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.

Tim Lezard UK,

traffic jam

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?”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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