Posted 6th August 2015 | 5 Comments

Younger people increasingly turning to trains

YOUNG people are ‘falling out of love with the car’ and turning to trains instead, according to a new report.

The report prepared for the Office of Rail and Road and the Independent Transport Commission reveals major attitude changes to travel – especially in the younger age groups.

The report supports earlier findings and is also supported by many years of statistics which have shown train travel rising almost continuously over the past two decades.

One ‘dramatic finding’ is ‘a more utilitarian attitude to car ownership’ with greater weight being placed on alternatives.

Younger people are also ‘particularly concerned’ about the high cost of using a car – including insurance, parking and learning to drive.

By comparison, their parents and grandparents – particularly those living in rural areas – feel the need to keep their cars ‘in order to retain their independence’.

Technology is also having a major effect on travel choices, with ‘smart’ technology now an important factor. The report says: ‘Attitudes towards the value of travel time are changing, especially among business travellers who are increasingly attuned to using communications technology on the move.’

It explains: ‘Young people are much more open to using smartphones and applications to choose between travel modes, and to use new technology for new methods of shopping, such as click and collect from stations, reducing car use.’

It continues: ‘The use of public transport modes when young increases the likelihood of continuing to use these later in life, indicating that the trend towards public transport, especially rail use, will continue.’

Dr Matthew Niblett, director of the Independent Transport Commission, said: “The use of public transport is growing across all groups – young, old, business, migrant, minority ethnic groups – while people are adopting much more utilitarian attitudes towards car ownership.

“Understanding these changes will be of crucial importance for policy makers given the massive investment that has been promised in the strategic road and rail infrastructure over the next few years.”

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Roshan, Leeds

    As a young person myself, cars definitely don't have the same romance as before. Driving is nice, but it doesn't hold the same novelty. People of my age really do like travelling on trains - because it's fun! Plus insurance prices are crazy and the prices of cars are such that you can only get an old banger for the money you can pay, and there's no fun in that really. Most young people will drive their parents' car from time to time as I do, and again that's not really that fun because it's your parents'.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    My understanding is that young people can't afford Cars till after they are 25 because of the high insurance premiums. One young man I know who just passed his test was quoted £5,000 for his first years insurance. Whatever the reason, young people are definitely using the trains more than I ever did at their age.

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Well many of today's youngsters don't have the disposable income of earlier generations and cars can't be bought for a couple of hundred quid !

    While those with money can't see the sense in spending thousands of pounds on metal boxes they hardly use when they can better spend the money enjoying themselves on night outs .

    While the trend to live in city centres means cars are no longer needed given growth in public transport and they can work on trains and leave the driving to train drivers !

    As for cars that drive themselves they are more like E Carettes for Petrolheads ..

  • Graham Nalty, Derby

    45 years ago, when I bought my first car, it was a way of opening up new horizons. Every young man wanted a car to go where his friends went. It was very much a status symbol. The open top sports cars attracted the girls, the faster the car, the prettier girl that your car attracted. So there was no wonder that cars were the highest aspiration for young people. Nowadays the roads are all congested and driving is no longer the fun it was. But being used to the mobility of the car, people now want the same mobility without the car. To this can be added the impossibility of enjoying a drink if you are driving. Up to the 1990s, many salespeople looked at their car as a mobile office as mobile phones became popular. A decade later laptop computers could be used on a train journeys and made travelling by train far more productive, especially for self-employed people. The gradual increase in rail speeds has enabled people to make out and home journeys by train that conversely became more and more tiring as a result of increased road congestion. So there are several factors that are all changing travel choice from road to rail. Hence the belated popularity of high speed rail in the UK after most of our near continental neighbours have built their high speed networks. But rail cannot fulfil its potential to reduce the need for car journeys without further investments in local transport within our larger cities, particularly in the Midlands and North. Rail journeys between some Northern cities (e.g. Nottingham to Bradford, Stoke to Liverpool) is still very slow and needs improvement if rail is to be the transport of choice to a highly mobile and highly (internet) connected younger generation. Neither city pair can be travelled without a change of train. Long term investment in grade separated junctions will be essential in the future to enable direct trains to cross the busy North to South main lines to achieve better East to West rail connectivity.

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    Yes, but the government would say that wouldn't they and anyway they're definitely going to make driverless cars and they'll definitely be on the roads soon and everyone will definitely want to go in those so we definitely don't need more rail capacity and we should definitely cancel new lines especially those funny foreign ones that go at funny foreign speeds.