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 this week.
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 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% rise in those travelling for two hours or more each day and a 131% 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%).
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.
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 a creaking infrastructure that means in some cases the same journey is taking longer now than it used to.
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 increase in travel time means that more low-paid workers are facing longer and costlier commutes just to get to work.