Issue date
09 Nov 2015

date: 6 November 2015

embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 9 November 2015

Number of commuters spending more than two hours travelling to and from work up by 72% in last decade, says TUC

The number of commuters spending more than two hours travelling to and from work has increased by 72% over the past 10 years, according to a TUC analysis of official figures published today (Monday).

The figures – published to mark the start of Commute Smart Week organised by Work Wise UK – show that the number of people undertaking long commutes has risen sharply across the UK, with those travelling more than two hours per day increasing by 72% from 1.7 million in 2004 to 3 million in 2014.

The analysis also shows that the number of commuters travelling for three or more hours a day has risen by 75%, from 500,000 to 880,000 over the last decade.

Women employees have borne the brunt of this growth in long commuting, with a 90% per cent rise in those travelling for two hours or more each day and a 131% per cent increase in those travelling three hours or more since 2004.

The biggest increases in workers commuting for more than two hours have been in the South East (103%) and the South West (102%), while the East Midlands (87%) and Wales (76%) have also seen very large rises.

When it comes to commutes of three hours per day and above, the biggest rises were in Yorkshire and the Humber (98%), the South East (91%) and the West Midlands (87%).

The service sector has seen the biggest increase in travel time over the last decade, with 130% more workers travelling for two or more hours a day in 2014 than in 2004. This is followed by public administration, education and health (92%) and energy and water (87%).

Similarly, when it comes to commutes of three hours or more per day, the service sector has seen a massive increase of 167%, followed by energy and water (110%) and public administration, education and health (95%).

On average UK commuting times rose by three minutes a day from 2004 to 2014, from 52 to 55 minutes, meaning workers are spending, on average, 11 hours and 42 minutes longer a year commuting now than they were 10 years ago.

Research has shown that long commutes reduce life satisfaction, says the TUC, and while there is a tendency for those who have long commutes to have above average earnings, the huge rise in those in the service sector travelling for more than two or three hours a day means that more low-paid workers are facing longer and costlier commutes just to get to work.

The TUC believes the increase in travelling times may be explained by:

·    the 2008 recession leading to an increase in the number of people prepared to travel longer and longer distances to keep or get a job

·    soaring rents and high house prices now leaving many workers unable to move to areas closer to their jobs

·    lack of investment in roads and railways leading to creaking infrastructure that mean that in some cases the same journey is taking longer now than it used to.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s bad enough most of us spend an hour a day getting to and from work – but spare a thought for those extreme commuters who travel for more than 10, or even 15, hours a week.

“Employers need to address the problem that many of their staff are spending an ever-increasing number of hours getting to and from work.

“More home and flexi-working could easily be introduced to allow people to cut their commutes and save money. This would not only be popular with workers, but fewer, better-spaced journeys would help to beat overcrowding on the roads and railways.”

Work Wise UK’s Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said: “With some 25 million commuters regularly going to a fixed place of work Commute Smart Week reminds us that we have an opportunity to change our attitudes and thinking in relation to long commutes.

“Are we really prepared to move into winter with the same anticipated long and often disrupted commutes? Or, are we going to change the way we work by commuting less with the aid of internet and mobile technologies.

“Employers should grasp this opportunity by changing the way employees work and commute and introduce more flexibility to cut out these restrictive influences on business performance as well as the wellbeing of their employees.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Tables

Please note all figures are based on unpublished data from the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey (Autumn quarters). Results smaller than 10,000 are marked with an asterisk as they are too small to be robust. In these cases percentages are shown for indicative purposes. 

Average daily commute men and women employees 2014-2015 (in minutes)

2004

2014

Change

Men

58.6

61.8

3.2 (5.5%)

Women

45.6

50.8

5.2 (11.4%)

All employees

52.5

56.3

3.8 (7.2%)

Commuting 120 minutes or more per day

2004

2014

Change

Men

1,107,026

1,790,262

683,236 (62%)

Women

632,535

1,204,286

571,751 (90%)

All employees

1,739,561

2,994,612

1,255,051 (72%)

Commuting 180 minutes or more per day

2004

2014

Change

Men

370,839

577,102

206,263 (56%)

Women

131,519

303,330

171,811 (131%)

All employees

502,358

880,432

378,074 (75%)

Long commutes by region

Regions/ nations

Commuting 120 mins or more per day 2014

Increase since 2004

Commuting 180 mins or more per day 2014

Increase since 2004

North East

60,994

16,290 (37%)

13,909

*(31%)

North West

255,487

102,999 (68%)

58,737

18,382 (46%)

Yorkshire and the Humber

183,014

69,300 (61%)

53,332

26,356 (98%)

East Mids

157,634

73,526 (87%)

44,239

(21%)

West Mids

187,820

75,621 (67%)

52,695

24,562 (87%)

Eastern

334,692

118,652 (55%)

101,236

18,256 (22%)

London

798,471

323,693 (68%)

143,595

50,555 (54%)

South East

542,396

275,510 (103%)

200,490

95,490 (91%)

South West

171,859

86,639 (102%)

47,135

15,041 (49%)

Wales

55,173

23,871 (76%)

16,315

*(43%)

Scotland

200,322

70,795 (55%)

55,036

25,054 (84%)

N Ireland

47,018

18,485 (65%)

10,510

*(97%)

UK

2,994,612

1,255,051 (72%)

880,432

378,074 (75%)

Long commutes by industry groups

Commuting 120 mins or more per day 2014

Increase since 2004

Commuting 180 mins or more per day 2014

Increase since 2004

Agriculture & fishing

10,504

*(152%)

*

*

Energy & water

54,829

25,440 (87%)

25,915

13,586 (110%)

Manufacturing

274,262

86,618 (46%)

88,450

31,947 (56%)

Construction

181,544

25,245 (16%)

64,514

*(17%)

Distribution, hotels & restaurants

383,513

159,945 (72%)

92,482

41,563 (82%)

Transport & communication

239,104

99,135 (71%)

70,653

21,429 (44%)

Banking, finance & insurance

828,938

350,500 (73%)

241,883

109,005 (82%)

Public administration, education & health

841,146

402,809 (92%)

230,622

112,075 (95%)

Other services

178,951

101,074 (130%)

60,476

37,817 (167%)

Total

2,994,612

1,255,051 (72%)

880,432

378,074 (75%)

- Travelling time a year is calculated on the basis of 220 days (44 five-day working weeks)

- 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: @The_TUC and follow the TUC press team @tucnews