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Review of Scotland's Cities - The Analysis


Review of Scotland's Cities - The Analysis


The available evidence points to a significant increase in most of the city travel to work catchment areas over the last decade.

While the 1991 census remains the most recent authoritative data set on travel to work, the emerging Scottish Household Survey results for 1999-2001 allow us to explore how travel to work patterns may have changed over the last decade.

At the aggregate level, it can be seen that many more people now work in the cities, but reside elsewhere, than they did 10 years ago (Chart 6.2).


Glasgow, Aberdeen and especially Dundee have seen significant increases in inward commuting. The high absolute level of inward commuting for Glasgow may be because, unlike the other 3 cities, Glasgow is effectively the central core of a wider contiguous urban conurbation. Edinburgh's relatively stable share of inward commuting is striking, but as we shall see below, may reflect Edinburgh's relative success in partly accommodating the city's expanding employment, by increasing population within the city boundary.

To explore the spatial implications of these changes the Derek Halden Consultancy plotted the 1991 census data and the Scottish Household Survey date for each of the four cities as shown in Figures 6.1-6.4.

FIGURES 6.1-6.4: Changes in Travel To Work Areas since 1991


The 1991 primary travel to work area for Glasgow (10% and over of working residents) extended to the Campsies in the north, Erskine in the west, Newton Mearns in the south and Baillieston in the east. Moving forward to 1999/2001, there is evidence of a substantial extension of the Glasgow travel to work area. The greatest changes being to the north, the south-east and the south-west to include more of Stirling, East Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and North/South Lanarkshire. However, Inverclyde appears disconnected from the Glasgow travel to work area, despite its relative proximity to the city.


In 1991, the primary Edinburgh travel to work area was broadly aligned with the Lothians. In Fife, only North Queensferry and Inverkeithing were exporting 10% or more of working residents to Edinburgh. Elsewhere, only the Peebles area and east Falkirk are covered beyond the Lothians. The 1999/2000 changes for Edinburgh are even more marked than for Glasgow with the 10% boundary encompassing large parts of the Scottish Borders, South Fife and North/South Lanarkshire.


Similarly major changes are evident for Dundee. In 1991, the primary Dundee travel to work area covered a fairly tight area around Dundee and the southern end of the Tay Road Bridge. By 1999/2000 the 10% boundary had extended to the outskirts of Glenrothes and Perth, and well beyond Arbroath.


In 1991 the Aberdeen travel to work area was significantly more extended than was the case for the other 3 cities. In the west, the 10% TTWA extends to Aboyne, a distance of over 50km from Aberdeen. In the south, the 10% zone extends nearly to Montrose and in the north New Deer is again nearly 40km from Aberdeen. By 1999/2000, the extremely large TTWA for Aberdeen had changed only marginally.

Given the very substantial changes that have occurred in the cases of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, the lack of change in Aberdeenshire is striking. The 40+ km commutes observed for Aberdeenshire in 1991 are now common across central Scotland, while travel to work journeys in the north-east itself have stopped lengthening. It may be that other areas of Scotland have been catching up with patterns of travel first seen in Aberdeenshire 10 years ago, due to higher household income and car ownership levels. It may be that the north-east of Scotland was the first to reach the limits of what is sustainable over the long term. If so, the level of change in the boundaries across Scotland which can be expected over the next ten years will be very much less than the changes observed over the last 10 years. Alternatively, the factors that propelled longer travel to work journeys in the north east (i.e. household income, house prices, car ownership levels), may have further to go in Edinburgh and the Central Belt more generally, implying further lengthening of travel to work journeys in these areas.

It can be argued that the rate and scale of these changes may have caught local, regional and national policy unawares. Their effects will only become fully visible when it is too late to do much about the underlying trends other than learn to live with them. The policy implications are several and significant:

  • Increasingly rapid changes in patterns of transport demand seem likely to require increasingly rapid decisions on, and implementation of transport infrastructure projects. The provision of transport infrastructure needs to be accelerated if there is to be any hope of supply catching up with the changing pattern of demand. It can take 10-15 years to deliver major rail, road or tram projects, e.g. the proposed tram schemes for West and North Edinburgh are unlikely to be up and running until 2009. In the meantime, roads will be further congested affecting the reliability of journey times - a major issue for business - and causing further damage to the environment.
  • Failing to meet the needs of enlarged travel to work areas will be expensive in terms of congestion, delays, unreliability and environmental costs. But accommodating such extended travel patterns will also be expensive, in terms of public expenditure on new/enhanced infrastructure, costs incurred by individual travellers and costs to the environment. The resulting accessibility improvements are in turn also likely to promote further lengthening of journey trips. Part of the solution to this dilemma lies in ensuring an adequate supply of affordable housing in or near the cities. This is particularly the case in Glasgow and Dundee where substantial amounts of derelict or under-utilised land are available in the city core. In the case of Edinburgh, the scale of development pressures and the limited opportunity for further development in the city mean that development will need to be distributed across the region, with matching transport infrastructure/services to allow the resulting networks to function. In all cases, a balance will need to be struck between the sustainability implications of larger, denser urban cores supported by high quality public transport within the city and a more extensive pattern of development underpinned by high quality public transport corridors. Getting this right will be one of the key challenges for the new city-region strategic development plans.
  • Our evolving transport governance arrangements are struggling to adapt to the more extensive patterns of travel evolving in the city-regions. Yet with growing employment levels in most of the cities, rising levels of inward commuting in all and tight labour markets emerging in some, it is becoming increasingly important that our city-regions operate as effective transport networks. The role of partnership working and partnership funding in bringing together local, regional and national resources, with in some cases input from the business community, is crucial to future progress. Transport partnerships are active in the North-East, South-East, West Central Scotland and the Highlands and Islands - see Table 6.6. But there is at present no partnership for the wider Dundee area and all the existing partnerships are having to confront the difficulties of making decisions by consensus. A greater shared understanding of regional priorities and a strong focus on core issues will be important if progress is to be made.