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Scoping the Impacts on Travel Behaviour in Scotland of E-Working and Other ICTs - Research Findings

DescriptionScoping study to assess the implications of E-working and other ICTs on travel behaviour and traffic reduction in Scotland.
Official Print Publication DateJune 2006
Website Publication DateJune 06, 2006


    Derek Halden Consultancy

    ISBN 0 7559 2905 5

    This document is also available in pdf format (221k)

    Main Findings

    • It appears that the amount of travel needed to support each pound of economic activity is now able to fall as a result of ICT.
    • ICT and e-working increase flexibility and this presents opportunities for public agencies to capture economic, social and environmental benefits consistent with sustainable development plans, including traffic reduction. ICT helps people and employers to improve efficiency, widen opportunities and improve job satisfaction and quality of life but this can increase travel demand.
    • The flexibilities offered by ICT could help to enable travel demand reductions of up to 11% in the Scottish context. Much greater reductions in congestion are also possible by making better use of exiting capacity. However to secure the potential travel demand reduction effects, there would need to be a significant increase in complementary measures to manage travel demand.
    • High take up of e-working is associated with: low population densities, the need for security by working from dispersed locations, fiscal incentives, and the prevalence of managerial, professional and administrative jobs.
    • 13.5% of working adults in Scotland spend at least some of their time working from home. The proportion of people who could telework in the future is unlikely to exceed 40% without major economic restructuring. Given the geography and demography of Scotland, e-working is relatively more important for the economy than for other parts of the UK, and this is likely to lead to greater positive and negative impacts on travel demand.
    • To secure these benefits, a cross-sectoral approach to policy and programme delivery will be needed. Separate transport policy and communications policy will struggle to cope with the new e-lifestyles.
    • Emerging best practice includes broad action to enhance: skills, knowledge, physical access, capabilities, information, affordability, capacity, acceptability, quality, safety and security. The lessons from successful programmes provide a pointer to future policy across wider transport, social inclusion and economic development policy.
    • By focusing on the current and future networking/connectivity/accessibility needs of people and businesses, jointly funded public investment in, and regulation of, transport and ICT can be targeted where it is most needed for Scotland's economy to grow, and the opportunities for all people to be enhanced.
    • To inform policy agendas, and support sustainable transport and e-networks, new types of information and analysis are needed. These should consider trends in lifestyle choices and business needs and form a core part of investment appraisal for transport and other public funding. The mechanisms of interaction between transport and e-networks identified in this report provide a starting point for such appraisal, but further research is needed to provide a stronger empirical base.


    In recent years advances in information and communications technologies ( ICT), especially the mass adoption of global computer networks, have resulted in rapid social and economic change, which has created a number of new opportunities for transport and economic development policy in Scotland. This research was commissioned by the Scottish Executive to review the parameters of the debate and to inform options for policy and future research.

    From employment and commerce to recreation, health, and day-to-day contact with public bodies and government; increasingly activities can be undertaken using ICT, giving rise to many new virtual resources and digital services.

    Whilst the potential consequences of these changes are profound and wide ranging in their impact, including on travel patterns and demand, understanding of possible outcomes is limited by the continuing rapid rate of change. People and businesses are constantly adapting and responding to the new opportunities emerging with each new generation of technology.

    The internet is often referred to as the "Global Super Highway" underlining the close inter-relationship between digital communications and physical transport infrastructures. Understanding this relationship is critical if the right decisions are to be made for an integrated 21st Century transportation policy in which road, rail and air networks are augmented by virtual highways, digital communities and electronic workplaces.

    The work has comprised a detailed literature review together with some limited analysis of Scottish Household Survey, Eurostats (Statistical Office of the European Communities) and UK Office of National Statistics Online ( ONS) data. It was undertaken by a research team from DHC supported by Jillian Anable.

    E-working, ICT and Society

    The media and some older academic studies often incorrectly interpret teleworking to mean working most of the time from home (Lyons 2002) but the term also applies to a wide range of other methods of flexible working including part-time remote operation as well as the use of hubs and telecentres closer to home than the primary location.

