The late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed a growing interest amongst UK academics and policy makers in the issue of transport disadvantage and, more innovatively, how this might relate to growing concerns about the social exclusion of low income groups and communities. Studies (predominantly in the United Kingdom) began to make more explicit the links policy between poverty, transport disadvantage, access to key services and economic and social exclusion (see for example Church and Frost, 2000; TRaC, 2000; Lucas et al., 2001; Kenyon 2003; Kenyon et al., 2003; Hodgson and Turner, 2003; Raje, 2003).
By 2003, the UK Social Exclusion Unit had published and its now internationally recognised report on this subject, which subsequently resulted in the development of a set of transport policy guidances to local authorities in England to deliver what is now commonly referred to as accessibility planning as part of their Local Transport Plans (Department for Transport, 2006). Since this time, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in several other countries became interested in adopting a social exclusion approach to transport planning, largely because of its utility in identifying the role of transport, land use planning and service delivery decisions in creating and reinforcing poverty and social disadvantage.
Eight years on from the SEU report, we can begin to reflect on the extent to which a social exclusion approach to the research of transport disadvantage has been successful in opening up new avenues of research enquiry and/or identifying new theoretical perspectives and/or methodological approaches. The paper begins by briefly revisiting the basic theories and core definitions which underpin and inform a social exclusion perspective. It then considers how these have been translated and understood in terms of transport. Secondly, it considers some of the emergent empirical research of transport-related exclusion that has attempted to measure and model the interactions between transport and mobility inequalities and relational negative social outcomes. Thirdly, it offers observations on progress in some key areas of policy and practice, with specific reference to the UK and Australia. It concludes by suggesting how further progress might be made on this issue and considers whether the social exclusion agenda is still a relevant approach for achieving this.