Cost of commuting tops passengers’ complaints

Manchester Piccadilly railway station from the footbridge.jpg
Manchester Piccadilly railway station from the footbridge” by Richard Kelly from Manchester, EnglandFlickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

In a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of transport app developers Moovit, the average Briton spends 98 minutes a day travelling to and from work (or 49 minutes each way). Of great concern to those surveyed was the price of public transport fares and antisocial behaviour.

The survey was hailed as a “colourful yet somewhat distressed picture” of commuting in the United Kingdom. In Wales, smelly passengers prone to shouting on mobile phones was their pet peeve. Snoring on extreme commutes and putting feet on seats were symptomatic of commuting in East Anglia and South West England.

How long do we spend commuting?

The average commuting time derived from the findings (98 minutes) is akin to a tram journey from Ashton-under-Lyne to Manchester Victoria station and back. In East Anglia, the average commute is 2 hours 25 minutes (1 hour 12 minutes and 30 seconds each way – akin to a journey from Great Yarmouth to Stalham on the Cromer bus). At the other end of the scale, figures for Northern Ireland are a svelte 68 minutes a day – akin to walking from Dukinfield [Albion Hotel] to Tameside Hospital via Mellor Road and back.

10% of those surveyed in North East England travelled 4 hours and 2 minutes per day, a figure shared by 9% of commuters in East Anglia. Most “extreme commuters” in the survey are aged 35 to 54 years of age. Furthermore, the Department for Work and Pensions also encourages extreme commuting. Claimants of out-of-work benefits have to consider applying for positions 90 minutes away from home.

How much do we spend on commuting?

With market forces a driving factor in bus fare rates and unregulated train fares, the cost of commuting is a contentious issue for most passengers. 64% of UK commuters think fares and season tickets are overpriced. The average amount paid for season tickets vary according to local labour market trends. East Anglian commuters pay £221 per month compared with £192 per month in South East England and £176 per month in Greater London.

At the other end of the spectrum, £78 per month in Wales followed by £107 per month in Scotland, and £115 per month in Yorkshire and Humberside. In Greater Manchester, a System One Countycard offers unlimited bus and rail travel within TfGM boundaries, plus parts of the High Peak for £110 per calendar month.

For those surveyed, Yorkshire and Humberside passengers are less concerned with the costs of their journeys than the UK average. The majority of 57% do not view their commute as overpriced. At the other end, those in East Anglia see a whopping 90% suggesting their journey is overpriced, reflecting the fact that residents also face the highest commute times.

According to the survey, the average cost of a monthly commute in the UK is £160 and with the average mortgage payment reported as £772, this represents the equivalent of 21% of their mortgage. This rises to 31% of the mortgage for those in East Anglia.

In the survey, the most popular transport mode for commuting is the train (43%) followed by the light rail/underground and bus tied at 24%. 6% stated their journeys featuring a combination of public transport. Interestingly, more women (nearly 30%) ride the metro/underground than men (20%). Men (nearly 30%) appear to choose bus travel more frequently than women (20%).

What do we do on public transport?

The most popular choice of activity during commutes is listening to music with 54%, and reading a book/magazine or newspaper (in dead tree format) with 51%. A mere 5% choose to do nothing at all during their commutes, whilst 27% work and 12% use the time sagely to learn something new. The gender breakdown for each activity enjoyed is near identical with a 50:50 split on all activities listed, proving gender offers no indication of pastime preference while on public transport.

What narks us off on public transport?

Loud music is the biggest passenger peeve with 26% of participants distracted by other people’s tinny earphones. Other irksome commuter traits reported include badly smelling passengers (21%); people putting their feet up on the seat (19%); commuters talking loudly on the phone (18%); riders failing to give up seats to those requiring them (13%); and at the bottom of the scale, snoring with a mere 1%, thanks in main to those enduring long journeys from East Anglia.

The region feeling the burden of fellow commuters talking too loudly on their phones or smelling badly is Wales with a sizeable 44% of commuters voicing their frustration on both counts. Commuters in the West Midlands appear to suffer the loudness of other commuters’ music the most with 51%, and passengers’ feet on bus or train seats appears to be a significant annoyance for those in the South West (47%).

Is there hope on the horizon?

The free WiFi on the bus can be a help and a hinderance for some commuters. Apps like Moovit, with an average of 50% yearly growth rate in the UK alone and an overall global community of 30 million users is one example. Its intelligent public transport app has expanded at a significant rate over the past few months. With over 1.5 million users in all major UK metropolitan areas, it has an active community, who make daily contributions, adding essential data and feedback on services. The service has now been enhanced further so that any strikes, industrial action or major problems on routes are updated in real time. Travellers can never get caught out waiting in queues for transport that won’t arrive.

Alex Torres, CMO of Moovit, said, “Our survey paints a very colourful picture of the travelling habits and current attitudes around public transport in the UK. Our vision is to map the entire country’s public transport system so that people can travel smarter and cities become slicker, infinitely more liveable places as a result. We’re well on our way, with over 95% of the UK’s transport network now mapped. We can’t control the cost of travelling or habits of fellow travellers, but we can assist with how efficiently travellers can navigate their cities.”

• UK rail fares are set to rise by an average of 1.1% in the New Year. This is the smallest rise since 2010. It is also the third year running where fare increases have been linked to inflation rates.

Moovit is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. To download Moovit, why not visit their website which is

S.V., 04 December 2015.

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