BRITISH FAIL?

BRITISH FAIL?

An Investigation into the Rail Network and Social Exclusion

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Introduction

In recent years it has been recognized that the public transport opportunities that accrue to individuals may play a part in determining their level of social exclusion. In particular, Tony Blair’s Social Exclusion Unit was specifically tasked with examining the linkages between social exclusion, transport, and the location of services with a particular emphasis on “opportunities that have the most impact on life-chances, such as work, learning and healthcare.”[1] A number of researchers have proposed methods for evaluating links between exclusion and transport, generally focusing on accessibility to services. This short paper aims to add to this growing literature by investigating the links between access to the rail network in England, and measures of social exclusion. I use spatially referenced data on the locations of train stations to construct an accessibility measure based on distance to the rail network and use regression techniques to investigate the effect that this measure has on social exclusion.

 The results of this analysis are somewhat surprising in that I find that a higher value of the accessibility measure (meaning that the rail network is further away) is associated with lower levels of social exclusion. This result is robust to a number of specifications and controls for the availability of other types of transport as well as controls for housing and environmental quality. The literature on exclusion and transportation does not offer a theoretical justification for why this should be so. As such, even in the event that the model is correctly specified and takes into account all relevant variables, which is highly unlikely, it would be unwise to conclude that there is any causal mechanism at work.

 Interestingly, higher values of an accessibility measure to the bus and coach network are associated with higher levels of social exclusion. This may be tentative evidence that the public transport network that is most pertinent for social inclusion is the bus/coach network, although further research would be needed to substantiate such a claim.

 The most that can be concluded is that with the data that has been made available for this analysis I am unable to uncover a meaningful link between access to the rail network and levels of social exclusion. This could be due to pertinent variables being omitted from the analysis or that the accessibility measure based on distance is not capturing what is important about access to public transport networks.


[1] Making the Connections: Final Report on Transport and Social Exclusion, Social Exclusion Unit (2003), p. 1

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