UK

Two-hour daily commute 'on rise among UK workers'

Commuters on a train Image copyright PA
Image caption UK employees spend an average of 57.1 minutes a day getting to and from work, with some journeys taking considerably longer

Spending two hours commuting each day is a reality for many UK workers, says data that suggests Britons are willing to travel further and longer.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show 3.7 million workers travel for two hours or longer every weekday.

Frances O'Grady of the Trades Union Congress, which published the figures, called on employers to do more to prevent "excessive" journeys.

The average daily commute lasted 57.1 minutes in 2015, the ONS data showed.

Ms O'Grady blamed stagnant wages for bulging commuting times, paired with high house prices and rental costs.

"Employers cannot turn a blind eye to this problem," she said. "Long commutes eat into our family time and can be bad for our working lives too."

Back in 2010, 2.8 million people made daily commutes of two hours or more, compared with 3.7 million today, according to the ONS's Labour Force Survey.

The survey, which is based on responses from nearly 90,000 workers and excludes those who work from home, found that:

  • Men and those who work in finance or insurance are the most likely to make long journeys
  • People who work in London have the longest journeys - 931,000 people spend at least two hours getting to the office and back
  • Women are increasingly joining the commuter club - around 1.45 million female workers travel for two hours a day, a 35% increase since 2010
  • The number of male commuters with journeys over two hours also rose 29% to 2.3 million

The TUC said workers were now less likely to be able to afford to live near their places of work.

The cost of renting a home in the UK rose faster than the cost of living in the year to September, according to ONS figures.

Meanwhile, UK property prices saw an 8.4% annual increase up to August.

'Daily nightmare'

Longer periods travelling to and from work have therefore become an accepted part of many people's daily routine.

"It makes life difficult but it's become the norm," said Nick Seymour, a solicitor from Exeter, who spends at least three hours a day travelling by car and train to and from Bristol.

Once a week, he also travels to his firm's office in Cardiff - a four-hour-plus round-trip.

"I've been doing this for months and am surprised how many people do the same route," he said.

Image copyright Nicholas Seymour
Image caption Nick Seymour says he misses seeing his son Harry during weekdays due to his 'frustrating' commute

Mr Seymour, 43, said the £5,000 cost of train tickets, not including petrol and parking, was worth it to avoid the upheaval of relocating.

"I am considering moving, but my wife and son are based here in Exeter," he said.

The compromise is missing out on eight-year-old son Harry's parents' evenings and school plays - not to mention delays and crowded trains.

"It can be a daily nightmare," he said. "I normally stand because it's too busy, which is frustrating if you've had a long day."

'My four-hour cycle'

Other commuters are going to great lengths to avoid overcrowded or delayed trains.

Phil Cresswell, who works in media advertising, cycles 230 miles a week on his daily journey from Leatherhead in Surrey to central London.

He says spending his "14th winter" on the bicycle is worth it to save "several thousands of pounds a year" on train tickets as well as the cost of a gym membership.

"I live on the edge of the Surrey hills and it's great for cycling," he said.

Image copyright Phil Cresswell
Image caption Phil Cresswell travels for roughly four hours a day through the Surrey hills to central London

Mr Cresswell, 51, admits that some people think the 46-mile round trip is extreme.

"But I think sitting on trains or buses for similar times going nowhere is extreme," he said.

Another unconventional commuter is Sam Cookney, who recently packed in his own five-and-a-half-hour round trip between Barcelona and London.

In a blog post in 2013, he explained that flying from Barcelona for four days a week was cheaper than renting a flat in the capital.

Mr Cookney, 33, moved to Barcelona last year but decided making the trip four times a week would be "excessive", and instead travelled to London a few times a month.

"Sadly I'm no longer commuting and living back in London," he said.

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