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  • 00:07

    [Diary Methods: The National Travel Survey]

  • 00:11

    ALUN HUMPHREY: I'm Alun Humphrey.I work at NatCen Social Research,where I lead the Household Survey Research Team.That's the team that runs a number of large householdsurveys in the UK, which includes the National TravelSurvey.NatCen Social Research is an independent social researchorganization.

  • 00:32

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: We undertake social research, whichinvolves undertaking surveys and qualitative studies thatfind out about people's circumstances,about their attitudes, about their behavior.All the work that we do is on behalfof government departments or other organizations,such that we can put the data in the public domain.

  • 00:53

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: The idea, the reason that NatCen existsis to provide data about people thatenables us to make better informed policydecisions in this country.The National Travel Survey, or the NTS, as we call it,is a survey which is undertaken on behalf of the Departmentfor Transport.And it provides the department with the main measure

  • 01:15

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: of how people or people's personal travel in England.It's been running since 1965.And each year, we conduct somewherein the region about 7,500 interviewswith households in the country.That includes collecting information

  • 01:36

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: on 15,000 plus individuals.And that's people-- everyone in the household, so from babiesall the way to the oldest person in the household.And we have travel diaries collectedfrom all of those individuals.So we process somewhere in the region of 15,000 traveldiaries each year.Each of those diaries contains data from seven days of travel.

  • 02:00

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: So multiply that up, you've got a very large numberof travel days, a very large number of journeys.We actually process data files which include dataon a journey level of hundreds of thousandsof journeys each year.The purpose of the National Travel Surveyis to provide the Department for Transport

  • 02:23

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: with data that enables them to plan transportationin this country.When the department make planning decisions,such as whether to build a new road,whether to build a new rail link,they have to run a number of modelsthat they run to understand the costs and the benefit of makingthose investments.And some of the data that goes into those models

  • 02:45

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: actually comes from the National Travel Survey.So that's the first way in which the data are used.They are also used just to track long term trends of travelin this country.The NTS has actually been running since 1965,so it provides a very long time series about how we as a nationtravel, and how things are changing over time.

  • 03:08

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: The data are also used to track targetsthat the government has.So the government sets itself targets, for example,the proportion of journeys under a certain distance thatare made by more sustainable means of transport,such as walking, or cycling and the data from the NTScan actually help the government measure how they'redoing against those targets.

  • 03:30

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: And then finally, another way that the data are usedare to understand the circumstances and the impactsof certain transport policies, for example,on different groups in society.So for example, we can use the NTS datato understand what proportion of older peopleare making use of concessionary bus travel, for example,or what proportion of people on low incomes

  • 03:52

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: are able to travel by train.The Department for Transport has a whole range of data sourcesthat it can draw from.They get data from traffic counts on the roads.They get data from bus companies,from rail companies about the numbersof journeys made, for example.What those data don't tell them about the circumstances

  • 04:14

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: of the people themselves.So the NTS collects some really key data, how people traveland why people travel, what purpose are they traveling for.The Department can't get that sort of datafrom those other data sources.In order to undertake the NTS, there's

  • 04:35

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: a number of processes we have to go through.So the first stage is to ensure that weget a representative sample of people to take part.So the first thing that we do is we select a random probabilitysample of addresses, and we get that from the post officeaddress file.We then provide those addresses to our interviewers,

  • 04:55

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: and we send a letter to each one of those selected addressesthat pre-warns them about the survey,tells them a little bit about it, and saysthat an interviewer will be callingon their door in the next few days.The interviewer then does that, tries to persuadethe people to take part.And the first stage is to undertake an interview, which

  • 05:16

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: lasts around about 40 minutes.They interview the household, ask questionsabout or on behalf of each person in the household.That collects the information about wholives there, their circumstances,and a number of things about how often they travel, for example.A key part of the survey, though, is the diary.And at the end of that first interview, what,

  • 05:38

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: the interviewer does is introduces the diary,which is a week long record wherewe record all the different journeys that theymake during that week.And they give a diary out for every household member.And they explain to the person that they'retalking to how to actually fill in the diary.

