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Transport

Introduction

The ways in which places and transport are planned influence people's living, working and travel patterns; their access to job, goods, services and social network; and their propensity to be physically active. A number of factors contribute to the ways in which people travel to, from and around Reading, including whether they feel safe to walk and cycle, how well public transport meets their needs, the availability of parking and the capacity of the road network. A higher proportion of working age people in Reading walk or cycle to work than elsewhere and walking is the dominant method of travel into and out of the town centre. However, as elsewhere, the largest proportion of commuters still travels by car or van. Barriers to active travel, such as busy roads, complex junctions and 'severance' of pedestrian routes (by rivers or railways, for example) may affect willingness to walk or cycle. Developments to walking and cycling routes and improvements in safety are likely to enable people in Reading to walk and cycle more, thereby increasing the amount of regular physical activity they take and helping to improve their health. 

What do we know?

A number of factors contribute to the ways in which people travel to, from and around Reading, including whether they feel safe to walk and cycle, how well public transport meets their needs, the availability of parking and the capacity of the road network.

Some of the key characteristics of transport infrastructure, patterns of use and challenges in Reading are as follows (details from Reading's Local Transport Plan 2011-2026 (LTP3)):

  • The M4 motorway is a key route in the Thames Valley and South East and runs east to west just south of the borough, with three junctions offering access to the urban area. The M4 carries large volumes of traffic and can experience severe congestion in peak periods. Within Reading, traffic congestion occurs on a number of radial routes and in Central Reading on the Inner Distribution Road (IDR). 
     
  • Reading is one of the UK's busiest rail stations and caters for around 14 million passengers every year. Reading is the only railway station where as many people arrive as leave in the peak hours, indicating its importance to both local employers and residents. 
     
  • Walking is the dominant method of travel into and out of central Reading, but the number of pedestrian movements is significantly lower outside of the central area. People are deterred from walking by infrastructure obstacles such as major roads, railway lines and rivers. 
     
  • Reading Borough Council has a Cycling Strategy, which, in line with national strategy, sets out to increase sustainability in local transport by encouraging people to cycle to work, for leisure and for everyday journeys. The local strategy describes plans to: bridge gaps to infrastructural barriers such as the river and railway; provide greater access to cycle hire and cycle parking facilities; and positively promote the benefits of cycling in a compact urban centre. Despite increases in numbers of cycle journeys, issues such as heavy traffic, complex junctions, route surfaces, lighting and cycle parking continue to deter people from cycling. 
     
  • Reading has a comprehensive bus network with extensively upgraded services. Buses are high quality, frequent, and tracked by satellite technology. Nonetheless the network still suffers from some congestion and delays, particularly in peak times. Reading has the highest use of 'PlusBus' tickets, allowing passengers to interchange directly between train and bus journeys. Major flows from train to bus are to the University of Reading, the three major business parks (Green Park, Thames Valley Park and Reading International Business Park) and to schools within Reading. 

Facts, Figures and Trends

In 2011, 31% of Reading residents (36,229 people) of working age reported that they usually drove to work in a car, van or motorcycle, compared to 35.4% in England. More people in Reading reported travelling by train or bus, on foot and by bicycle than the England average. 

Figure 1: Method of travelling to work - Reading residents aged 16-75 

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Source: 2011 Census: Method of travel to work (2001 specification), local authorities in England and Wales

In comparison with similar Local Authority areas in the South East, a smaller percentage reported commuting by motorcycle, car or van in Reading than elsewhere (Table 1). Reading was ranked 12th of all Local Authorities in England and Wales of those with the highest proportion who reported that they walked to work. 

Table 1: Method of travelling to work (Census 2011)

Local Authority AreaMethod of travelling to work (%, 2011 Census)
Driving car or vanDriving motorcycleTrainBusCycleWalking
Reading30.60.46.47.42.811.2
England34.90.53.34.71.96.3
Slough39.00.44.54.91.66.1
Southampton32.50.71.75.72.99.9
Portsmouth31.20.72.24.64.610.1

Source: 2011 Census: Method of travel to work (2001 specification), local authorities in England and Wales

2011 Census data also indicated that: 

  • 33,960 workers resident in Reading also worked in the Borough (42% of the resident population and 46% of those working in Reading). 

  • 32,759 workers resident in Reading commuted to another Local Authority area for work (41% of the resident population). 

  • 42,309 workers commuted into Reading from outside the Borough (47% of those working in Reading). 

  • 7,080 workers resident in Reading usually worked at home (9% of the resident population and 8% of those working in Reading). 

  • 6,199 workers had no fixed workplace (8% of the resident population and 7% of those working in Reading). 

(Neighbourhood Statistics, Commuting Patterns in the United Kingdom, 2011 Census).

Although Reading has a higher proportion of people walking or cycling to work than elsewhere, the proportion that travels to work by car, van or motorcycle is still by far the largest. 14% of the working age population reported walking or cycling to work (active travel) in 2011.

Figure 2: Proportion of working age population in Reading travelling to work by different methods

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Source: 2011 Census: Method of travel to work (2001 specification), local authorities in England and Wales

The safety of cycling and walking, especially on busy roads or complex junctions, affects people's decisions about whether to walk or cycle rather than travel in another way. In general, the rate of road accidents in Reading is similar or better than average. The rate of all people reported killed or seriously injured on Reading's roads between 2012 and 2014 was 28.3 per 100,000 people, significantly better than the England average of 39.3 and the rate of 41.5 per 100,000 amongst Local Authorities with similar levels of deprivation. While the rate of children killed or seriously injured in road traffic accidents has remained statistically similar to the national average in recent years, the data suggest an improvement from 22.6 per 100,000 in 2011-13 to 10.5 per 100,000 in 2012-14. 

