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Two-hour commute is daily reality for 3.7m UK workers

Costly housing and stagnant wages forces number of long distance commuters up by a third

A study by TUC shows that the number of workers who commute daily for two hours or more has increased by a third in five years.  Factors influencing this include little to no activity in wage increase and soaring housing costs which pushes people further away from their job locations. A lack of investment in roads and railways also increases journey times on dilapidated infrastructure.

Research by the Trades Union Congress showed that this number has increased by 900,000 people as in 2010 only one in nine faced such a lengthy commute.

“Employers cannot turn a blind eye to this problem. More home- and flexible-working would allow people to cut their commutes and save money,” said Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC. “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.”

This analysis is based on unpublished figures from the Office for National Statistics’ labour force survey, and covers just workers’ main jobs, excluding work done from home.

While men still account for more than three-fifths of those making long commutes, more women now are making longer journeys too. The research shows that 35 per cent more women are spending two hours-plus on a commute than five years ago, compared to 29 per cent of men.

The industry with the highest proportion of workers making long commutes was insurance and finance, with 29.3% of employees in this sector travelling more than two hours a day, followed by 28.9% of mining and quarrying workers, and 25.5% of information and communication workers.

Northern Ireland showed the highest rise in long commutes, followed by the south-east – much of which acts as a dormitory for London’s office staff –and the West Midlands.

The research has been prepared and released to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart week, which is an annual campaign to raise awareness of how better working practices can improve the effect of the winter months on people.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, 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 nine to five 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.”

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