  • 05:58

    CHRIS KING: My name is Chris King.I forget exactly how long I've been with NatCen,but it must be six, seven years now.And I'm an interviewer.Thomas, thank you for that.I appreciate that.Now we move on to what I mentionedearlier on, the diaries.

  • 06:13


  • 06:14

    CHRIS KING: Now, the diary is a requirementto help us look at how you and Jane travelfor a specific week.By coincidence, we're actually starting today, whichis going to be quite helpful.Now, what I'd like to do is to do a practice page with you.

  • 06:31

    THOMAS: Right.

  • 06:31

    CHRIS KING: It's all OK?

  • 06:32

    THOMAS: Sure.

  • 06:33

    CHRIS KING: Now, I'll come to that in a moment.If I can just hand that over to you.

  • 06:38

    THOMAS: Thank you.

  • 06:42

    CHRIS KING: A travel diary pen.We get hundreds of these, so you could have that, too.

  • 06:47

    THOMAS: All right, two, why not?

  • 06:48

    CHRIS KING: And one for Jane, because you've bothgot to do these.

  • 06:50

    THOMAS: Of course.

  • 06:51

    CHRIS KING: So what we're looking foris for you to fill in every journey that you make.So as it's starting today-- this is just a practice page--can you tell me what you've done today, in the way of travel?

  • 07:03

    THOMAS: In the way of travel.I got a bus just outside my house.

  • 07:07

    CHRIS KING: So where were you going to?

  • 07:09

    THOMAS: From my Gypsy Hill--

  • 07:11

    CHRIS KING: To where?

  • 07:12

    THOMAS: It would be to Hutton Hill.

  • 07:14

    CHRIS KING: OK.So was like to come to work?

  • 07:16

    THOMAS: On the way-- yeah, the first part of the journey.

  • 07:19

    CHRIS KING: If you could just put there to work.

  • 07:20

    THOMAS: To work, sure.

  • 07:21

    CHRIS KING: Just put it right--

  • 07:22

    THOMAS: To work.

  • 07:23

    CHRIS KING: And what time do you leave?

  • 07:28

    THOMAS: 8:50.

  • 07:29

    CHRIS KING: Every morning?Is that what you normally do?

  • 07:30

    THOMAS: Yeah.Roughly, yeah.

  • 07:31

    CHRIS KING: And what time did you reach the doorstep at work?

  • 07:34

    SARAH MORRIS: We're using a diary method on the NationalTravel Survey, because the informationwe're trying to collect is about people's behavior.So for example, we are looking for quite a lotof detailed information about travel tickets, timesof travel, where people were traveling to and from,as well as who they were traveling with.And all of that kind of information is very detailed.

  • 07:56

    SARAH MORRIS [continued]: And to ask people to try and rememberall of that information for a day thatmight have occurred seven days agowould be really difficult for them to do.So by asking them to fill in a diaryas and when they go and make their journeys,we're likely to get a much better quality of informationfrom them.

  • 08:16

    CHRIS KING: OK, you can see how you complete that form now,right?

  • 08:20

    THOMAS: Yes.

  • 08:20

    CHRIS KING: Having said that, that's quite a large booklet,and some people do find it difficult to perhaps carryaround.They leave it at home.So to help you, we've actually producedthis small aide-memoire.And what it is a page for each day.And I'll give you two of these, one for you and one for Jane.

  • 08:38

    THOMAS: Yeah.

  • 08:39

    CHRIS KING: But what we'd like in that, to help you--you don't have to use it, but if it's helpful,you can put down going to work, going home, going to football,going to the pub, going to home, if I've gotthis in the right order.

