Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Commuting contrasts in post-industrial England: mobility in the world’s first urban industrial city regions

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Mike Coombes



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Alexandrine Press, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This paper compares commuting behaviour in different regions of England, with the primary focus on a set of five northern city regions centred on Manchester whose built environment was forged by very early industrialisation. Commuting flows are shaped by local geography, which in the study area features many similarly-sized closely-spaced towns with strongly localised identity, plus a central upland area called the Pennines. Recent policies to improve transport within and between these city regions aim to increase agglomeration economies through increased commuting, a strategy supported by some research suggesting Pennine region people are unwilling to commute as far as workers elsewhere in England. Analysing data from two sources, Population Census and the National Travel Survey, provides differing evidence on regional commuting patterns. Taking a historical perspective makes it clear that the distances commuted in the Pennine region are less divergent from the national average than are the longer distances commuted in and near London. The key factors associated with either shorter- or longer-distance commuting in Britain help explain shorter-distance commuting in the Pennine region and, in so doing, cast doubt on the potential of current policies to either increase longer-distance commuting or to enable many short distance commuters to adopt a ‘middling’ distance commute. Labour demand deficiency is the key problem in the region; Pennine region people could be expected to commute further if more, and more well-paid, jobs were available. The paper also provides an exploratory analysis which suggests that strong localised identity such as that in Pennine towns could be linked to a preference for working nearer to home.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Coombes M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Built Environment

Year: 2019

Volume: 45

Issue: 4

Pages: 476-492

Online publication date: 01/12/2019

Acceptance date: 06/08/2019

Date deposited: 06/08/2019

ISSN (print): 0263-7960

Publisher: Alexandrine Press


DOI: 10.2148/benv.45.4.476


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric