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:

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.

Accessibility has been planned successfully when people, services and transport interact well together.

How Accessibility is Measured

The simplest measure of accessibility is travel time to the nearest location of a service:

Travel time to the nearest location of a service.
Travel time to the nearest location of a service.

Accessibility analysis is commonly broken down into types of:

There is no one universally agreed single measure of accessibility.

Uses of Accessibility Data

Since the mid-2000s, local accessibility data has been calculated for the whole of Britain. More data has been published for England than for Scotland and Wales. Accessibility is typically calculated for each of the smallest census boundary areas (called Lower Layer Super Output Areas, or Data Zones in Scotland - each of which has a population of between 1,000 and 3,000 people).

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 far more strategic uses, for example:

More specifically, UK government formally requires consideration of accessibility:

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

Travel Time Maps

Variations in local accessibility can be explored using our travel time maps. These are available for the whole of Great Britain. They show public transport travel times to the nearest location of each essential service. Additional data is available for each local area, showing travel time by other modes of transport, plus (for England) an index showing the range of choice of locations for each service.

Map showing travel time access to nearest hospital for east Greater Manchester by public transport.
Map showing travel time access to nearest hospital for east Greater Manchester by public transport. Access to hospitals from east (right) of Manchester appears far worse (red) than to the south (lower left, green). Further investigation reveals that Tameside General Hospital (upper right) is not terribly easy to reach by public transport from much of Tameside (lower right).
Base map © OpenStreetMap contributors. Census Areas boundaries licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.

For example, access to hospitals from east (right) of Manchester appears far worse (red) than to the south (lower left, green). Further investigation reveals that Tameside General Hospital (upper centre) is not terribly easy to reach by public transport from much of Tameside (lower centre). To learn more about our maps, see Maps.

Who We Are

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

We have undertaken much of the accessibility data processing and analysis on behalf of government, and worked with other interested organisations on the topic of accessibility planning for over 10 years.