    Widespread consumer adoption of mobile ICT is already changing travel and commuting patterns across the world. There are indications of an increase in the average time which individuals are willing to budget on the daily commute. The implications of this for Scotland are particularly significant since Scots currently have some of the shortest journey times to work in Europe, with the average commuting time being less than half that for the UK as a whole.

    There are no clear definitions of e-working and teleworking and these terms can mean working most of the time from home, working only part time or occasionally from home; the use of hubs and telecentres closer to home than the primary location, and non location-specific use of ICT whilst on business trips. The term e-working distinguishes between traditional home-workers counting only people using ICT in home-working who e-work for one day per week or more.

    E-work characteristics

    The highest incidence of e-working, occurs in managerial, professional, administrative and skilled occupations and those employed in these sectors make up 62% of the workforce in Scotland. Within these occupations, between 5% and 16% of the workforce currently e-work. The remaining third of the workforce has a much smaller incidence of teleworking with only 2% of employees e-working.

    If homeworking is used as a proxy for e-working Scottish Household Survey Data can then be used to indicate e-working trends - if not absolute levels. The Scottish Household Survey 2003 identifies that 13.5% of working adults spend at least some of their working hours at home. There are marginally more male homeworkers (53%) than female (47%), and there is also a large proportion of self-employed homeworkers (20%). The potential for more e-working is significant with some studies suggesting that a ceiling as high as 40% of employment might be achievable.

    Travel behaviour, ICT and e-working

    There is an extensive theoretical, but limited empirical basis for the impacts of ICT and e-working on travel behaviour and traffic levels. The theoretical work identifies four different kinds of impact:


    • Replacement - telecommunications replaces travel.
    • Complementarity
    • Enhancement - directly stimulates travel by providing opportunities for people and businesses to achieve more and participate in more activities.
    • Efficiency - improves travel by making the transportation system more efficient.
    • Indirect impacts - impacts on land use and economic development which in turn affect travel, lifestyle changes with reductions in work travel being replaced by increases in leisure travel.

    Within these broad categories some of the specific questions that need to be answered include:

    • To what extent will latent demand be realised by other road users taking advantage of "liberated" road space?
    • To what extent will new trips be made by the home/telecentre worker during the course of the day that would otherwise not have been, or by other family members using the car?
    • How proportionately will transport substitution affect different traffic modes ( e.g. will regular public transport users become occasional car users)?
    • Will ICTs in due course affect location decisions so that people will tend to live further from their places of work, and therefore make fewer, but longer trips, and possibly contribute to urban sprawl?
    • What influence will more distributed life/work patterns have on the distribution and transportation of goods.

    The empirical basis for answering these questions is weak but data from case studies identifies how individuals have responded to opportunities for e-working.

    Overall the analysis of potential impacts in Scotland identifies that the flexibility offered by new e-opportunities allows public agencies to secure social and environmental benefits for communities through travel demand reduction measures, but also allows individuals and businesses to travel more. To secure the potential travel demand reduction effects, there would need to be a significant increase in complementary measures to manage travel demand. The diagram below shows the main mechanisms for change.

    A managed approach could achieve travel demand reductions of up to 11% in the Scottish context. Much greater reductions in congestion are also possible by making better use of exiting capacity. To achieve this level of traffic reduction and congestion relief would require a step change increase in activity on travel demand management policies involving:

    • Transport infrastructure and service changes
    • Land use planning and facility and site improvements at homes and workplaces
    • Charges, taxes, and grants
    • Regulatory measures
    • Institutional support such as workplace travel plans and flexible working patterns
    • Information, business development and marketing initiatives

    However even if the travel demand increases exceed the efficiency benefits, there remains a broad consensus that the promotion of ICT and e-working is a good thing, with improvements in accessibility and choice being generally consistent with sustainable transport and development agendas.

    ICT and e-working diagram

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