Open Conference Systems, Nordic Geographers Meeting 2011

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Travel disruption and what it tells us
Jo Guiver

Last modified: 2011-04-18


This paper compares the findings of three projects investigating travel disruption of different kinds:

  • the suspension of flights in April 2010 because of the volcanic ash cloud,
  • the loss of road connections for five months between both parts of a small town in West Cumbria, UK, when floods in November 2009 damaged and destroyed all the bridges apart from the railway bridge
  • the extreme winter weather (snow, ice and cold) experienced in the UK in December 2010.

In each case, surveys were undertaken and people's reactions recorded.

When travel becomes difficult or impossible, journeys disappear. They are cancelled or delayed, closer destinations are chosen, trips are combined and trip frequency is reduced. Adjustments come not only from travellers, but service and travel providers who can redeploy staff, bring services closer to residential areas, close destinations such as schools and places of employment or cancel or postpone events requiring travel. The evidence is that different types of journey can be adjusted in different ways.

Transport, because it is mobile, can be quickly adapted to new circumstances, but exists in a landscape shaped by the transport available. Land use patterns are less flexible than the travel and transport which created them. With the anticipated increase in the price of fuel and the imperative to reduce climate change emissions how will new travel patterns evolve and how dependent will they be on changes in land and time use? The conclusions discuss the lessons which can be learnt from these temporary travel difficulties.