In the aftermath of the Chancellor’s budget

November 22, 2017

In the aftermath of the Chancellor’s budget, much of the focus is given to the economic forecasts underpinning the proposed (and cutting of!) public expenditure. The traditional indices used to measure these forecasts are numerous: employment, retail sales, housing starts, industrial output, CPI and GDP are but a few examples. One less highly featured is travel demand.

The distance and frequency we travel is closely linked to economic activity – indeed, since many of the above are preceded by physical movement, it could well be considered the leading indicator. By understanding this mobility at a population level, we can draw insight into economic growth and societal changes in towns, cities and countries. 

With this consideration, and following years of record breaking numbers of journeys on London Underground, TfL data showing a marked year-on-year decrease in 2017 are significant; now approaching three consecutive quarters of decreasing demand.

A graph by TfL showcasing the busiest month of travel
A graph by TfL showcasing the busiest month of travel

The ONS identifies London as the region with the fastest population growth, primarily driven by national and international migration of working age people. The ONS is also reporting that overseas visitors are coming in greater numbers - up 6% since 2016. These are factors which would be expected to have increased the demand on the London Underground network. 

There are several anticipated factors which will have contributed to the decrease, including changes in the labour market and changing working patterns such as the proliferation of the gig economy and the trend to remote work. 

To understand the full picture, further data will show the extent to which travellers are re-moding from the tube to walking and cycling. 

In contrast to the traditionally prominent indices and industry figures which are typically published quarterly, Movement Strategies are processing and analysing mobility data derived from cellular, Wi-Fi and apps – amongst others - with as little as 24 hours latency. Data driven dashboards providing near real time indicators of economic performance are now a reality.