Leeds Travel to Work Survey 2021 results

The annual Travel to Work Survey explores the work-related travel habits of people in Leeds. We use it to spot trends, monitor changes and plan future transport investment.

Given the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the government guidance to work from home, the survey reveals current travel trends and future commuting intentions.

The return of the commute?

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many people work, with 25% of participants continuing to work from home. While this is lower than in 2020 (35%) it is a significant increase on the historic trend (1.5%).

More than half of those surveyed expect to travel to the office 5 days a week in the future. The rest anticipate a hybrid working pattern, consisting of 4 days (14%), 3 days (16%), 2 days (12%) or 1 day (5%) in the workplace. No participants expect to work from home every day permanently.

Figure 1: Number of Days Staff expect to travel to workplace

During the summer Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed, and in September the furlough scheme ended. As a result, most businesses began to return to pre-pandemic norms.

This influenced the way participants travel to work, with 40% of commuters surveyed driving alone to work at the time of the survey in 2021, a small increase on 2020 proportions (36%) but still lower than pre-Covid-19 levels (43%).

Cycling to the workplace has risen above pre-pandemic levels, with 4.1% of participants travelling by bike. This may reflect government advice to avoid public transport to stop the spread of Covid-19 and measures to support active travel modes. When those working from home are discounted, the results indicate that more than half (53%) of those travelling to the workplace are doing so in a single-occupancy car. Though this is a slight decrease compared to 2020, it is higher than pre-pandemic levels.

All other modes are lower than pre-pandemic modes, with bus and rail journeys for those currently travelling to work markedly down on pre-pandemic levels at 13% and 10% respectively, compared with 16% (bus) and 15% (train) in 2019. 

Car ownership and fuels

Around 15% of responders indicated that they did not own a car, this is lower than the national average of 23%. Of car owners, only 154 participants (1.7%) owned fully electric cars. 78% of participants used petrol or diesel cars, while a further 2.6% owned a hybrid-petrol/diesel variant. As the market for electric/hybrid cars grows and the supporting infrastructure is built, the use of electric and hybrid vehicles is likely to increase.

Conclusion

The results of the Travel to Work Survey 2021 must be considered in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been a huge shift towards working from home, though half of respondents plan to return to the workplace five days a week.

Throughout the pandemic, the government discouraged the use of public transport, and many of the factors that discourage car use, such as congestion and the difficulty and cost of parking, were no longer an issue. Going forward, the challenge will be to rebuild confidence in public transport and encourage those who currently drive to switch or return to sustainable modes

Figure 3: Travel to work modes over the past decade (2011-2021)

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