Kent is the second largest non-metropolitan county of England, with a population of about 1.5 million. The North area from the Medway towns through to Sheerness-on-Sea, Queensborough and Thanet towns is largely urbanised, however, during the last decade population growth drifted toward the central districts of Canterbury and Ashford. The main concentration of commuters to Central London are from the districts along the border of the London conurbation, the Medway Cities, as well as the hinterland area which comprises of Tonbridge, Maidstone and Tonbridge Wells. Focal points of attraction of local travel are mainly observed in the Mid and North Kent, eg. the retail sector is particularly strong in Maidstone and Gillingham, while the provision of office and shopping centres are dominant in Maidstone, Ashford and Tunbridge Wells.
Another source of flows within Kent are the economic activities concerning the port and ferry developments, which are located along the Eastern coast, in particular Dover, Folkestone, and Ramsgate. Tourists and visitors to the county are mainly attracted to Canterbury, Sandwich, Tenterden, Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone. According to the Kent County Council (1987), traditional holiday resorts on the eastern and southern coasts, eg. Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Deal and Folkestone have gradually seen a change in demand from long stay to day trips. Such a change might have increased the number of daily travel to these towns as well as the demand for movements within them. Regarding Central London, one may say that there are two major employment nodes: the City and Westminster. The former is characterized by very high employment density (1079 jobs per hectare in 1981 and 989 in 1989), but low residential density.
Although the largest absolute number of jobs of Central London is in the western part of the city, a much less density of jobs is found there. The figures in brackets were derived from the 1981 Census of Population, and 1989 Census of Employment. London has higher wage levels than the surrounding regions. According to the Department of Employment (1992), the 1989 average gross weekly pay to a full time male working in Greater London was E348.8, whereas in the rest of South East (ROSE), the corresponding payment was C281.4. This fact partially reflects higher actual wage rates, but mainly its extreme concentration of high income occupations.
The scale of employment is another factor setting Central London apart from the other cities in the South East, as well as in England. For the purpose of this study, the area denominated by Central London comprises 69 small wards of the districts City of London, City of Westminster, Camden, Hackney, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets. The list of wards and enumeration districts by borough are given in appendix 1.1 1.3.2 – TRANSPORT NETWORK The proximity of Kent to London results in a high demand for daily travel by rail, car and coach. The coach market is particularly concentrated in North Kent and in Maidstone, whereas dense networks of roads and trains are widely available in the County. In 1981, the coach commuting from Kent was practically nonexistent.
However, a great boost in this market was provided by the 1980 Transport Act. According to the Kent County Council (1987), a survey carried out in May 1985 showed that the coach was used by more than 5000 people in daily travels to Central London. This represented more than 4000 more travellers than the level given by the 1981 Census of Population. However, there is evidence that the number of coach passengers has remained approximately static since 1986 ( Stavely (1989)). Let us now turn to the rail commuting. Over the period 1981-1989, there was a 21% increase in the number of trips between Kent and Central London against an increase of 20% from all areas in the South of England (see tables 7.5 and 2.1). Since the train is the predominant mode of commuting to Central London, such statistics make the choice of the study area even more advantageous and attractive. A comprehensive network of rail services comprising of 106 stations is provided by the Network South East sector of the British Rail. The main road links to London are through the A2, M2, A20, M20, but there are many interconnected trunk roads, primary and secondary routes. Kent is related to a historical fact in the creation of the railway season ticket.
In the Canterbury West station, there is plaque with the following saying: “Near here was the terminus of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, 1830. George Stephenson engineer. The world’s first railway season ticket issued here in 1834”. A particular characteristic of the season ticket is that it is largely used by commuters. For instance, the London season ticket holders residents in Kent account for 35% of the 46 million annual journeys on trains in Kent (Kent County Council (1987)). Given its importance in the travel to work, one can consider the year 1834 as the bench mark of the “creation” of the commuter, who since then has multiplied, caused many concerns, and even led to the study carried out in this thesis.