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A high-inflation environment makes action on public transport all the more essential

  •   2 min read

As those with the lowest incomes are hit hardest by soaring prices, renewed government investment in public transport can help ease one source of rising household costs.

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While people across the UK are tightening their belts to tackle rising prices, the pain of inflation is not felt equally by all households. As a 2022 report points out, UK households that have the lowest incomes are feeling the cost-of-living crisis most keenly. In the lowest income quintile, the effects of inflation were felt 25% more acutely than in the highest quintile.

Expenditure shares on selected categories by income quintile, Feb-Dec 2022

Source: Office for National Statistics. Households are grouped by income quintiles. The first quintile are the lowest-earning 20% of households. Similarly, the fifth quintile are the richest 20% of households.

Notably, across all quintiles, transport was the second or third largest expense, following housing and food costs. This makes sense in the context of the current energy crisis, which has hit the UK worse than any country in Western Europe. For the nearly one million Britons stranded in ‘transport deserts’ — where demand for public transport is high but supply is low — maintaining a private vehicle ratchets up the financial stress as petrol prices climb. Those who can’t afford the increasing cost of a private car risk being cut off from basic services like grocery shopping, medical services, or education.

With access to reliable transportation known to be one of the biggest factors for determining socioeconomic mobility, it is more important than ever that central and local governments prioritise transport as an investment. This summer, Germany demonstrated just this kind of commitment, with its €9 unlimited ticket introduced to ease the impact of cost-of-living increases, and drew new passengers into the transport network.

While not yet at the scale needed, local authorities in the UK have been working to demonstrate new ways to facilitate mobility without the use of a private car. The increasing prevalence of digital demand responsive transport (DDRT) is just one solution that can make a difference. Indeed, 73% of passengers using fflecsi, a nationwide demand-responsive service in Wales, reported that they used their private cars less frequently after the service’s launch. Learn more.

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