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View from behind of one person cycling and two people jogging with the caption 'shifting just 1.7% of car journeys to active travel would provide the UK with up to £2.5bn per year in health benefits'

A look at the transport industry in December

This month we have seen the reintroduction of work from home guidance throughout the UK, and as a result, there has been a significant decline in rush-hour traffic and public transport use. 

Data provided by location technology firm, TomTom, showed traffic congestion in some parts of England had fallen by up to half. In Leicester, congestion levels fell from 98% at the start of the month, to 51% on 13th December. Similar drops were found in cities throughout England. 

Figures released by Transport for London (TfL) show an 18% drop in the number of people tapping in and out of the Underground network during rush hour on the morning of 13th December, compared with the same time the week before. 

The Department for Transport has this month released its Transport Statistics Great Britain report, which presents an annual summary of statistics for passenger transport, freight transport and the environment, mostly relating to the calendar year 2020. Figures include:

  • 580bn passenger kilometres were travelled in Great Britain in 2020, down 33% from 2019. 
  • People made 739 trips on average across private and public transport in 2020 in England, down from 22% in 2019.
  • 7m international and domestic passengers travelled by air in 2020, down 75% from 2019. 
  • 95% of freight arriving in the UK in 2020 came by sea.
  • 122m tonnes of CO2 equivalent was produced by the domestic transport sector in 2019, down 2% from 2018.

Below we take a look in more detail at what’s been happening in our core policy areas of transport and diversity. 

Active Travel
Public Transport
Air Quality

Active Travel

  • More than 100 people took part in a ‘Light up the night’ cycling event in Edinburgh to highlight the need for safe infrastructure for women cyclists in the city. The event was designed to put pressure on Edinburgh City Council to make cycle routes around the city safer, particularly for women and girls.
  • Think tank, Green Alliance, has called on the Government to increase investment in active travel and public transport to help reduce congestion. The Green Alliance report highlights the economic benefits of traffic reduction – shifting just 1.7% of car journeys to active travel would provide the UK with up to £2.5bn per year in health benefits. Reducing congestion would also provide an economic boost as the cost of congestion was estimated to be almost £8bn per year.
  • More than 60% of cyclists in Scotland said a lack of traffic-free cycle routes prevents them from going out on their bike, according to a nation-wide study by Cycle Scotland.

Public Transport

  • Face coverings have been reintroduced on public transport in England following the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant. In September, Network Rail found just 20% of commuters were still wearing face coverings on trains, but now those not complying could face a fine of between £200 and £6,400. At the start of December, it was estimated one in five passengers at major railway stations weren’t wearing face coverings.
  • TfL has predicted the number of daily journeys in London by the end of the decade could be far lower than expected, due to long-term changes to travel patterns. TfL said the number of trips by public or private transport by 2031 could be 14% below its previous prediction, according to a new hybrid working model that assumes Londoners work part of the week from home.
  • Transport for London’s emergency funding deal, which was agreed back in the summer, ran out on 11th The funding was to cope with the financial turmoil caused by the Covid-19 crisis over the past year and a half. The emergency deal was extended one week until 17thDecember so the government and TfL could try to agree a longer-term deal. On Saturday, TfL and the government agreed to again extend the deal to 4th February which should give them time to agree on a long-term sustainable plan to keep London moving. 

Elsewhere in public transport this month:


  • Wrightbus’s hydrogen fuel cell bus celebrated its fifth birthday this month. Following its launch in 2016, it has gone on to transform public transport with fleets of their buses now operating in Belfast, Dublin, London, Birmingham and Aberdeen. In the past five years it has stopped over a million kilograms of CO2 from polluting the atmosphere.
  • Zeelo, the smart bus platform for organisations, has launched the UK’s first fully electric commuter bus service with online grocery provider, Ocado. The new service transport employees to and from Ocado Group and Ocado Retail’s head office locations in Hatfield, from nearby towns including St Albans and Welwyn Garden City.
  • Bus operator, Xplore Dundee, has welcomed its first fleet of 12 double-decker ‘Electric Emerald’ vehicles that will operate on the city centre’s first zero emissions bus route.


  • Rail operator, Govia Thameslink Railway has announced the extension of its EV rollout with the installation of EV charging points at a further 10 stations across Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern routes. By January 2022, 179 charging points across 37 stations will be available for public use.
  • The Railway Industry Association has published the results of a new survey, finding increasing confidence among rail professionals that the industry is innovative:
    • 62% of respondents believed rail is ‘extremely, very or quite innovative’, a 12% increase from 2019.
    • 56% of respondents said the Coronavirus pandemic had a negative impact on their planned innovation projects in 2020/21.
  • The Office of Road and Rail published its Rail Industry Finance report this month, showing the impact of the pandemic on the industry. 
    • Fares income in 2020-21 was £1.8bn, a drop of £8.6bn from the previous year, due to the impact of the pandemic.
    • The number of passenger journeys reduced by 77.7% in 2020-21, compared to 2019-20.
  • The first tunnel boring machine on the Midlands section of HS2 begun its one-mile journey earlier this month. The 2,000 tonne, 125 metre long machine, named Dorothy, will work its way under Long Itchington Wood in Warwickshire.
  • Network rail has produced a guide to help autistic people confidently and independently travel by train. It’s been developed in partnership with the National Autistic Society and shows the sights and sounds passengers can expect to experience when using the railway, helping make it more accessible for everyone.
  • HS2 has confirmed a Hitachi and Alstom joint venture has been awarded the contracts to build its state-of-the-art fleet of 225mph high speed trains at their factories in Derby and County Durham in a major contract deal set to support 2,500 jobs across the UK. 
  • A new direct train service between Middlesbrough and London launched on 13 December, for the first time in 31 years, following on from the Government’s pledge to invest £96bn in the railways to help level up the nation.
  • HS2 has welcomed its first tranche of young people who undertook the kickstart project into full time jobs. The scheme was set up by the UK Government to provide help to young people whose employment prospects were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. HS2’s construction partner, Balfour Beatty VINCI, pledged it would provide 30 young people with a six-month paid placement. Now, the first of those taken on through the initiative have gone on to secure full-time jobs on HS2.



