Current travel patterns

This section provides a brief summary of recent travel patterns in and around Coventry, including the places that people most commonly travel to and form and the modes of transport that they most commonly use.

3.1 Travel demand

In 2018 there were 366,800 people living in Coventry, making it the 9th largest city in England.  It is also a rapidly growing city, in the past ten years, its population has grown by a fifth, making it the second-fastest growing local authority outside of London.

This generates a significant level of travel demand, both within the city and to and from neighbouring areas.  Demand is particularly high during peak commuting hours, when large numbers of people travel to and from places like Nuneaton and Bedworth, Warwick, Rugby and Birmingham.  However, the largest group of commuters are those who both live and work within Coventry.  In 2011 it was estimated that 78,000 residents regularly commuted within the city.

However, travel demand fell significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic and this particularly affected commuter journeys.  For example, a TfWM survey showed that, across the West Midlands, more than half of all workers worked from home during the initial lockdown period from March 2020.

3.2 Current travel patterns by mode

Car travel

Coventry is a city that is largely dominated by car travel.

Both the total number of cars owned by Coventry residents and the number of cars per household have been increasing steadily over the long-term.  In recent years, the Council has encouraged residents to switch from petrol and diesel to electric, and other zero emission, vehicles, including by installing more than 400 electric vehicle charge points – one of the largest public networks of charge points in the country.

Government statistics show that the number of electric vehicles in Coventry is increasing rapidly.  However, they remain a small minority of the total.  At the end of 2020 there were 613 battery electric vehicles registered to addresses in the city.  When other forms of ultra-low emission vehicles, such as plug-in hybrids, are also included this figure rises to 1,017.

Regular counts of private and public transport trips into the centre of Coventry show that between 2007 and 2019 car travel consistently accounted for around 70 per cent of both in-bound and out-bound trips.  This is particularly true of commuter journeys, with data from the Council’s regular household survey suggesting that, both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, around 70 per cent of commuter journeys made by Coventry residents were made by car (either as a driver or as a passenger).

The Council’s household survey also shows that residents believe that car is the easiest way to travel, in 2021 85 per cent of respondents agreed that it was easy to get around Coventry that way.  However, despite this, congestion is common on the parts of the city’s road network, particularly during peak hours.  Furthermore, the high volume of car trips also contributes heavily to the city’s carbon footprint, as well as creating air pollution and leading to around 600-700 casualties from road traffic accidents every year. These issues are discussed in more detail in section 4.

“The only convenient and safe way to travel is via a car”

“When there are more cars back on the road again, the sheer volume of traffic is just too much”

“Car traffic is terrible at peak times”

Let’s Talk survey respondents

While there were substantial falls in the number of people travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic, car travel did not fall as sharply as other modes during lockdowns and was quicker to recover afterwards.  By June 2021, the total number of cars on the city’s roads had pre-Covid levels, albeit with less pronounced peaks during the morning and afternoon ‘rush hours’.

Public transport

The city is served by four railway stations (Coventry, Tile Hill, Canley and Coventry Arena) and has good rail connections to London, with (prior to the emergency rail timetables introduced during the pandemic) 3 high speed trains per hour from Coventry, and Birmingham, with 6 trains per hour from Coventry.  Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, passenger numbers were increasing steadily, with the Office of Rail and Road estimating that there were more than 9 million entries and exits across the city’s 4 stations in 2019/20.

However, there is significant scope to improve the city’s rail connectivity.  For example, local services to Leamington, Kenilworth and Nuneaton currently only run once per hour, while the city has no direct rail links to the East Midlands at all.  As a result, Midlands Connect estimate that only 3 per cent of trips between Coventry and Leicester are made by rail.  This compares to 30 per cent of trips between Coventry and Birmingham.

“Good railway links to London and Birmingham, and thus to the rest of the UK from these nodes”

“The frequency of trains in and out of Coventry might be increased, for instance to Nuneaton and other places where people who live in Coventry… work”

“Although rail services are much improved compared to 20-30 years ago, much still needs to be done in terms of providing services direct to more destinations”

Let’s Talk survey respondents

The city also has an extensive network of bus services.  This is largely based on a series of radial routes which connect the city centre to various residential and employment centres.  Longer distance services also connect it to neighbouring conurbations including, for example, Nuneaton, Bedworth and Solihull.

However, there are some challenges regarding the reliability of services, which can be affected by congestion on the road network, and the frequency of services on some routes, particularly outside of peak hours.  The radial nature of the city’s bus network also means that many passengers need to travel into the city centre in order to change buses.  This often leads to longer journey times that are not competitive, compared to travelling by car. Furthermore, disabled residents, particularly wheelchair users, have raised concerns about difficulties accessing services. 

“Bus services are generally good, but need a more regular service outside peak times”

“The bus network, whilst the coverage is good, doesn’t always perform reliably”

“Bus routes are generally good but certain journeys across the city are slow because of (the) need to go via (the) city centre and change”

“Buses do not have enough seating for passengers that are wheelchair users”

Let’s Talk survey respondents

Prior to Covid-19, levels of bus patronage had remained broadly consistent in recent years.  However, during the pandemic, the sharpest falls in travel demand were seen on public transport.  During the initial lockdown in March 2020 bus patronage dropped to around 10 per cent of pre-Covid levels and rail to around 2 per cent.  At the time of publication, these still have not recovered to anything close to pre-pandemic levels.

Walking and cycling

Although Coventry is a relatively compact city, the number of people walking and cycling is not as high as it could be.

While data from the Council’s household survey suggests that many residents walk when escorting children to school or travelling to their own place of education, in 2018 only 12 per cent of commuters travelled to work on foot.  In 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, this fell even further to 9 per cent.

Levels of cycling are particularly low, accounting for only around 1 per cent of journeys into the centre of Coventry and between 1 and 4 per cent of residents’ journeys when they are commuting, escorting children to school or travelling to their own place of education.

A lack of convenient and safe routes for cyclists is likely to be a barrier to higher levels of uptake.  In 2021 only 52 per cent of residents agreed that it was easy to travel around Coventry by bike.  This is significantly fewer than the number who felt it was easy to walk, drive and travel on public transport.

“Coventry is a city (where) you can cycle to most places quite quickly but the roads don’t feel very safe for cyclists”

“Getting around Coventry by bicycle is not a pleasant or safe feeling thing to do”

Let’s Talk survey respondents

Transport Strategy