Accidents are most common in areas with high levels of pedestrian activity combined with complex junctions and high vehicle flows and often involve vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Road accident data recorded by Thames Valley Police continues to illustrate that most accidents took place on weekdays in the peak travel times, with most taking place on Oxford Road and the A329 corridor (a busy major route running through East and West Reading and to the South of the town centre including London Road, Cemetery Junction, Christchurch Road, Inner Distribution Road and Oxford Road), specifically Kings Road. See Figures 1, 2 and 3. 

Figure 1: Number of pedestrian and cycle accidents on A-Roads in Reading*

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fig1accidents

Source: Stats 19 Data
* Accidents occurred between 1st July 2013 and 30th June 2016

Figure 2: Number of pedestrian and cycle accidents on A-Roads in Reading by time of day (24 hour)* 

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Source: STATS 19 Data 
* Accidents occurred between 1st July 2013 and 30th June 2016

Figure 3: Number of pedestrian and cycle casualties in Reading by day of the week*

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Source: Department for Transport 
* Accidents occurred between 1st July 2013 and 30th June 2016

High levels of traffic also contribute to high carbon emissions and poor air quality, which have been linked to health problems including cardiovascular diseases and exacerbation of pre-existing respiratory and pulmonary conditions, including asthma. In 2013, PHE estimated that 5.7% of deaths in Reading were attributable to poor air quality, similar to the England average of 5.3% and the average of other Local Authority areas with similar levels of deprivation of 5.5% (IMD 2010) in the same period (see Public Health Outcomes Framework, Indicator 3.01). 

Both air quality and road traffic accidents are recognised as contributing to relative deprivation and are taken into account when measuring deprivation levels through the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). The outdoors living environment sub-domain of the IMD takes into account 1) the concentration of pollutants in the air and 2) road traffic accidents involving injury to pedestrians and cyclists. Abbey, Caversham and Battle wards, central to the Borough and with the most significant traffic flows, score the worst on this domain, while the wards most remote from the centre are least affected (see Figure 4 - darker blue areas indicate worse scores, lighter blue areas indicate better scores).

Figure 4: IMD Outdoor Living Environment Sub-domain Score by Ward (2015)

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Source: Outdoors Sub-domain Score (IMD 2015). Sourced from the Index of multiple deprivation (IMD) release.

Analysis of the outdoor living environment by smaller neighbourhood areas indicates that the worst scoring areas are located around the town centre, Cemetery Junction and London Road, and the East of Oxford Road (see Figure 5 below). 

Figure 5: IMD Outdoor Living Environment Sub-domain Score by LSOA (2015)

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Source: Outdoors Sub-domain Score (IMD 2015). Sourced from the Index of multiple deprivation (IMD) release.

National and Local Strategies 

Reading Borough Council has expressed its commitment to promote active travel and the use of public transport to reduce traffic congestion and associated air pollutants and promote physical activity and health (Reading Borough Council Corporate Plan)In March 2016 the Government published a draft of the first 'Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy' setting out ambitions to double cycling activity by 2025, reverse a decline in walking activity, reduce the numbers  of cyclists killed or seriously injured, and increase the percentage of 5-10 year olds who walk to school and a vision to 'make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey'.

What is this telling us?

A higher proportion of working age people in Reading than elsewhere use 'active travel' (walking or cycling) to travel to work and walking is the dominant method of travel into and out of the town centre. However, as elsewhere, the largest proportion of commuters still travels by car or van. Barriers to active travel, such as busy roads, complex junctions and 'severance' of pedestrian routes (by rivers or railways, for example) may affect willingness to walk or cycle. While levels of road accidents in Reading are better than average, busy areas around the town centre and in busy periods are disproportionately affected, meaning that routes into central Reading may be more daunting and dangerous to vulnerable road users. High traffic flows in central areas, especially the town centre, Cemetery Junction, and Oxford Road, has an impact on air quality in these areas.

What are the key inequalities?

Those living in areas in and immediately around the town centre are more likely to be affected by greater risk of road accidents and poor air quality, affecting quality of life, respiratory health and willingness to walk or cycle. In areas more remote from the town centre, infrastructural barriers such as the river and railway, poor lighting, busy roads and lack of cycle lanes and parking may have an impact on the practicalities of walking and cycling. 

What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?

Developments to walking and cycling routes and improvements in safety are likely to enable people in Reading to walk and cycle more, thereby increasing the amount of regular physical activity they take and helping to improve their health. 

This section links to the following sections in the JSNA:

Air Quality

Employment

Physical Activity

References

Data.gov.uk (2016). Road Safety Data (STATS 19 Data). Available at: https://data.gov.uk/dataset/road-accidents-safety-data (Accessed 19th December 2016). 

Department for Transport (2016). Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. London, Department for Transport. 

Reading Borough Council (2011). Local Transport Plan 3: Strategy 2011-2026. Available at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/media/2421/Local-Transport-Plan-2011-26/pdf/Local_Transport_Plan_2011-26.pdf (Accessed 19th December 2016). 

 

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