Journal of Social Policy


Social Exclusion and Transport in the UK: A Role for Virtual Accessibility in the Alleviation of Mobility-Related Social Exclusion?

a1 Research Fellow in Transport and Social Exclusion, Unit for Transport and Society, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY
a2 University of Southampton
a3 University of the West of England


This paper reports findings from research into the possibility that mobility-related social exclusion could be affected by an increase in access to virtual mobility – access to opportunities, services and social networks, via the Internet – amongst populations that experience exclusion. Transport is starting to be recognised as a key component of social policy, particularly in light of a number of recent studies, which have highlighted the link between transport and social exclusion, suggesting that low access to mobility can reduce the opportunity to participate in society – a finding with which this research concurs. Following the identification of this causal link, the majority of studies suggest that an increase in access to adequate physical mobility can provide a viable solution to mobility-related aspects of social exclusion.

This paper questions the likelihood that increased physical mobility can, by itself, provide a fully viable or sustainable solution to mobility-related aspects of social exclusion. Findings from both a desk study and public consultation suggest that virtual mobility is already fulfilling an accessibility role, both substituting for and supplementing physical mobility, working to alleviate some aspects of mobility-related social exclusion in some sectors of society. The paper incorporates an analysis of the barriers to and problems with an increase in virtual mobility in society, and concludes that virtual mobility could be a valuable tool in both social and transport policy.


Research for this paper was undertaken whilst these authors were employed within the Transportation Research Group, at the University of Southampton.