Getting the measure of transport poverty

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Gideon Salutin

November 15, 2023

This report from UK think the Social Market Foundation looks at understanding and responding to the UK’s hidden crisis.

As the single largest cost for millions of households across the UK, understanding the financial burden of transport is critical to decreasing poverty. Yet, unlike for energy or housing, there is no metric in place to track the cost and accessibility of transport.

This Social Market Foundation report seeks to fill that gap by developing a measure to demonstrate the causes, locations and depths of transport poverty. Transport is the single largest household expense (excluding mortgage repayments) for rural families, and the second largest for urban ones. Transport costs contribute significantly to poverty, pushing over 5 million people below the poverty line.

Poorer regions of the country are the worst affected by transport poverty, with 12.5% of people in the North East suffering compared to only 3.5% of people in London. Cars are the single most expensive mode of transport, both per mile and overall, yet freezing fuel duty does little to alleviate transport poverty because it only makes up a small proportion of the cost of driving.

Instead, the report shows that the money spent on fuel duty freezes would be better spent reversing cuts to public transport in areas where it would be most effective at reducing transport poverty, to give those in transport poverty a cheaper alternative to driving. This should be accompanied by reducing the upfront costs of electric vehicles, which have lower running costs than vehicles with internal combustion engines.