Access to Services

This website contains links to resources which are used in measuring and monitoring access to services in the UK. It also provides links to international resources describing best practice in planning accessibility

  • What is accessibility
  • How accessibility is measured
  • Audit changes in accessibility to ensure fairness with links to reports and maps

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility is the ability of people to reach places and services and the ability of places to be reached by people and goods.

Separate planning for people, places or transport will not necessarily ensure good access. A combined approach is needed to ensure that all of the barriers to access are overcome. Good planning of accessibility checks that everyone has the ability to reach the services and closes all identified gaps. These approaches are used by:

  • Service providers, who plan access to ensure that customers and service users can reach their locations.
  • Transport operators, who plan access to ensure that their networks cover as many travel needs as possible.
  • Government, who ensure that everyone in society can reach essential services and enable action to protect everyone’s needs.

The three main components of access are affected by many factors:

Transport, Land and People - 3 approaches to accessibility.
Transport, Land and People – 3 approaches to accessibility.
  • Transport: All of the types of transport needed to make a door to door journey.
  • Land: All of the places where services are located. Services placed at locations the local population can reach are often described as accessible.
  • People: Ensuring there are opportunities for all people. Do people know where things are? Do they feel safe? Do they have the skills to travel?

When people, services and transport interact well together then access has been improving. However for too many people in too many places access has been declining. Without action to challenge many growing trends in the economy and society access will continue to decline, harming quality of life for many people and widening inequity.

How Accessibility is Measured

The simplest measure of accessibility is travel time to the nearest location of a service. Travel time is also often used as a proxy for travel cost, but for trips including bus, tram and rail or where there are road tolls then travel cost also needs to be considered separately

Travel time to the nearest location of a service.
Travel time to the nearest location of a service.
  • Travel time indicates the general convenience of making a journey. Calculations vary in complexity, from applying a set speed to the shortest path through a network, to the use of public transport timetables.
  • Other factors may be relevant to access such as physical barriers crossing roads, the safety of the journeys and the availability of information in affecting an individual’s perception of journey difficulty.
  • For access to comparable services the nearest location can be used to represent choice. However, hospitals do not all offer the same treatments, and shops do not all offer the same quality of product. Choice can be represented by weighting the opportunities available and factoring by the travel cost and time.

Accessibility analysis is commonly broken down into three types of measure:

  • Access for people to services such as retail, healthcare, education and employment.
  • Access of places to ensure that destinations are attractive with well planned connections.
  • Connections between people and places which can be by physical journeys or electronic virtual connections. The physical journeys are considered door to door and can use any combination of modes of transport relevant to the capabilities of the traveller. Key distinctions in measurement of accessibility are: between people with and without a car available, physical capabilities, and safety.

There can be no one single measure of accessibility. The population is diverse and all people’s needs are important. In practice a basket of commonly used accessibility measures is used to identify the most important accessibility problems.

Accessibility Audits

Since the mid-2000s, to check changes in accessibility over time local accessibility data has been calculated for the whole of Britain by central government. The approaches to calculation have evolved over time and more data has been published for England than for Scotland and Wales.

National measures of accessibility have been calculated at neighbourhood level using census boundary areas ( Lower Layer Super Output Areas, or Data Zones in Scotland – each of which has a population of around 2000 people). The national accessibility data is widely republished in other data series by local and central government, and non-governmental organisations, to assist in the monitoring of progress towards sustainable development goals, deprivation, and rural proofing of policy.

Accessibility data can be used to meet immediate, practical needs, such as locating the nearest coffee house and planning a journey to reach it. However, the analysis of accessibility data has many uses directly linked to policy and strategy:

  • Where to live to ensure good access to jobs and services:
  • Where to build new homes to ensure high quality lifestyles with good access.
  • Where to provide specialist public services such a hospitals and colleges.
  • How to ensure opportunities for customers to access good and services.

There are many requirements in law and guidance that require consideration of accessibility:

  • Local authority development planning decisions must report what accessibility changes would occur with requirements for developers to demonstrate improvements in access.
  • Health authorities must report on the equity of access to their services to demonstrate a comprehensive service to all of society.
  • Education authorities must monitor changes in access to ensure that all people can access education.

For further details of the raw data data available, previous published analysis, and how to obtain custom accessibility analysis, see:

Who We Are

This website is written and maintained by the team at DHCLoop Connections, based in Edinburgh.

We undertook the bulk of the accessibility data processing and analysis for Department for Transport, Welsh and Scottish Governments between 2000 and 2010 and as the analysis tools became widely available, helped these government departments to develop their in-house monitoring arrangements.

About DHC projects Where our technologies have been deployed Loop Connections Contact Us.