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The average commuter in the UK adds nearly five weeks to their working lives each year just travelling to their job...
The average commuter in the UK adds nearly five weeks to their working lives each year just travelling to their jobs.

And for those employees who travel to work each day by car, and buy a vehicle principally for commuting which they pay to park, that may also mean about£3,500 of their salary going to finance travelling costs.

Some workers in the South East of England, however, are adding as much as an extra third - or four months - to their working lives by a lengthy commute and could also be spending up to a third of their incomes funding it.

According to the RAC Foundation and the Telework Association, who have launched a joint campaign to alert commuters to the real costs of travel to work, many employees and their bosses should consider the alternatives to a long and costly daily journey - like working from home for all, or part, of the week or switching to local employment. This could also significantly impact on traffic congestion*.

New research** contained in an RAC Foundation report, 'Motoring Towards 2050 - An Independent Inquiry', due to be published shortly, also suggests that nearly 50 per cent of drivers are sympathetic to the idea of working from home and think that over half of the working population will do so by 2050.

The two organisations, both of which have been involved in researching and promoting teleworking and reducing dependence on the car, have collaborated to produce a down-loadable leaflet offering advice and encouragement to workers and their companies.

Available here , the leaflet examines the costs in terms of time and money spent on commuting and gives information and research on home working best practice as well as covering the advantages and benefits to employees, employers and the environment of working from or near home.

The foundation and association are also calling on government to show the same level of commitment to the concept as other national administrations - like the US. Government should carry out more research, offer more tax-based incentives to businesses and employees who become involved in telework and appoint expert advisors to help industry implement schemes.

The leaflet illustrates the costs to an average commuter who works 40 hours a week and spends another four hours travelling. If they run a car which has been bought for the purposes of getting to work and pay to park it, that can amount to over£3,500 each year. (Average household expenditure per car per week is£49.90 and a city centre season parking ticket around£1,000).

The worst case scenario, 'Didcot manager' uses the example of a married manager living in Didcot, Oxfordshire, who drives to the station, spends two hours every day travelling to Central London and back by rail and an hour on the tube (i.e.15 hours commute per week in addition to his standard working week of 43 hours) earning a gross salary of 26K. A calculation of his 'true' hourly pay rate,which takes into account the time and money spent on travelling makes startling reading.

Didcot manager is left with£20,500 after tax, spends£4000 per year on rail costs,£2500 a year on the second family car which was bought specially for his journey to the station and£500 on car parking. He is then left with around£14000 p.a. take home pay - or just under£5.00 an hour.

'Someone in this position might be better off, work fewer hours, be healthier and have a better quality of life by taking a lower paid job closer to home,' commented Alan Denbigh, executive director of the Telework Association.

'But even the average commuter would be advised to persuade his employer might look at a scheme which allows him to work at least part of his week from home - increasing his productivity and efficiency, saving him money and improving his morale by allowing him to spend more time with his family'.

Research from the Telework Association suggests that other benefits to employers can include savings on office space and greater flexibility from home-based staff.

But workers and their bosses are not the only ones to benefit from teleworking. An RAC Foundation study last year showed that teleworking could significantly impact on congestion - potentially cutting the worst commuter traffic by up to ten per cent within five years.

'Motoring Towards 2050 - An Independent Inquiry', which will look at the future of motoring, re-enforces these findings - suggesting that as well as reducing traffic congestion and improving the efficiency and quality of life for workers, teleworking can also increase workforce catchment areas, improve rural employment and promote all inclusive working.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said:

'Many ordinary people spend large chunks of their working week stuck in traffic jams, on crowded trains and buses while commuting to their employment. If we can follow the example of other countries who have utilised technology to much greater effect than the UK, we can reduce car dependency, significantly impact on traffic congestion and improve lives.

'If each employee could work from home just one day per week we would see a twenty per cent cut in traffic, equivalent to removing the school run. Today's technology is better and cheaper so more employees have the chance to work some of the time from home.

'While we appreciate that essential workers like nurses, teachers and police officers will probably never have the choice of working from home, at least by removing some of the congestion it may might make their journey a bit easier.The e-highway has a vital role to play in curbing congestion chaos on the real highway.'

The Teleworking Fact File includes:

- Within five years teleworking and technology could achieve:

- A cut in commuter traffic by up to 10 per cent

- Video and audio conferencing could cut business travel by up to three per cent

- Use of information technology could cut lorry journeys by up to 16 per cent

- Teleshopping could reduce car trips to the shops by five per cent

- Within 10 years, teleworking and technology could achieve:

- A 15 per cent reduction in commuter traffic

- Five per cent reduction in business travel

- 18 per cent reduction in heavy goods vehicle journeys

- Ten per cent reduction in car shopping

- The benefits to the economy in reduced congestion costs could be up to£1.3bn by 2005 and up to£1.9bn by 2010.

- A survey of 43 BT home workers estimated that the average annual miles saved per employee, from home to office, mostly by car, was 3,149.

- The USA, often seen as the role model in the take-up of technology, is reaping the benefits to the economy, environment and workforce from teleporting (either from home or a remote location) is being backed by innovative US legislation which recognises that teleworking requires one third of the energy consumed in commuting to work and that it can boost employee productivity by up to 20 per cent

- Some agencies predict that there will be another ten per cent of car commuting workers involved in some sort of teleworking by 2015. Of these two per cent would be full time, four per cent half time and the rest quarter time - which could save six billion vehicle kilometres per year.

The RAC Foundation and Telework Association are calling for:

- The government to fund publicity measures to highlight the advantages of teleworking to both employers and employees.

- Leading by example, the government could develop and encourage home working by its own employees.

- More research into the present extent of teleworking and potential future benefits.

- Development of smart card ticketing so that transport suppliers can offer more flexible tickets, for example, three-day season tickets, to encourage teleworking.

- Tax incentives and a clarification in legislation to allow easier home-working.


- *NERA/RAC Foundation (May 2000) Motors and Modems Re-Visited.

- ** 49 per cent of a sample of 523 drivers across the UK questioned in March 2002 by NOP Automotive for the RAC Foundation report 'Motoring Towards 2050-An Independent Inquiry' due to be published in May, said that over half of the population would work from home by 2020.

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