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Rural Accessibility

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RURAL ACCESSIBILITY

CHAPTER FIVE POSTAL SURVEY

5.1 The aims of the postal survey were to obtain a comprehensive picture of the accessibility-related lifestyle characteristics of people in a wide range of rural contexts. A questionnaire was sent to 3400 households in the five rural areas described above. It sought basic socio-economic and travel/accessibility data, and asked people to indicate their willingness to participate in further stages of the research.

5.2 A copy of the questionnaire used is shown at Appendix B. The electoral roll was used for the sampling framework and a quota sample obtained for the 3400 target households. The sample covers residents from a range of rural environments in each study area, including villages and small towns as well as sparsely populated areas. Where there were larger towns within the study areas residents of these towns were excluded.

Returns

5.3 A total of 725 questionnaires were returned comprising: 75 (11%) from East Ayrshire, 174 (26%) from Aberdeenshire, 167 (25%) from Wigtownshire, 147 (22%) from Caithness and Sutherland and 162 (24%) from East Lothian. Based on previous experience it had been expected that the response from East Ayrshire would be lower than from wealthier areas. With less than half the responses from East Ayrshire than from the other areas there certainly appears to be a much lower interest. Nevertheless an 11% response to a "cold" questionnaire in an area with these socio-economic characteristics is not unexpected.

Population

5.4 The age group of those completing the questionnaires varied significantly between the areas. In Wigtownshire over half the respondents were over the age of 60. Caithness and Sutherland also had an elderly population responding. These two areas are also the most remote rural environments. Aberdeenshire was very close to the average for the full sample and East Ayrshire had the lowest percentage of elderly respondents at 22 per cent.

Table 9 - Age Group of Respondents by Sample Areas

%

All

East Ayrshire

West Aberdeenshire

Wigtown-shire

Caithness and Sutherland

East Lothian

Over 60

39

22

36

51

47

31

18-60

61

78

64

49

53

69

5.5 Household composition also shows that the Ayrshire, Aberdeenshire, and East Lothian samples have the lowest percentage in the over 60 age group. However for younger age groups it is significant that Caithness and Sutherland has an above average percentage of children. Table 10 shows that in East Ayrshire elderly people have been less prepared to respond to the survey, but in all other areas elderly people were most likely to respond.

Table 10 - Household Sample Composition by Age Group (1999 population estimates for the areas in brackets)

%

over 60

18-60

child5-17

0-5

All

27 (24)

53 (52)

15 (19)

5 (5)

East Ayrshire

14 (22)

63 (52)

18 (20)

5 (6)

West Aberdeenshire

23 (22)

57 (53)

14 (20)

6 (5)

Wigtownshire

39 (29)

45 (48)

13 (18)

3 (5)

Caithness and Sutherland

32 (27)

48 (50)

16 (18)

5 (5)

East Lothian

22 (22)

54 (54)

17 (18)

6 (6)

5.6 Socio-economic status varies significantly across the five areas. Figure 11 shows the difference between the East Ayrshire and Caithness and Sutherland samples and the wealthier East Lothian and West Aberdeenshire samples. The dominance of elderly people in Wigtownshire gives this sample a low representation of higher income households.

chart

Figure 11 - Household Income by Study Area

5.7 A similar picture emerges of socio-economic status from looking at the household accommodation in the sample as shown in Table 11.

Table 11 - Household Ownership by Sample Area

%

owned outright

owned (buying)

private rented

public rented

All

45 (26)

30 (26)

7 (14)

15 (34)

East Ayrshire

19 (13)

37 (20)

4 (5)

37 (61)

West Aberdeen

41 (26)

36 (31)

9 (25)

9 (17)

Wigtownshire

54 (35)

22 (22)

7 (16)

14 (26)

Caithness and Sutherland

54 (34)

19 (20)

8 (14)

18 (32)

East Lothian

43 (20)

39 (39)

6 (12)

10 (29)

5.8 Although more house owners have responded to the questionnaire than for people in rented accommodation, the samples still reflect the general characteristics of the areas. In the East Ayrshire sample, there is a much higher proportion of people living in public rented housing. The Caithness and Sutherland sample has the highest level of households living in accommodation which is owned outright.

Car availability

5.9 With regard to car ownership some questionnaires left these boxes blank so it is not known if this identified no vehicles in the household or whether it was simply that respondents did not complete the question. If it is assumed that blank responses represent no vehicles then this suggests average levels of car ownership 17 per cent lower than assuming that all blank boxes are simply incomplete questionnaires. The figures in Table 12 may therefore overestimate car ownership by up to 17%.

Table 12 - Household Vehicle Ownership

Average number of vehicles available

East Ayrshire

West Aberdeen

Wigtownshire

Caithness and Sutherland

East Lothian

All

Cars

0.88

1.03

0.92

0.83

1.15

0.97

Vans

0.07

0.07

0.09

0.08

0.04

0.07

Motorcycles

0.01

0.03

0.03

0.10

0.01

0.04

5.10 Not surprisingly the levels of car ownership are highest in the wealthiest areas: East Lothian and West Aberdeenshire, and lowest in the less affluent areas: East Ayrshire and Caithness and Sutherland. However given the average lower socio-economic status within East Ayrshire it is surprising to note the relatively high levels of car ownership amongst the respondents. Further analysis shows that the reason for this can be accounted for partly by the age of the respondents. People over the age of 60 have lower car ownership. The Ayrshire sample with its younger population may appear to have a higher relative car availability than might be expected, but if adults age 18-60 are considered for all the areas then a more accurate comparative picture of car availability can be seen.

Table 13 - Vehicle Ownership (Adults 18-60)

Average number of vehicles available (adults age 18-60)

East Ayrshire

West Aberdeen

Wigtownshire

Caithness and Sutherland

East Lothian

Cars

0.79

1.17

1.00

0.96

1.26

5.11 The average spend on vehicle fuel and public transport fares per household was 38.78. This compares with a national average of 17.30. Of this total spend, the bus and train fare component (6.29) was similar to the national average household spend on these modes (5.8). The difference between the sample areas and the national average is accounted for by car fuel costs, which were over three times the national average. It is possible that some bias has been included in the responses given the publicity about the problems of high fuel costs in rural areas. However the highest costs are for the commuter rural areas to the cities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. One member of a household commuting daily from Dunbar to Edinburgh might expect to spend about 55 per week on fuel for travel to work alone. It is therefore not inconceivable that an average spend of up to 40 on fuel for all trip purposes is an accurate representation of fuel costs.

Table 14 - Expenditure on Travel

Expenditure on travel

Car/van Fuel

Bus Fares

Train fares

Other (taxi, ferry, air)

Total

All

36.82

1.75

1.19

3.35

38.78

E Ayrshire

34.07

5.24

0.73

4.61

41.68

W Aberdeenshire

40.78

1.40

0.27

3.54

41.23

Wigtownshire

31.35

1.03

0.64

2.27

30.40

Caithness/Sutherland

32.06

1.27

0.22

0.58

30.62

East Lothian

38.74

1.72

3.63

3.99

43.92

5.12 The Family Expenditure Survey (National Statistics 2000) suggests that total household motoring costs in rural areas are about 57.70 per week. Based on average car purchase and non fuel maintenance costs of 31.70 (Scottish Executive 2000) this would suggest car/van fuel costs of 26. The respondents have indicated a figure 40 per cent higher than this. It is therefore likely that the average fuel costs suggested by the respondents are high.

5.13 The highest spend is in East Lothian, the most affluent area. It is interesting that households in the more remote areas consider that they spend less on transport than for the commuter rural areas. This is discussed in more detail later under the analysis of travel patterns.