On the move in Wales22 Dec 2014

Welsh Study reveals unique travel patterns

Twenty-first century car use in Wales is more in keeping with historical experience than the rest of Great Britain according to a new report published today.

The study finds that, in Wales, driving mileage increased in the 2000s until the disruption of the financial crash and recession in 2008. In stark contrast, there was no change in driving mileage per person in Great Britain as a whole since 2000.

This is one of the key findings of the report On the Move: Car, rail and bus travel trends in Wales, published today by the RAC Foundationand the Welsh Government. The report, which follows on from an earlier study for Great Britain*, finds that Welsh travel has been different from travel throughout the rest of Britain in a number of ways:

  • Wales is unique in that car use increased up until the 2008 recession. Driving mileage per person in Wales was 13% higher in the period just prior to the recession than it was in the late 1990s, whereas in Great Britain there was essentially no change (only +0.1% change in driving mileage over the same period);
  • The impact of decreased company-car-mileage on overall traffic levels is not as clear in Wales, as in Great Britain. In Great Britain, reductions in company car ownership and use – due to tax policy changes — have been large enough to make a substantial impact on overall traffic mileage;
  • Rail travel has grown much faster in Wales than elsewhere. There has been an increase in the number of Welsh residents who are rail users rather than to any increase in mileage among existing users. Despite this growth, per person use of rail remains lower than the rest of Great Britain (owing to Wales’ geography).

Despite these diverging trends, in the round Welsh travel patterns generally mirror those found across Great Britain:

  • Patterns of car driving licence ownership are similar. The proportion of men under the age of 30 holding full driving licences has fallen over time (but appears to have now stabilised), while the proportion of those aged 60 and over who are licence-holders has increased. Among women, very rapid growth rates have been seen in licence-holding by those aged 50 and over. Young Welsh women have not seen their rate of licence-holding fall, as young men have.
    • People living in cities are driving less; but rural residents are driving more. As elsewhere in Britain, there has been a divergence in driving mileage between people living in large cities and those residing elsewhere. In Wales, it was found that driving mileage per person increased more slowly in the South East Wales conurbation (+8%) than in the rest of Wales (+20%);
    • There has been a greater increase in mileage driven by women than men. In Wales women have shown a continual increase in average mileage per person, with an overall growth of over 25% between 1995/9 and 2008/10; conversely, males’ mileage increased by roughly 10% between 1995/9 and 2005/7, but in 2008/10 dropped sharply to 7% below its 1995/9 level.
    • The growth in rail mileage has been higher amongst women than men. The most striking finding is the approximate doubling of rail mileage per person for women in Wales between 1995/9 and 2008/10.  This growth is particularly striking for Welsh women ages 16–29

Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation said:

“If we are to implement sound transport policy it is vital to understand how people travel. Our best transport plans and programmes take account of the reality of daily needs whilst seeking to meet national objectives for safety, mobility, the economy and environment.

“This study sheds light on how the Welsh residents have been travelling across the early 21st century, and how this differs to Great Britain as a whole. Where differences have been found, this can largely be explained by the reducing disparities over time between personal travel in Wales and in the rest of Great Britain. With the M4 corridor improvement scheme ongoing we must be clear-eyed about the real-world needs and travel patterns of the Welsh Nation.”

Notes to editors:

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users. The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist.

The RAC Foundation is a registered charity, number 1002705.

Le Vine, S. & Jones, P. (2014) On the Move: Car, rail and bus travel trends in Wales is available to download here under embargo:


It is a follow-up report to Le Vine, S. & Jones, P. (2012) On the Move: Making sense of car and train travel trends in Britain. http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/on_the_move-le_vine_&_jones-dec2012.pdf


RAC Foundation office 020 7747 3445