Homeward bound: How students are getting around

Posted: 25 Feb 2019 - 12:28
How students get around
Whether it's the last bus from town, or a long train ride to the home town, students are perpetually on the move. Besides finding the cheapest ticket, what influences how and when they travel?

University. A chance to live independently for the first time, to forge new friendships and, for some, to escape their home postcode. For others, it’s an opportunity to study and prepare for their careers while staying at the family home. Whichever it is, students spend a lot of time on the road.

Student mobility in numbers

University isn’t a time when all young people leave home, but most of them do

75% of students physically up sticks and move to attend university, most to within 55 miles of their ‘home’ address. The majority of the remaining students also stay within this radius, but commute to university.

Short distance movers (32.5%)             Short distance commuters (23.3%)
Medium distance movers (31.5%)       Medium distance commuters (1.2%)
Long distance movers (10.9%)             Long distance commuters (0.3%)

And whether students live a short hop from campus, or a long ride from home, almost three-quarters of them are paying for their own travel tickets. 

Homeward bound

For those students living away from the family home for university, 115,000 are making the trip back on a weekly basis to see their loved ones. This rises to 139,000 during the breaks between terms, while 39,000 and 93,000 are travelling every fortnight and month, respectively. 

And it’s Trainline that has the market under monopoly, with almost 70% of travelling students using the website to book their tickets. The remaining 30% is shared among National Express, Megabus, Stagecoach, National Rail, and Virgin Trains. Cost is, obviously, the most influential factor when choosing between how they travel home, with 61% of students citing it as the most influential factor. It’s less important to overseas students, who rely on parental help for travel fare, but more important for domestic students who largely pay for their own. Ease of travel was deemed important by 19%, and length of journey by 15%

Most providers now offer discount cards for students, with the 16-25 Railcard being one of the most popular, offering a third off all rail travel. National Express offer a similar young person’s coach card, whilst Megabus accepts NUS membership for a discount. 

Subsidy schemes are also available at many universities to encourage cycling as a form of everyday transport, which grows in popularity by the year as young people become more environmentally conscious. On average, 12% of students cycle to their university, but it can be as high as 50% in Cambridge, or 20% in York – where town centre distances are smaller, streets are narrower, and car costs are higher. Students are three+ times more likely to cycle their commute than workers are, and many universities also offer rental bikes, costing less than £1 per week. 


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By whichever method, students make up a large proportion of the UK’s public transport custom. Rail is the most popular mode, cost is the most influential factor, and Trainline is the chosen booking system.

Discover more about the spening habits of students in our latest lifestyle report.

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