A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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Interviewing was carried out during the period 5th to 19th August, 1942

(i) Introduction

The purposes of this inquiry were to find out how people travelled to their work; how long the journey took them; whether they had any difficulties with transport, and if they did what these difficulties were.


52.7% travelled by public transport. (34.4% by bus)

21.2% cycled.

24.6% walked.

77.3% took half an hour or less getting to work.

22.7% took more than half an hour.

81.4% were satisfied with the method of travelling used.

17.4% were dissatisfied.

Those using public transport were less frequently satisfied than those who walked or cycled.

Reasons for dissatisfaction were mainly infrequency of conveyances and conveyances being full up.

In order to simplify the inquiry, as far as methods of travelling and the time taken were concerned, only the journey to work from home in the morning was considered. It is, of course, possible that the journey home in the evening took a longer or shorter time. The time taken travelling from door to door is considered, and in the case of those workers who used public transport services this would depend to some extent on the times of ‘buses, trains, etc. In the morning the worker can leave home at the right time to catch the ‘bus or whatever conveyance is used, bat his time of leaving work may not always fit in with the transport services and this would involve delay. It is, therefore, probable that the time taken travelling home at night would be longer than the time taken over the morning journey. *

The total time spent by workers in travelling, therefore, will amount to at least twice the time taken in getting to work , and in some cases more. It should be remembered also that some workers go home for their midday meal.

A sample of 3,014 workers was interviewed, representative numbers being selected from different broad occupational groups. These included operatives in both light and heavy manufacturing industries, miners, building and road workers, workers in transport and other public services, shop assistants and clerks.

Agricultural workers and workers in the professions and in managerial positions, and some small occupational groups were not included.

Men and women were selected in representative proportions in the different occupational groups, and different geographical regions were represented in proportion to their populations.

Details of the sample are given at the end of this report.

(ii) Method of Travelling

Question: “How do you usually travel to work?”

When more than one sort of public transport was used interviewers were instructed to classify according to the method used for the longest distance 20 travelled. Where any informant travelled to work different ways on different days, the method most frequently used only was considered.

Bus or trolley ‘bus 34.4 552.7
Tram 9.1
Train 7.5
Underground 1.7
Bicycle 21.2
Walk 24.6
Other methods 1.5
Sample: 3014

Thus about half those interviewed used some sort of public transport and rather less than half either walked or cycled. The proportions walking and cycling are similar.

There are some differences in the proportions of men and of women getting to work in the different ways:

Men Women Total
% % %
Bus or trolley ‘bus 29.5 49.1 42.8 58.8 34.4 52.7
Tram 9.0 9.3 9.1
Train 9.1 4.7 7.5
Underground 1.5 2.0 1.7
Bicycle 26.1 12.7 21.2
Walk 22.7 28.1 24.6
Other methods 2.1 0.4 1.5
Sample: 1916 1098 3014

A higher proportion of women than of men used public transport services, men more frequently using bicycles. With regard to public services ‘buses were used relatively more by women and trains rather more by men. Women more frequently walked to work than men.

There are some differences between different age groups in the proportions cycling, walking, and using public services.

Under 20 20-30 30-45 Over 45 Total
% % % % %
Use public services 48.5 54.6 51.4 54.1 52.7
Bicycle 27.5 22.4 22.3 15.3 21.2
Walk 23.0 21.9 24.1 29.8 24.6
Other methods 1.0 1.1 2.2 0.8 1 5
* Sample: 411 611 1207 770 3014

* Slight discrepancies in sample figures here and elsewhere are due to a few forms being unclassified in some respects. The proportions are not affected.

It will be seen that the under 20 group shows the highest proportion cycling, but nearly as many cycle in the two middle groups. In the oldest group a relatively high proportion walk to work and fewer cycle. The youngest group show rather less than half using public services.

(iii). Time taken Travelling to Work

All workers were asked: “How long does the journey take you”. The journey referred to is that from home to work in the morning. Results were classified as follows:

Less than 15 minutes 38.6
15 to 30 minutes 38.7
More than 30 minutes to 60 minutes 19.0
More than 60 minutes 3.7
Sample: 3014

It has already been pointed out that the total time spent in travelling during the day will be at least twice the times stated above, as the journey home may take longer and some workers go home midday.

About three-quarters of the sample took half an hour or less travelling to work, and about one quarter more than half an hour.

It was found that there were some differences in the time taken between different occupational groups.

% taking half an hour or less Sample
Miners 88.5 ± 4.9 174
Transport and public services 84.0 ± 4.7 243
Heavy manufacturing industry 71.1 ± 4.9 346
Clerical workers 70.7 ± 4.5 414
Whole sample: 77.3 (3014)

It will be seen that miners and workers in transport and public services show relatively high proportions taking half an hour or less. Workers in heavy industry and clerks show a relatively lower proportion taking the shorter time.

Factory workers in light industry, distributive workers and builders and road menders, show no statistically significant differences from the proportions given by the whole sample.

(iv). Attitudes towards Transport Facilities

Informants were asked “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with this way of getting to work?”. It should be remembered that the results for the whole sample given below include both those who used public services and those who cycled and walked.

