Sustainable Cities Mobility Index

Urban Mobility for Smarter Cities

In a world of rapid urbanisation, ageing infrastructure, population growth and climate change, cities and city leaders face enormous pressure to meet today’s mobility challenges. However investing in improved and sustainable transport will give cities enhanced productivity, attractiveness and overall quality of life.

Where do 100 of  the world’s leading cities rank for the sustainability of their urban mobility networks?

And where does the UK stand?


Overall Mobility Ranking

The Index explores mobility through the three pillars of sustainability—social (People), environmental (Planet) and economic (Profit) to develop an indicative ranking of the world’s leading cities.


Measures social and human implications of mobility systems including quality of life.


Captures environmental impacts like energy, pollution and emissions.


Assesses the efficiency and reliability of a mobility system to facilitate economic growth.

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UK and Ireland Mobility Rankings

Bridging the north-south transport divide

UK and Irish cities fare relatively well for the sustainability of their transport networks, with almost all featuring in the top half of the index. Yet there is still room for improvement, particularly in ensuring that regions outside of the capital are as competitive as London. It is not simply a question of favouring one city over another: we need investment in all our major cities to ensure infrastructure works for everyone. With national and regional economies depending on interconnectivity, it is good news that central government, devolved administrations and city leaders are all embarking on ambitious plans to upgrade mobility networks and redress decades of underinvestment.

1. London (7th)  5. Bristol (43rd)
2. Edinburgh (17th) 6. Dublin (44th) 
3. Manchester (35th) 7. Leeds (59th) 
4. Birmingham (38th)

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The highest ranking UK city, London has one of the largest shares of its budget spent on transport. Yet it also ranks amongst the least affordable in Europe. While the capital benefits from a high density of available transport options, it is also held back by some of the highest levels of congestion.


More needs to be done to improve congestion and travel time in Birmingham, particularly given the region’s position at the heart of the government’s new Industrial Strategy. Fortunately, Birmingham leads Europe as a city able to fund transport needs through revenues. There is no reason why it can’t fulfil its potential.


As with any aspirational city, travel congestion is an issue, leading to frustration for local people and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. While Bristol has some of the lowest commuting times in Europe, it still scores relatively low for access to transport services. Bristol would benefit from greater connectivity to the country’s other powerhouse cities.


The last decade has seen significant transport improvements, but these aren’t being felt by the average commuter, who still faces delays at peak times. Roads, buses and railways continue to be under strain. While Dublin benefits from high transport revenues as a share of expenses, it also offers some of the least affordable public transport in Europe.


As the highest ranking UK city outside of London, Edinburgh boasts some of the best commuting times and least delays in Europe. It also has some of the highest density of bus and metro stops, making it one of the leading cities in Europe for the accessibility of its transport services.


If Leeds is to fulfil its potential and realise the aspirations of the Northern Powerhouse, it has work to do. Leeds has the fewest bus and metro stops per square kilometre in the UK and would benefit from more active transport options, for example by improving cycling infrastructure and increasing pedestrian areas.


Manchester performs consistently across the index and, with a high density of bus and metro stops, is one of the best cities in Europe for accessibility of transport services. However, there is room for improvement when it comes to fighting congestion and delays; the city has some of the longest commuting times outside of London.

People: The social implications of mobility

A city’s transport network needs to function effectively for the people it serves. This can have a significant impact on quality of life. Fortunately, the UK and Ireland work relatively well. In particular, a sign of a well-functioning network is the share of trips taken by public transport. The UK scores highly here.  A journey is also easier when a greater proportion can be taken by public transport: for example when there is a bus stop near home and another near work. In this respect, Edinburgh and Manchester perform the best in Europe for accessibility, with a high density of bus and metro stops.

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Planet: The environmental impact of the city’s networks

Effective and efficient transport must not come at too great a cost to the natural environment. Fortunately, in the UK and Ireland all cities feature in the top half of the index. Air pollution levels are relatively low in comparison with other similar sized cities around the world and electric vehicle incentives are a key consideration. One area of note, however, is the issue of congestion. Edinburgh leads the way in Europe when it comes to lack of delays, yet London – in spite of the high density of available transport options – has one of the highest levels of congestion in Europe.

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Profit: How mobility can support growth

Mobility is a key lever in supporting the wider economy, improving productivity and encouraging prosperity. However, it is a mixed picture in the UK and Ireland.  Edinburgh-dwellers and Bristolians have amongst the lowest commuting times, while those in London have amongst the longest, which has a bearing on economic productivity. Along with Dublin, London’s transport also ranks amongst the least affordable. However, when it comes to funding, it is Edinburgh, Birmingham and London that lead Europe as cities which can fund their transport needs through revenues. This is a sign of an economically sustainable system.

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Peter Hogg

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