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Access to work in London by public and personal transport

These maps show how accessible the breadth of the capital is via car and public transport, and reveal that it's not as even as may be assumed.

London's employment market is huge, but access to it is uneven. Slow, congested roads, access charges and constrained parking make a commute by car difficult, particular to the central business districts, while public transport is a good option if you are on a train or tube line - but not if you aren't. Here we dive into the true nature of the city's accessibility by either public transport or car.

Access to Jobs - 1 Hour Driving (2021)

London's employment market is huge, but access to it is uneven. Slow, congested roads, access charges and constrained parking make a commute by car difficult, particular to the central business districts, while public transport is a good option if you are on a train or tube line - but not if you aren't. London's bus network reaches almost all areas and serves millions of people every day - but it is also not quick. A cross-city commute, e.g. from the western to the eastern suburbs, can take a very long time.

London's transport and employment centres however throw a few surprises, and an analysis of the opportunities available via driving (map above), or via public transport (map below), is revealing.

The data used in these maps is from a report, Network Effects, which was published late last year by UK Onward, an organisation focused on highlighting and addressing accessibility and opportunity gaps across the country. The data was published as open data, and uses a model to estimate the numbers of jobs available by driving or taking public transport for a certain amount of time. The model includes time walked to from the car or public transport station/stop at both ends of the commute, and as it is based on time rather than distance, the model accounts for local effects with road speeds and train/bus connectivity in London (and elsewhere).

The Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) has extracted the London part of the data and mapped two aspects - the numbers of jobs available to people leaving in each statistical unit area (LSOA) in London, by driving up to an hour, or getting public transport for up to an hour. Both measures are relevant in an analysis of jobs access in London. The majority of households in inner city London do not have access to a car and so a large population here is entirely dependent on public transport options for employment out-with of their local area (accessible by walking and cycling) - these often focus directly into the centre of London. However much of outer London does have access to a car so can make use of employment hotspots that are not central, such as Heathrow Airport (and associated industries) and also the towns surrounding London - via the M25 orbital motorway and fast arterial roads to/from it.

The map above shows a number of London spatial trends. Driving in central London is slow but if you live there and drive, you still have access to a high number only a short distance away. West central London in particular, for example Hammersmith, has a very high number of jobs available within an hour of driving (including parking/walking at the start/end). Here, there is a jobs "corridor" along the M4 and around Heathrow Airport that is also very accessible by driving. Living near Heathrow itself also benefits driving commuters, with the airport's own economy a major jobs source, along with quick access to other nearby employment centres.

Finally, the northern and western edges of London are close to the M25 and so allow quick driving access to other employment centres with established parking structures, away from central London, such as Watford, Hemel Hempstead, and Slough. These show up in the driving map above on the periphery, where the trend of reduced job access numbers moving out of central/western London reverses. At the other end of London, many south-east London boroughs have constrained access to jobs by driving. The hilly/rural nature of some of these areas (much of Bromley borough), or the simple fact that outer east London is a just a long way to drive into central London, explains these particular job access driving "deserts".

Access to Jobs - 1 Hour Public Transport (2021)

The equivalent map of job access by public transport journeys (one hour maximum, including walking to a tube/railway station or bus stop, connection times between transport modes, and walking from the final station/stop to the workplace.) has a more familiar central high job-count "core", with lower values radiating out as journey times from these home locations to the main job centres increases. Heathrow does not show up here, because public transport connections to it from most directions, apart from central London, is, perhaps surprisingly, restricted. If you live near Heathrow Airport, you can only fully benefit from the very high number of jobs in the surrounding area, by driving.

Certain fast and efficient tube lines do show up in the map. The southern section of the Northern line is visible and shows as an angled line down to the south west. The northern part of the Victoria line, in north-east London, and the eastern leg of the Jubilee line, via Stratford and Canning Town, also show up as areas of red, indicating people living close to stations on these key tube line sections have ready access to more than four million jobs, less than an hour away.

A small number of non-central-London region job centres do appear - most notably Croydon. Partly, this is due to Croydon's own established employment opportunities and partly because of excellent, fast public transport links up to London Bridge (for the City of London) and Victoria (for Whitehall). Richmond, Harrow and Kingston towns also show up - again people living here benefit both from local job opportunities and good access into central London - increasing the total number of jobs within an hour's reach.