Satisfied 81.4
Dissatisfied 17.4
Doubtful 1.2
Sample: 3002

There are considerable differences in the attitudes of those who travel to work in the different ways. In the table given below results are shown for those methods of travelling most frequently used. Underground railways are not included as the number who used these is too small to give statistically significant results.

Bus Tram Train Bicycle Walk Total
% % % % % %
Satisfied 69.0 76.4 77.8 90.1 93.5 81.4
Dissatisfied 29.7 21.4 21.8 9.0 5.4 17.4
Doubtful 1.3 2.2 0.4 0.9 1.1 1.2
Sample: 1036 274 226 640 743 3002

Those using public transport services show higher proportions dissatisfied than the other groups. This is most marked in the case of ‘buses.

There are no statistically significant differences between the attitudes shown by men and women. However, the fact that women more frequently use public services, whilst showing the same proportions satisfied and dissatisfied as men, perhaps indicates that women are less critical.

Analysis by age group is as follows:

Under 20 20-30 30-45 Over 45 Total
% % % % %
Satisfied 88.6 81.0 79.2 81.2 81.4
Dissatisfied 10.4 17.8 19.6 17.4 17.4
Doubtful 1.0 1.2 1.2 1.4 1.2
Sample: 405 607 1204 766 3002

The youngest group shows the highest proportion satisfied. It will be remembered that in this group a slightly higher proportion cycles to work and a slightly lower proportion uses public services than in other groups.

Analysis by occupational groups shows more marked differences.

Manufacturing Inds. Mining Building etc. Transport etc. Distributive Clerical Total
Heavy Light * (1) Light * (2)
Satisfied 73.0 79.5 86.6 86.9 85-9 82.0 83.0 77.1 81.2
Dissatified 26.1 19.8 12.7 11.4 12.4 16.4 15.1 21.2 17.4
Doubtful 0.9 0.7 0.7 1.7 1.7 1.6 1.9 1.7 1.4
Sample: 344 606 599 175 177 243 424 414 3002

* Light (1) includes all light engineering, light metal work and chemicals, and therefore all workers in light industry engaged in making munitions.

* Light (2) includes other manufacturing industries, such as food, drink, tobacco, textiles, clothing, pottery, printing, etc.

It will be seen that heavy manufacturing industry and clerical workers show the lowest proportions satisfied, and Light (2) and Mining the highest.

These proportions may be compared with the proportions in the respective groups who take half an hour or less to get to work. These were as follows:

Manufacturing Inds. Mining Building etc. Transport etc. Distributive Clerical
Heavy Light * (1) Light * (2)
Take half an hour or less 71.1 77.3 79.9 88.5 79.0 84.0 79.8 70.8

* Light (1) includes all light engineering, light metal work and chemicals, and therefore all workers in light industry engaged in making munitions.

* Light (2) includes other manufacturing industries, such as food, drink, tobacco, textiles, clothing, pottery, printing, etc.

There is positive correlation between these figures, the rank correlation coefficient being .83. (Complete correlation would be 1 and any figure over 0.5 would indicate positive correlation).

(v) The reasons given for Dissatisfaction

Those who were dissatisfied were asked the reason for this. Replies were as follows:

% of those dissatisfied
Too few ‘buses, trams, trains, run. They are often full up. 49.9
Bad services. (Various local complaints 15.4
No direct ‘bus or tram route 6.8
Cycling is inconvenient. Hard in bad weather and blackout 5.1
Services do not run early enough 1.9
Miscellaneous 20.9
Sample: 523

The informants replying were then asked: “Can you suggest anything that could[Text Missing] be done to remedy this?”. Answers were given as follows:

% of those dissatisfied
They should run more ‘buses, etc. 29.1
Workers should have priority 13.5
Services should be improved. (Various specific suggestions) 11.9
Buses and trams should be run direct 4.1
Services should run longer hours 1.9
Miscellaneous 16.8
No suggestions 22.7
Sample: 523

The main cause of dissatisfaction is the scarcity of vehicles. Specific local complaints were made and remedies suggested. As some 50 different towns were visited, the numbers in any one town are not sufficient to give results, and of course these refer to a great number of different services. Such replies are covered by the headings “Bad services” and “Services should be improved”.

It should be remembered that the proportions given above are percentages of the numbers complaining and not of the whole sample; and that only 17.4% in all were dissatisfied with the methods of travel used.

The Sample

Men Women
1916 63.6% 1098 36.4%
% %
Married 77 44
Single 20.4 52.9
Widowed 2.6 3.1
% %
Age 19.2
Under 20 10.2
20 - 30 11.6 35.8
30 - 45 43.8 34.1
Over 45 34.4 10.9
Occupation %
Manufact: Heavy 11.4
Light 1 20.1
Light 2 19.9
Mining 5.8
Building 5.9
Transport 8.1
Distributive 14.1
Clerical 13.7
Unclassified 1.0
Region %
S.W. Scotland 6.8
North of England 27.0
Midlands and Wales 23.9
South, S.W. and East Anglia 28.6
London 13.7

[7] Since this report was written a further inquiry on Transport problems has been carried out, in which the same questions were repeated and the additional ones suggested here were also included. Results will be available shortly.

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