Understanding the Movement of People Across the Northern Ireland - Republic of Ireland Border From Mobile Network Data

Cross-border travel and movements between Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI) are extensive and, for many people, a regular feature of everyday life. The existence of the Common Travel Area (CTA) enables Irish and UK nationals to travel freely between both countries for a wide variety of reasons including for work, trade, education, shopping and other purposes in the pursuit of their daily lives. Although it is widely accepted that the number of people involved in moving across the NI-ROI border is extensive there is no single National Statistic available to present this at the aggregated level to cover the totality of all cross-border people movements. Separate data sources are available on for example tourism statistics and cross border shopping but no robust information on the number of crossings for visiting family or friends or the journeys people take on crossing the border several times a day as part of their daily routine. In 2017, there was an identified need to fill that data gap in the context of the UK/EU negotiations as the UK prepared to Exit the EU. Although both the UK and the EU were committed to the continuation of the CTA and its associated rights and privileges, it was important for policy makers to understand the scale and purpose of cross border people movements to facilitate those considerations. It is against this background that the Department for the Economy (DfE) undertook a research exercise, and commissioned several projects, to understand the extent of people movement across the NI-ROI border. This paper will present the combined analysis from those projects on the number of people crossing the border between NI and the ROI. It will draw on the results from the DfE commissioned research conducted by Citi Logik as well as the work presented in two other DfE research papers which were published in March 2018. The top line estimates show that there are between 100 and 110 million person border crossings each year – a significantly stark figure and one which has now been widely used by policy makers, the Office for National Statistics as well as frequently cited by the media. The paper will also distinguish between the purposes for which people cross and how often they do so. Included in this paper is the presentation around the methodology used to collect, pre-process and analyse Mobile Network Data (MND). Citi Logik used anonymised information from a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) to consider the extent of the aggregate movements of people across the NI-ROI border. Through use of now well-established techniques to derive trips from raw MND and the development of bespoke algorithms. Citi Logik was able to provide the following insights, using both UK and roamer data: • Total cross border movements; • Origin and destination of cross border movements; • Residency information for cross border movements; • Purpose for cross border travel; and • Frequency of cross border travel. It will highlight how the MND outputs were validated and the key insights that were identified. The paper will also draw on other sources data and methodologies used by DfE to examine the number, location and purpose of cross border trips. Finally, it will provide DfE insights on the use of non-traditional techniques to address key policy considerations in the EU Exit space where many innovative uses of data have had to be employed to present the unique considerations of NI as the authors prepare to leave the EU.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Abstract used by permission of Association for European Transport.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Association for European Transport (AET)

    1 Vernon Mews, Vernon Street, West Kensington
    London W14 0RL,    
  • Authors:
    • Stewart, Stephanie
    • Perret, Philippe
    • Lecky, Wendy
    • Doherty, Andrew
  • Conference:
  • Publication Date: 2019


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Pagination: 15p
  • Monograph Title: European Transport Conference 2019

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01751298
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 21 2020 12:42PM