Long commutes up by a quarter

Long commutes in the West Midlands up by a quarter, finds TUC


The number of employees in the West Midlands with daily commutes of two hours or more has shot up by a quarter (25.6%) over the past five years, according to new analysis published today (Friday) by the TUC to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week.


The analysis shows that in 2015, 235,322 workers in the West Midlands had daily commutes of two hours or longer – an increase of 48,033 since 2010.


Across the UK, one in seven UK employees (14%) travelled two hours or more each day to and from work, compared to one in nine in 2010 (11%).


UK workers spent 10 hours extra, on average, commuting in 2015 than they did in 2010. This is the equivalent of an extra 2.7 minutes per day.


Women have experienced the biggest rise in long commuting: Men still account for the majority (61%) of those who make work journeys of two hours or more. However, women (+35%) have experienced a sharper rise in long commuting since 2010 than men (+29%).


The TUC says the growth in long commutes in sectors like education (+46%) and health and social care (+26%), where high numbers of women work, may explain this rise.


Health and social workers (376,000), public administration and defence workers (320,000) and retail and wholesale workers (315,000) are the biggest groups commuting for two hours or more.


Mining and quarrying workers (28.9%) are most likely to commute for two hours or more, followed by information and communication workers (25.5%) and finance and insurance staff (24.3%).


Long commuting has shot up most in Northern Ireland: Workers in Northern Ireland (+57%) have experienced the biggest rise in long commuting, followed by the South East (+37%) and the West Midlands (+27%).


London (930,000) has the highest number of employees who make long commutes, followed by the South East (623,000) and the East of England (409,000).


Motorcyclists have seen their work commutes increase the most: Workers travelling to work by motorcycle (+3 minutes) have seen their daily commute increase the most, followed by taxi-users (+2.8 minutes), cyclists (+2.6 minutes) motorists (+2.2 minutes) and rail commuters (+1 minute).


By contrast, commute times for those using buses (-1 minute) and the London underground (-5 minutes) have fallen.


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

  • stagnant wages combined with soaring rents and high house prices leaving many workers unable to move to areas closer to their jobs;
  • the lack of investment in roads and railways increasing journey times. The UK is bottom of an OECD league table on transport infrastructure spending.

Midlands TUC Regional Secretary Lee Barron said:


“None of us like spending ages getting to and from work. Long commutes eat into our family time and can be bad for our working lives too.


“Employers cannot turn a blind eye to this problem. More home and flexible-working would allow people to cut their commutes and save money.


“But if we are to reduce the pain of traffic jams and train delays, ministers need to invest more in public transport and our roads. Next week’s Autumn Statement is the perfect opportunity to do this.”


Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said:


“Long commutes have become a part of the UK’s working culture. The excessive time spent commuting is one of the main factors contributing to work-life balance problems.


“Not only is the amount of time commuting an issue, the 9 to 5 culture with its peak travel times generates congestion on railways, underground and road networks and as a consequence, increases stress for commuters.


“Clearly the government, public transport providers and employers must do more in order to address the major negative impact on the UK’s economy and lost productivity.”


Source: Unpublished figures from the ONS Labour Force Survey (October – December quarter), accessed via the UK Data Archive. Employees in main job only. Figures exclude employees working from home.


Number of workers with daily commute times over two hours by region or nation

 UK regions and nations 2015 Increase on 2010 % change on 2010
North East 85,335 14,649 20.7%
North West 286,575 47,016 19.6%
Yorkshire and Humberside 180,246 18,949 11.7%
East Midlands 135,213 -9,460 -6.5%
West Midlands 235,322 48,033 25.6%
East of England 409,284 79,550 24.1%
London 930,612 136,539 17.2%
South East 623,311 167,566 36.8%
South West 171,435 13,499 8.5%
Wales 86,337 18,346 27.0%
Scotland 244,315 30,920 14.5%
Northern Ireland 52,851 19,193 57.0%
Total 3,440,844 584,800 20.5%


UK: Number of workers with daily commute times over two hours

2015 Increase on 2010 % change on 2010
Men 2,295,206 511,973 28.7%
Women 1,446,736 373,926 34.9%
All employees 3,741,943, 885,899 31.0%


UK: Number of workers with daily commute time over two hours by sector

 Employment sector 2015 % of workers commuting >2hrs % change on 2010
A  Agriculture, forestry and fishing 9,444 0.5% 33.8%
B  Mining and quarrying 37,441 28.9% 61.0%
C  Manufacturing 260,213 9.9% 7.3%
D  Electricity, gas, air cond supply 36,720 20.1% 29.3%
E  Water supply, sewerage, waste 28,996 13.6% 69.9%
F  Construction 245,983 18.9% 17.7%
G  Wholesale, retail, repair of vehicles 315,230 8.3% 22.1%
H  Transport and storage 168,392 12.6% 15.4%
I  Accommodation and food services 119,125 8.0% 25.7%
J  Information and communication 266,472 25.5% 34.7%
K  Financial and insurance activities 288,073 29.3% 2.4%
L  Real estate activities 42,325 15.0% 42.2%
M  Prof, scientific, technical activity 312,924 19.5% 12.9%
N  Admin and support services 178,900 19.9% 8.7%
O  Public admin and defence 320,155 17.5% 13.7%
P  Education 274,097 9.0% 46.1%
Q  Health and social work 376,322 9.9% 26.4%
R  Arts, entertainment and recreation 70,944 11.1% 21.8%
S  Other service activities 72,725 13.9% 72.5%
Total 3,440,844 14.0% 20.5%


UK: Daily commuting time for employees by type of transport 2010-2015                              

Usual method of travel to work Number of employees commuting 2015 (thousands) increase since 2010 (thousands) Length of average daily two-way commute 2015 (mins) Change  since 2010 (mins)
Car, van, minibus, works van 16,592 +437 51.4 +2.2
Motorbike, moped, scooter 193 +4 47.0 +3.0
Bicycle 887 +140 42.4 +2.6
Bus, coach, private bus 1,977 +158 76.8 -1.0
Taxi 71 +5 37.4 +2.8
Railway train 1,449 +245 130.4 +1.0
Underground train, light railway, tram 921 +171 95.4 -5.2
Walk 2,808 +24 29.6 +1.2
Other method 83 140.2 +26.0
Total 24,985 +1,185 57.1 +2.7

– Commute Smart Week 2016 is a campaign by Work Wise UK, which is an alliance that includes business, equalities, safety and trade union bodies. For more information see www.workwiseuk.org/commute-smart-week-2016/

– Yearly commute calculation: The calculation for the yearly commute time increase assumes a 5 day week and a 45 week working year. The minimum statutory annual leave entitlement is 5.6 weeks. We have also assumed 1.4 weeks of absence for sickness or other reasons.

– Technical note: Because the Labour Force Survey always falls short of its interview target, the ONS usually compensate with data from the previous quarter. As the relevant questions were not asked in the previous quarter, the data has been increased on a pro-rata basis to match the full population.

– All TUC press releases can be found at tuc.org.uk/media – TUC Press Office on Twitter: @tucnews


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