Motor fuel price increases in the UK: who will lose the most?

Fuel prices at the pump, which had been declining since 2014, have recently started to increase again, as a result of changes in the oil price market and sterling devaluation since Brexit. They are expected to increase even further in 2017 as part of a general trend towards higher inflation in the UK.

If prices were to increase significantly, many British households would find it hard to cope. Household budgets are already under strain and, for many, a car is necessary to reach work, shops and other basic activities of daily life. For some, it will be possible to ‘shift’ to alternative modes of travel, but this is by no means always the case.

In our work for the (t)ERES research project, we have developed an indicator to map vulnerability to fuel price increases in England. Details about the method and findings can be read in a conference paper available on this website and in the presentation below.

Overall, our findings show the picture of a divided country. Greater London and the surrounding areas would be very resilient to fuel price increases, because of low current levels of expenditure on fuel, higher income and good public transport.

Much of the rest England, however, would suffer more, as a result of lower income, worse public transport, or both. This is true of places as different as Cumbria, the West Midlands, Sheffield city-region and seaside towns on the East Coast. Many of these places have suffered huge cuts to public transport since 2010, which have probably made them even more vulnerable.

First articles from journal special issue published online

transport-policy

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re almost there. The two-day international workshop of the (t)ERES project  of May 2015 (see the presentations here) led to a call for papers for a Special Issue of Transport Policy on “Household transport costs“.

As usual with these things, the process is a bit lengthy, but we have now reached a first milestone. The first two papers of the Special Issue are now published online.

 

Joachim Scheiner – ‘Transport costs seen through the lens of residential self-selection and mobility biographies

In his paper, Joachim Scheiner of TU Dortmund University provides a fresh perspective on the issue of transport costs. Scheiner looks at the issue of transport costs through the lens of mobility biography and residential self-selection research. His theoretical paper highlights that high transport costs in the present time can be the result of travel and residential decisions that individuals have taken earlier in the life course. Over time, these patterns can become entrenched as a result of path dependencies and self-reinforcing dynamics.

 

Nathalie Ortar – ‘Dealing with energy crises: Working and living arrangements in peri-urban France

Nathalie Ortar of the University of Lyon provides an interesting investigation of how households deal with increasing transport and domestic energy prices in periurban areas in France. The qualitative study provides much needed evidence of how households adapt (or not) their travel and domestic practices. An important conclusion of this research is that businesses and employers play an important (but often neglected) role in influencing households’ energy needs, notably for commuting.

 

More articles will be published online in the next few months. We expect to publish the complete special issue sometime in 2017.

Summary of research findings published

dri-picture

A short ‘Research Insight’ note for the (t)ERES project has been published on the DEMAND Research Centre website – it can be viewed here.

Among the main findings:

  • in 2014, 9% of British households had low income and spent ‘too much’ on running motor vehicles
  • large areas of the country experience high levels of ‘car-related economic stress’ and are vulnerable to motor fuel price increases (see map below)

 

index-map0