Population and jobs are factors which play important roles in the analysis of the patterns of commuting. With the influence of many other elements, the patterns are basically determined by the intrinsically entangled spatial distribution of residences and places of economic activities. These factors are also relevant in the analysis concerning mode choices for work journeys. For example, the centralisation of jobs in London leads to radial trip patterns that favours the use of public transport, whereas the decentralisation of jobs in Kent favours the use of the car mode in journeys which usually have orbital patterns. An open question is to which degree the growth in job in any other possible location rather than in London affects the commuting patterns.


This is an hypothesis to be tested in the later chapters, when the effects of the role of population growth and the employment changes, assessed in this chapter, will be better understood, There are so many historic facts involved in the location of people and jobs in London and South-East, that their trends over time are worth recalling. Such recapitulation might shed some light on the understanding of the changes in the patterns of commuting during the 1980s. This chapter reports a small piece of the English history, by giving the flavour of the urban economy of the 19th century London. Then comes some comments on the mid twentieth century, when regional planning was  implemented and became fashionable. A general analysis based on aggregate data highlights some historic trends in job and population locations. For the period 1981-1989, a more specific descriptive and comparative analysis of such trends is shown, and the role of the population growth in the job changes is then considered. Finally some preliminary conclusions are presented.


Since the nineteen century, a progressive redevelopment has been observed in London. Houses have been replaced by modern business offices, and sometimes homes have been just converted into work activities. This process seems to have started at the core of the area, in the City of London, where most of the jobs were placed. By 1850, the competition for space and the rise in property price was already forcing the decentralization of the population to the outer areas of the city. However, the lack of proper housing and transport infrastructure inhibited the expansion of the city to its out-skirt areas. By 1861, the population of approximately 2 million people was confined within an area of 3 miles radius, and only a small number of commuters initially travelled on foot or by horsebus to the city of London (Clout(1987)). Transport facilities have played a big role in the development and decentralization of London, which was initially characterized by gradual and short-distance movements outward from the central area. By the beginning of this century, London had already implemented a reasonable network of railways, tramcars, and buses. A network of horse trams was developed in 1855, and expanded to the suburbs in the 1870s, whereas the first line of the underground railway was opened in 1863. However, the main determinant of  London’s growth was electric traction, that came after 1890. The old trains had some operational limitations, eg. the slow acceleration of the steam trains demanded large distances between stations, whose sizes of the catchment areas were limited by poor accessibility conditions.


With the electric trains, the suburbs could be progressively linked together into a continuous stream, creating the nucleus of what came to be known as the London metropolis. The suburbanization process mainly occurred during the flourishing of industry in Victorian London, when increases in demand for travels to work were a direct consequence of the transport facilities, and changes in population and economic activities of the inner area. Since the government did not have concerns either for urban developments nor city’s dimensions, the growth of the cities was uncontrolled and therefore disorganised. According to Buck et al. (1986), the need for planning concerning housing and industrial development for the metropolitan London was firstly recognised in the 1920s. However, the establishment of policies concerning this issue only came as a consequence of the war, when concentration of cities proved to be strategically undesirable. The first signs of market specialisation in London appeared with the reconstruction of the city, after the World War 11. Areas occupied by warehousing, industrial premises, housing and even shops were gradually transformed into offices, such that this process reached a peak by 1962. From the post-war period until 1979, strategic planning has restrained the decentralization of population and employment of the English cities. Such policy was reversed by the conservative government of the 1980s, when urban planning was reduced in scope, and the forces of commercial development were set free. Based on the same principles of decentralization, three major strategic plans were developed for London (see Buck et al. (1986)). The first one was proposed for the County of London in 1943, followed by the plan for Greater London, in 1944, and another for the City of London, in 1951.


Worthy to be pointed out is the plan designed by Abercombie for Greater London. It comprised the establishment of the Green Belt, and the new towns and major growth centres outside the Greater London area. The latter were supposed to receive the overspill population and industry from the city. The initial proposition of the Green Belt was an area of almost 1,200 square miles, which was expanded to around 2,200 square miles during the 1960s and early 1 970s. Since its official creation in 1955, such containment area has been preserved, despite the conflicts of interest between regional planners and developers and commercial agents. The main purpose of the Green Belt was to prevent the continuous development of London. It would also increase the commuting time to the city, making it less attractive, and consequently enforcing the ‘self -co ntai n ment’ characteristic of the new towns proposed. However, the containment of London and the development of the new towns were not undertaken at the plannned extent.


According to Buck et al. (1986), only about 13% of the population decentralized from Greater London moved to the new towns of the South-East, and much more went to those already existing towns of the Outer Metropolitan area. To a certain degree, the government has regulated the establishment of new activities in the inner area, by restricting the issues of Industrial Development Certificate – IDC. However, Buck et al. (1986) estimated that only half of all office jobs decentralizing from Central London were officially controlled by the government. Hall (1989) argued that certificates were given to many growing  firms to relocate in the M4 corridor, instead of in the Development Areas proposed.


According to the author, this fact has most probably contributed for the good performance of that corridor during the 1970s and early 1980s. It is not very clear whether people were not confident in moving to the new towns because they were not very attractive. One might expect that the program of reconstruction of cities implemented after the World War 11, would have favoured the decentralisation of population. As part of this program, a large contingent of domiciles were built up, making the guidance of people to new areas of development easier. Since the mid-1950s, the effects of the decent railisation have been seriously taken into consideration and questions concerning the changes in distribution of population, activities, and employment have arisen. Such issues are discussed in the following sections, which initially presents the problems concerning population, followed by employment.


If the moving out of jobs was not initially disciplined by government planning, the decentralization of population was even more uncontrolled and carried out in a complex and widespread pattern within the South-East. For the period 1951-1981, there was a continuous decrease in the population of both Inner and Outer London, whereas the opposite tendency occurred in the Rest of South East. According to Hall (1989) in the 1950s, the ring of maximum population growth was between 15-30 miles around London, whereas it lay in the range 30-50 miles in the following decade. By the 1970’s and 1980’s, the largest growth in population was observed in separate areas at various distances within 80 miles and 110 miles around the core respectively Despite the 1967 recession, a general increase in employment and individual prosperity was observed in the country in the 1960s. During such period, the public sector strongly invested in housing, and the expansion of the motorways and trunk road construction. Substantial immigration from overseas was also detected during the 60s, which coincided with the peak of the birth rate in England. Consequently, by the begining of the 70s the demand for housing space has boosted the demand for larger dwelling in lower-density premises.