  • New analysis by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed the ratio of vehicle chargepoints to plug-in cars deteriorated by 31% during 2020. At the end of 2019, 11 plug-in vehicles potentially shared a standard public chargepoint. By the end of 2020, that ratio had fallen to one charger for every 16 plug-ins.
  • According to the SMMT, demand for plug-in vehicles continued to grow in November, with battery electric vehicles equating to 18.8% of the market, with 21,726 units, more than double compared with November 2020.
  • EV charging hub provider, Gridserve, has confirmed it plans to open more than 20 new EV charging hubs along the UK’s motorway network in 2022.


  • Oxford’s e-scooter trial has been extended for a further four months, until the end of March to further gather evidence on how e-scooters are being used in the city.
  • According to a new study by e-mobility website, Move Electric, legalising private e-scooters for use of public roads could help save more than 44,000 tonnes of CO2 annually in the UK. This is the equivalent to emissions of 29,000 cars each year.
  • TfL has banned e-scooters from all its services following a number of incidents in London involving privately owned e-scooters and e-unicycles catching fire on public transport services and in stations. Tyne and Wear Metro and Shields Ferry have also implemented similar bans.


  • A survey by cycling manufacturer, Shimano, of over 2,100 people in the UK, has revealed 11% are more likely to use or buy an e-bike now than they were before the pandemic. Of those who took part in the study, 40% felt the reason people are more likely to buy/use e-bikes now, compared to before the pandemic, is because they are a suitable alternative to using a motor vehicle.

Air Quality

  • New data from Aston University shows about 6,000 fewer vehicles are driving within Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone. Although the full impact will not be clear until 2022, the data shows before charging was introduced the number of daily non-compliant vehicles driving within the zone was an average of 18,787, but this dropped to 11,850 for the remainder of June, with the last reported daily average of 10,800 for August.
  • New City of London Corporation figures show a 42% drop in Square Mile nitrogen dioxide levels since 2016. 
  • The level of air pollution in Glasgow rose by nearly a third within a mile of COP26 during the climate summit, according to new data released by air quality monitoring providers, Aeternum. Nitrogen dioxide levels reached a peak during the conference on 8thNovember, when Aeternum’s sensor recorded an average of 48 micrograms per metre cubed for the day – 93% higher than the World Health Organisation’s 2021 Air Quality Guidelines.
  • A new report from Bath and North East Somerset Council shows an average 14% decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels within Bath’s Clean Air Zone in the past quarter, compared to the same period in 2019. Similar levels have been recorded in urban areas outside the zone’s boundary. Levels have increased in four areas, which is thought to be due to roadworks including the Cleveland Bridge renovation project.
  • A new report released by the Mayor of London, evaluating the first month’s impact of his expanded Ultra-Low Emission Zone, found 92% of vehicles driving into the zone are now compliant with the new standards. 


  • British Airways will become the first airline in the world to use sustainable aviation fuel produced on a commercial scale in the UK, after signing an agreement with energy provider Phillips 66. The fuel, produced at the Phillips 66 Refinery in North Lincolnshire will help power a number of the airline’s flights from early 2022.
  • A £15m UK project has been unveiled this month that could see passengers fly anywhere in the world with no carbon emissions. The FlyZero project, led by the ATI and funded by the government, has developed a concept for a midsize aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen. It is capable of flying 279 passengers halfway round the world without a stop, or anywhere in the world with just one stop to refuel. 


  • The Minister for Employment, Mims Davies, has called for employers to strengthen their support to keep millions of women in work. Research shows women with serious menopause symptoms take an average of 32 weeks of leave from work, and without the support of employers, this limits progression and can lead to long-term unemployment. The Minister has called on businesses to tap into specialist advice offered by a national network of advisors, known as ’50 Plus Champions’, which is there to support employers to retain their workers over the age of 50.
  • British Transport Police has launched policing patrols across Scotland as part of their campaign to tackle sexual harassment on public transport. The patrols will be out over weekends across trains departing from Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street Stations. 
  • Network Rail has been announced as the winner of this year’s Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative Disability Confident Award, demonstrating its commitment to becoming a more diverse and inclusive employer for all. Network Rail was commended for its five year diversity and inclusion strategy – Everyone Matters.
  • According to new research from the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and funded by Nuffield, women who are the first in their family to graduate from a university earn 7% less in their mid-20s compared to female graduates whose parents attended university. 

We hope you found this roundup interesting and informative. Please contact us if you would like further information, or to find out more about the public affairs and diversity services we offer. Or sign up to our blog for up-to-date news, opinions and advice.

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