How green is the London commute?

Commuting to the office is a necessary evil for most of us, but have you ever sat down and thought about how much of our lives are wasted getting to and from work? The average commute in the UK is 56 minutes according to the TUC, which has been rising steadily over the last 10 years.

If you live in London, although you typically have the shortest commute in terms of distance – just 7.9 miles each way on average – you’ll spend a staggering 107 hours a year, that’s an entire working week travelling!

Time cost of your commute

Some have much longer travel times though. According to the Office for National Statistics, which has an interactive map showing commuting distances:

  • Of the 616,719 people who commute to the City of London, 53 come from Ceredigion in Wales, 74 from East Lothian, 86 from Torbay in Devon and 98 from Redcar in North Yorkshire.
  • 100 people a week commute from the Orkney Islands to Southwark in South London, a distance of 530 miles as the crow flies.
  • 218 people from Tower Hamlets in London commute to Cornwall.
  • 237 from Islington in North London commute to Aberdeen.

A TUC study also revealed  some 798,471 people in London commuted for more than two hours each day (up 68% between 2004-14) and 143,595 people commuted for more than three hours each day a 54% increase over the 10 year period.

Financial cost of your commute

And if that’s not bad enough, it costs you, according to a Metro survey, some £113,536 over your working life. Pity those who live outside the capital and commute in however, as they spend £305 a month or £197,377 on commuting by the time they retire.

But it is not just the ticket that eats into our wages. Londoners spend £1,900 on treats, including snacks, coffee, magazines and apps to ease the boredom of their commute each year, over £174 a month – twice the country average.

Environmental cost of your commute 

Then there is the environmental impact of our commute. In London as a whole, both inner and outer, some 32% travel to work by car each day, 24% by tube, 15% by bus or coach, 14% by National Rail and 1% by motorcycle. Only 9% walk and 4% travel by bike.

If you don’t want to leave a carbon footprint from your travel then you need to walk, cycle, or drive a fully electric car to work. The numbers are still small but increasing. According to TFL the number of cyclists in the morning peak increased from 10,000 in 1996 to 36,000 in 2014. This is in contrast with a sharp fall in the number of car commutes each morning – falling from 143,000 to 65,000 over the same period.

The BBC has also looked at how different forms of commute damage the environment. It assumed the average commuter travelled 4,343 miles to and from work each year. Here’s how they stack up:

  • A train emits 0.48 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.
  • A tram emits 0.54 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.
  • A diesel people carrier emits 0.69 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.
  • A bus emits 0.95 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.
  • A saloon petrol car emits 1.07 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.
  • A petrol 4×4 emits 1.73 tonnes of CO2 per passenger.


Learn more about commuting safely every day.

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