  • 08:50

    SARAH MORRIS: There are ways in which the diary can beburdensome for our respondents.So ways in which we try to mitigate thisare by making sure that the document is as clearly laid outas possible, so that it's very simple and straightforwardfor respondents to fill in, to make surethat we really only capture the information that we require.And we don't try to ask too much for them to record in a diary.

  • 09:14

    SARAH MORRIS [continued]: And one of the other ways that we try to mitigate the burdenis by making sure that people realizejust how important the data is that we'recollecting from them.So we'll train our interviewers to make surethat they understand the importance of the survey,and that they can then pass this on to our respondents,and then they understand why we're askingfor this level of information.

  • 09:35

    CHRIS KING: Let me say this.Some people find this filling part a bit difficult.

  • 09:40

    THOMAS: Right.

  • 09:41

    CHRIS KING: Persevere.If you really can't do it all, make sure this one's completed,and I will help you putting it in into the main one.But other than that, if you and Jane can do that,then we'll give you some money for doing that.

  • 09:54

    THOMAS: Perfect.

  • 09:56

    SARAH MORRIS: In the National Travel Survey,we're asking a lot from our respondents.So as part of the way of saying a thankyou to our respondents for the time they've put in,we offer them a five pound incentiveif everybody in the household fills in the diary.[MUSIC PLAYING]

  • 10:17

    ALUN HUMPHREY: So our team of data enterers and codersreceive the paper diaries.They look through them initially,to make sure what's written in the diaries makes sense.They actually process each household's set of diariestogether, because a lot of householdsmake journeys together.So they can look across the diaries

  • 10:38

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: to make sure that they're consistent with one anotherand that they all make sense.Once they've done that, they actuallyenter all the data which is written by the interviewer,by the respondent in the diary into a system that'sdesigned to receive those data.Because the National Travel Surveycollects data about the people themselves,

  • 10:60

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: their personal circumstances, the departmentalso is able to look at the data by different groups.So they can see, for example, how many of thosejourneys that are made by rail are made by older peopleor people on higher incomes, or peoplein certain parts of the country, for example.We're taking this open text information, what peoplehave written in their own words about what they've

  • 11:22

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: done, the reason for why they have made that journey,and we're basically turning that into a much smaller numberof different purposes.On the NTS, we have just over 20 different standard purposecodes.What that enables us to do is to be able to analyze the dataand see what proportion of different types of trips

  • 11:42

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: have been made from the various different reasons.So what proportion of trips are made in orderto go to work, or to commute, for example?What proportion of trips are made for personal reasons?What proportion of trips are made just to return home?So we can start to isolate different types of trips.And people who are analyzing the data

  • 12:03

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: can then do things like looking at just trips thatare made to take children to school,just trips that are made to get people to and from work,so isolating commuting trips, for example.What we also know on the NTS is that people actuallychange how they fill the diary in during the week.They're a bit more robust at the beginning of the week,

  • 12:24

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: and they start to kind of wane in termsof how diligent they are in filling in the diaryas the week progresses.So for that reason, we actually also staggerthe start dates of each diary across the days of the week.So they don't all start on a Monday or a Sunday,for example.Otherwise, again, we'd get an unrealistic picture of travel.

  • 12:44

    ALUN HUMPHREY [continued]: So the way it operates on the National Travel Surveyis we have an even number of interviewsspread over the year.And then each interviewer randomlyallocates a particular day when the household shouldstart filling in the diary.So we get a very even spread of completed diariesacross the week, across the month, and across the year.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:In Practice

Methods: Diary methods, Survey research

Keywords: attitudes and behavior; behavior (psychology); government agencies; mitigation; policy formation; Social order; transportation; travel ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



The National Travel Survey collects data on how people travel on a daily basis in England. This data, gathered via interviews and diaries, informs national transportation policy.

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Diary Methods: The National Travel Survey

The National Travel Survey collects data on how people travel on a daily basis in England. This data, gathered via interviews and diaries, informs national transportation policy.

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