Commuter flows in Lancashire and beyond


The 2011 Census provides information on the population in England and Wales, and table WU03UK details the commuter flows between local authorities: the movement between their local authority of residence and stated place of work.

This short article highlights the complex flows between the 14 Lancashire authorities and the rest of the country. The results are for usual UK residents in employment and aged 16 and over. The complete set of numbers for the Lancashire authorities can be accessed via an Instant Atlas interactive report that accompanies this article.

To protect against disclosure of personal information, there has been swapping of records in the Census database between different geographic areas, and so some counts will be affected. The greatest effects will be at the lowest geographies, since the record swapping is targeted towards those households with unusual commuting patterns.

Please see the Office for National Statistics website for full details of the 2011 census results.   

We have downloaded the Lancashire results which can be accessed via this link to an interactive report. The figures show the distribution of commuting patterns to and from Lancashire from across the whole of Great Britain. The numbers detail the workers travelling both from and to the various Lancashire areas, and those travelling from Lancashire can also be split into public and private modes of travel. Use the 'Data' button to select the direction of commuting, the district/s of origin or destination and whether by all means of transport or public or private. Use the 'Filter by region' button to select a region of Great Britain (not including Northern Ireland) for which Lancashire residents were commuting to, or from which workers in Lancashire were commuting.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Map showing relative commuter flows between districts. Key='Commuter flows between Lancashire districts and neighbouring authorities, from 2011 Census'

The commuter flows of Lancashire residents, selected results  

The 2011 census revealed 15 flows of 4,000 people or more that involved either commuting into or from one of Lancashire's 14 authorities.  Twelve of these flows were within the Lancashire-14 area, whilst three involved West Lancashire and its neighbouring authorities of Sefton and Wigan.  In general terms, these 15 largest flows identify a selection of particularly strong links between various areas comprising either two or three authorities.

Area 1: Preston, South Ribble and Chorley

Within Lancashire, the largest commuter flow between two authorities was the 13,492 South Ribble residents travelling to work in Preston district. Penwortham has grown over the years to become a substantial conurbation in South Ribble district, and is an area from where many people can easily walk, drive, cycle or catch a bus to access jobs in Preston.

There are four other flows of over 4,000 between these three authorities that exemplify their economic integration. 6,537 moved between Chorley and South Ribble, 5,186 from Preston to South Ribble, 4,071 from South Ribble to Chorley and 4,770 from Chorley to Preston. The latter is the only flow in excess of 4,000 that is not between authorities that share a boundary.  

Area 2: The Fylde Coast

The Fylde coast has long been seen as an area with close ties between the three authorities of Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre. A substantial total of 10,119 Wyre district residents were employed in Blackpool, whilst 7,312 Blackpool residents commuted to Fylde district. In the opposite direction, 5,167 went from Fylde to Blackpool, whilst 4,902 moved between Blackpool and Wyre.

Area 3: West Lancashire, Sefton and Wigan

For West Lancashire district, both the inward (5,220) and outward (5,476) commuter flows to Sefton council area were much greater than the flows between West Lancashire and each of the Lancashire authorities.  In total, 7,868 residents from Sefton came to work in one of Lancashire's authorities, but this was well below the 11,244 people from Wigan who stated that they commuted to Lancashire for work. West Lancashire (4,763) was by far the most popular location in the county for people coming to work from Wigan. 

Area 4: Flows within East Lancashire

Within East Lancashire, 6,278 Hyndburn residents found employment in Blackburn with Darwen. The close links between Burnley and Pendle are highlighted by the flow of 5,159 between Pendle and Burnley, and the 4,692 who moved in the opposite direction between the two authorities.  

Other commuter flows

From Lancaster district, 3,046 commuted to the South Lakeland district council area for work which was noticeably higher than the numbers going to any of the other Lancashire authorities.  Lancaster is an authority with a high percentage of people (77%) who live in work in the district. In contrast, South Ribble (39.1%), Chorley (39.1%) and Rossendale (40.3%) had the lowest percentages of people who live and work in the same district. 

Manchester was the most popular location outside the county for Lancashire residents to find employment (7,516), followed by Bolton (7,470) and Sefton (6,715). Rossendale (1,511) had the largest number of commuters to Manchester from a Lancashire authority.  In total, Rossendale had 33% of its resident workforce (8,903) who commute to one of the Greater Manchester authorities. These include 2,587 in Rochdale and 2,176 in Bury.

The 2011 results stated that 1,550 residents of the Lancashire-14 area had their place of work allocated to one of the central London authorities, including 452 in Westminster/City of London. A surprisingly large number of 695 were said to have commuted from a London borough to one of the 14 Lancashire authorities.

Well-paid jobs that may involve working in financial services or on high-profile construction sites allow people the opportunity to work at quite a distance from their main place of residence, and to afford alternative accommodation during the week if required.

The vast majority of people only have a short commute to work, but some Lancashire residents can be found in jobs a long way from home, and the reverse is true for commuters to Lancashire.  As the census acts as a snapshot of the nation on a particular day, it cannot be assumed that the patterns of travel displayed here were maintained for any particular length of time and for some of the longer commutes, excepting perhaps to London, the patterns of travel may have been one-off events. 

Page updated January 2018