

We conduct the National Travel Survey every year. It is the only national source of information on where, why, how and how far people travel.

Findings

The latest National Travel Survey report was published in September 2021 by the Department for Transport.

How often people travel

People in England made 739 trips on average in 2020, about 14 trips per week each, a reduction of 22% compared with 2019. This reduction is likely to be attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions on travel. The average number of trips per person annually has been steadily declining since 2002 (1,074 in 2002 and 953 in 2019).

How far people travel

The average distance travelled (4,334 miles) was 33% lower than in 2019. Again this significant drop was likely to be due to restrictions on travel and transport use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The average distance (miles) per year travelled by people has also been in decline since 2002 (7,193 miles in 2002 and 6,500 miles in 2019).

How people travel

Most of the trips people made in 2020 were by car, either as a driver or a passenger (58%), or by walking (32%). While the proportion of trips made by car had declined by 3 percentage points in 2020 compared with 2019, walking trips increased by 6 percentage points in 2020. The average number of cycling trips made in 2020 increased to 20 from 16 in 2019, bucking the trend of decline since 2002.

Why people travel

Leisure (23%) and shopping (19%) continue to be the most common trip purposes.

Who is travelling

On average women make more trips than men, but men travel further. This is mostly due to men doing more commuting mileage – this still holds true in 2020 despite changes in commuting behaviour as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Methodology

  • Each year we select a sample of 13,000 household addresses in England. This sample is scientifically chosen to represent the wider population.
  • Everyone living in England has an equal chance of being asked to take part in the survey.
  • We ask everyone living in these households if they will be interviewed and keep a travel diary for one week.
  • We find out what types of transport they use, why they make the trips they do and how they go to work, school and to the shops. The information gathered is then used to help create a national picture of how people travel.
  • A number of changes were introduced to the methodology in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions on social distancing and travel: face-to-face interviewing was halted in March 2020, meaning a gap in data collection with no information collected in April, and a switch to telephone interviewing was introduced in May. The sample was doubled from August onwards to increase the amount of data collected via the telephone approach. More information about the methodology can be found here.

Latest report

View all reports and datasets