Issue date
17 Nov 2017
Commuters are now facing an average 58-minute daily journey – the equivalent of 27 working days a year, according to TUC analysis released today (Friday) to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week.

Getting to and from work now takes an extra 5 minutes a day compared with a decade ago – the equivalent of an extra 20 hours a year spent on congested roads and packed trains.

The number of workers facing very long commutes (over 2 hours) has gone up by 34% over the last 10 years, with 3,291,012 now facing very long journeys.

Rail commutes take longest

Rail commuters face the longest journeys, taking an average of 2 hours and 12 minutes every day – an increase of 4 minutes on the last decade.

Drivers spend 52 minutes on the road to work and back (up by 4 minutes), while bus commuters must set aside 39 minutes a day (up by 7 minutes).

Cyclists (43 minutes) and walkers (30 minutes) have the quickest daily journeys.

Commute times are up across the country

Londoners take the longest to get to and from work: 1 hour and 21 minutes each day – up by 6 minutes in the last decade. Welsh workers have the shortest daily commute in Great Britain, at 49 minutes.

Every English region now faces an average commute time of over 50 minutes a day.

The TUC blames growing commutes on three main factors:

  • low government spending on transport infrastructure;
  • employers not offering flexible and home working;
  • real wages falling while property prices soar, making it hard to move closer to work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“We’re now spending 27 working days a year going to and from work. That’s wasted time, which could have been better spent with family and friends.

“Commutes should be getting shorter, but inflexible bosses and our cash-starved transport system mean we’re wasting more and more time getting to work.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. Home working and less rigid hours would take pressure off road and rail. And serious government investment could give us a transport network that’s up to the job.”

Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said:

“This should act as a wakeup call to employers to change their outdated attitudes to commuting.

“Year on year, the UK’s roads and public transport infrastructure become more congested. It's time to act to protect the health and wellbeing of the weary commuter.

“Not only are long commutes bad for our health, but they can affect our ability to concentrate at work. That's bad for productivity, resulting in a lose/lose situation for employers, employees and the whole economy.”

Editors note

Case study:

Tom, 30, commutes between London and Surrey for his office job in a charity. The journey takes slightly more than three hours a day, by train and underground. A season ticket costs over £3,600 a year.

“Three hours a day is a long slog. And if there’s a delay, it means spending my day waiting on a platform or sitting on a motionless train.

“It wears you down. By the time I get into work I’m tired. By the time I get home, I’m ready for bed.

“My employer is flexible, and now lets me work closer to home for one or two days a week, but I still dread the commute.”

Notes to editors:
- All figures are based on TUC analysis of figures from the ONS Labour Force Survey, using the latest figures (2016) and ten years previously (2006).

- It is assumed that the average worker commutes to and from work five days a week, 45 weeks a year (to account for 5.6 weeks of holiday and 1.4 weeks of sick leave). A working day is assumed to be 8 hours.

Commute lengths (both ways):

 

2006

2016

Change 2006-2016

Mins per day

53

58

+5

Hours per year

197

217

+20

Commute lengths (both ways) in minutes by main mode of transport:

 

2006

2016

Change 2006-2016

Car, van, minibus

48.4

52.2

+3.8

Motorbike

46.6

52.2

+5.6

Bicycle

35.2

43.4

+8.2

Bus

71

78.2

+7.2

Train

127.6

131.8

+4.2

Underground

98.4

95.8

-2.6

Walk

26.8

29.8

+3

Commute lengths (both ways) in minutes by region where worker lives:

 

2006

2016

Change 2006-2016

North East

45.2

52

+6.8

North West

48.8

55.6

+6.8

Yorkshire and Humberside

49

52.8

+3.8

East Midlands

46.4

51.2

+4.8

West Midlands

48.2

51

+2.8

East of England

54.6

59.8

+5.2

London

74.8

80.6

+5.8

South East

55.4

62.2

+6.8

South West

46.4

51.4

+5

Wales

43.8

49.2

+5.4

Scotland

49.8

53

+3.2

Northern Ireland

46.2

45.8

-0.4

Michael Pidgeon
mpidgeon@tuc.org.uk
020 7467 1372
077 1753 1150