Commute times increase as the UK’s transport system gets more crowded

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The amount of time that commuters spend travelling to and from work has increased substantially over the past five years, according to a TUC analysis of official figures published today (Friday).

The figures – published to mark the end of Commute Smart Week organised by Work Wise UK – show that on average workers are spending almost an extra 11 hours a year commuting.

The South East has seen the most dramatic annual increase – with commuters there facing an additional 20 hours to their journeys.

Since 2008, rising commuting times mean that workers in the East Midlands are now encountering an 18 hour annual increase, while those in the South West and East of England have also seen above average rises in travel to work times.

Although Londoners have only seen their commute times go up by an extra 10 hours a year, the TUC points out that they already have way and above the longest daily commute time in the UK – at almost an hour and twenty minutes.

The TUC believes that UK workers are spending far too much of their lives commuting – an average of nearly 211 hours per year, or the equivalent of more than a month’s full-time work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Employers need to address the problem that many of their workers are spending an increasing number of, often very miserable, hours commuting.

“More home-working and flexi-time could easily be introduced to allow people to cut their commutes and save money at the same time. This would be popular with workers and would also help take the pressure off our congested and overloaded transport system.”

The TUC analysis also breaks down commute times by different modes of transport. It shows that nationally travelling by car is still the most common way of commuting, with workers spending nearly 7 hours more per year travelling to work and back than they were in 2008. For bus, coach, rail, tram and underground passengers the rise in commuting time is higher – now an extra 14 hours per year.

The Department for Transport reports that motor vehicle traffic increased by 1.6 per cent during the past year, resulting in more than 250 thousand extra vehicle journeys. But in this time only 53 miles of new roads were built.

Similarly, the number of journeys made on the rail network increased by 2.5 per cent last year, but yet the capacity of the rail network only increased by a marginal amount – an extra nine miles of track.

Work Wise UK’s Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said: “With commuting times on the increase, identifying ways to reverse this trend should be a top priority for any employer, which means offering staff a choice in where and when they work.

“Is the daily commute this winter going to be interrupted by poor weather, increased demand on services and disrupted travel? Or are employers going to grasp the opportunity by changing the way employees work, think about the risks to their organisation and introduce more flexibility to cut out these disruptive influences on business performance, work life balance and productivity?”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Average daily commuting times for a round trip

2008 (minutes)

2013 (minutes)

Daily increase (minutes)

Men

60

63

3

Women

47

50

3

All employees

53

56

3

Source: ONS Labour Force Survey

Average daily commuting times for a round trip by regions and nations

2008 (minutes)

2013 (minutes)

Daily change (minutes)

Yearly change (hours)

North East

47

48

2

6

North West

48

51

3

11

Yorkshire and the Humber

51

50

0

-1

East Midlands

47

52

5

18

West Midlands

49

51

2

9

East of England

57

60

3

12

London

76

79

3

10

South East

55

60

5

20

South West

46

49

4

14

Wales

45

44

-1

-5

Scotland

52

54

2

7

Northern Ireland

45

45

0

2

Total

53

56

3

11

Source: ONS Labour Force Survey

Average daily commuting times by modes of transport

Number of people commuting 2013 (thousands)

2008 (minutes)

2013 (minutes)

Daily change (minutes)

Yearly change (hours)

Car*

16,367

49

51

2

7

Car (as driver)

14,180

50

51

2

7

Car (sometimes driver, sometimes passenger)

1,204

53

55

2

8

Car (as passenger only)

980

38

38

0

1

Motorbike, moped, scooter

184

49

47

-2

-6

Bicycle

821

35

41

6

22

Bus, coach, private bus

1,872

73

76

4

14

Taxi

61

33

50

17

62

Train

1,336

128

131

4

14

Underground, light railway, tram

873

95

98

4

14

Walk

2,724

27

29

1

5

All employees commuting

24,340

54

56

3

11

Note: *Car includes drivers, regular passengers and a small amount of people who travel by minibus – less than 10,000. Source: ONS Labour Force Survey

- Labour Force Survey data for autumn quarters in 2008 and 2013, extracted from UK Data Archives

- Yearly calculations assume a five day working week, and 45 working weeks per year

- More information about Commute Smart Week is available at www.workwiseuk.org

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen   T: 020 7467 1388    M: 07778 158175   E: [email protected]
Tim Nichols   T: 020 7467 1337   M: 07876 452902  E: [email protected]
Clare Santry   T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150   E: [email protected]

Phil Flaxton (Work Wise UK)    M: 07831 112639       E: [email protected]

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