How do workers across the UK travel? How long does it take them and what are the favoured modes of transport? The team at Rainbow International has collected a range of commuting statistics showing UK travel trends and habits.
Here, we’ll explore these statistics and reveal the most prevalent aspects of commuting to and from work.
Time taken to get to work
Across Great Britain, the average time spent commuting to work is 29 minutes. In Wales, workers spend approximately 25 minutes travelling, for Scotland it is 27 minutes and the English take around 30 minutes.
The longest average commute by a considerable margin is undertaken by workers in Central London. This is calculated to be around 54 minutes, according to the Department of Transport.
There has been a drop of only 2 minutes in this time since 2002, when it was recorded to be 56 minutes.
By contrast, residents of the North East enjoy the shortest commute. This lasts just 22 minutes on average.
|Region of workplace||<20 minutes||<40 minutes||<60 minutes||<90 minutes|
|Tyne and Wear||35||76||90||99|
|Rest of North East||53||86||95||98|
|Rest of North West||47||83||93||98|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||40||78||91||98|
|Rest of Yorkshire and The Humber||47||81||93||98|
|West Midlands (met. county)||33||71||87||97|
|Rest of West Midlands||48||85||94||98|
|East of England||42||80||91||97|
|Rest of Inner London||14||42||65||89|
Commuting time by mode of transport
Our commuting statistics show UK workers’ average time spent commuting to work depends on the transportation they use. Walking appears to be fastest, taking 14 minutes on average. Those who prefer commuting to work by bike are the second fastest, typically taking 22 minutes.
Motorbikes get people to work in 25 minutes on average, while those who prefer commuting to work by car will normally be there in 26 minutes.
On the slower end of the scale are buses or coaches and rail travel. Travelling to work by bus or coach takes an average of 39 minutes, while National Rail takes the longest time at 66 minutes typically.
Other types of rail travel take around 49 minutes, meaning the average commute time via rail comes in at 59 minutes.
Those who take other modes of transport will usually arrive at work in around 38 minutes.
Preferred modes of transport
People who prefer commuting to work by car are among a very large majority. This is the mode of transport favoured by 68% of workers.
It is especially prevalent in the North East and the Midlands, where 83% of those commuting to work do so by car.
Rail follows quite a distance behind at 11%, with only slightly more preferring this method to walking. Heading to work on foot is preferred by 10% of people.
7% of workers travel by bus or coach, 3% prefer commuting to work by bike and just 1% commute by motorbike – the same as ferries and air travel.
5% take other modes of transport.
Annual average number of trips made by purpose
Commuting to work is the second most popular reason for travel following shopping.
The average person makes 188 shopping trips every year as opposed to the typical 144 commuting journeys.
92 “personal business” trips are made annually per person, while 84 journeys are made to visit friends at their home.
Travelling for purposes of “business” (as opposed to commuting to one’s place of business) is the least popular reason for making a journey, with just 30 trips of this kind typically made per individual per year.
Between 2002 and 2018, the majority of reasons for travel have seen a downturn in popularity.
Shopping trips are down by 15% (standing at 222 per year in 2002).
Worker commutes have reduced by 12% from 164.
Visiting friends was previously more popular than travel for personal business, with the two experiencing 125 and 118 journeys per person per year respectively in 2002. This represents a 33% decline for visiting friends and a 22% decline for personal business.
The number of trips relating to “business” has dropped by 6% from 36 per year.
There are separate possible explanations for each of these changes. A gradual shift towards freelancing and working remotely or from home may explain the drop in commuting.
It is also probably that the rise in “trip-chaining” – or undertaking multiple tasks during one journey – may have had an impact on these figures. For example, many workers now prefer to pick up shopping on the way back from work instead of taking a separate trip to do so.
Average annual mileage per purpose
As of 2018, the average person travelled for approximately 1,277 miles across the year to get to and from work.
We each typically travelled 893 miles to see friends, 744 miles to go shopping, 567 miles on business trips and 450 miles on personal business.
Each of these figures has experienced a decline since 2002, when the average person travelled:
- 1,400 miles per year to and from work (a drop of 9%)
- 1,159 miles per year to visit friends (a drop of 23%)
- 906 miles to go shopping (a drop of 18%)
- 702 mils on business trips (a drop of 19%)
- 515 miles on personal business (a drop of 13%)
Number of commuter trips by transport method and employment status
As of 2018, the car remained the most popular mode of transport across the board, with 183 trips made annually in this way by people in full-time employment driving their own vehicle.
Those employed part-time drove to work by car or van 113 times, while self-employed individuals did so 92 times. As a result, the average number of car trips to work made by those in any kind of employment (where the individual in question was driving) was 158.
The second most popular mode of transport overall was walking. This method was most common among part-time employees, with 45 of these commuting trips being made per person across the year. 40 trips to work were taken on foot by people in full-time employment, while just 7 were made by self-employed individuals. The average for all types of employee was 37 over the year.
Travelling as a passenger of a car or van was the third most popular option. This method saw full-time employees making commuting trips 26 times, part-time employees doing so 21 times and self-employed individuals doing this 9 times. The overall average was 23 trips.
Rail saw 28 trips per year from people in full-time employment, 5 from part-time employees and 5 from self-employed people. The average was 21 trips overall.
The overall average of all other types of transport was:
- 11 trips by bus
- 11 trips by underground rail
- 3 trips by taxi
- 2 trips by motorbike
Other modes of transport saw an average of 3 trips per year made by all types of employee.
Number and length of trips by gender and age
According to the National Travel Survey, the number of trips of all kinds taken by women – apart from education, business and commuting – peak between the ages of 36 and 46. From this point, most gradually decline.
The exceptions here are trips made escorting others to education, attending education, travel for purposes of business and commuting, all of which drop significantly after the age of 60 – when those individuals begin to retire.
For men, the rise of journey type is more gradual and also falls more gradually. Again, there is the exception of escorting others to education, attending education, travel for purposes of business and commuting, which fall quickly for the same reasons.
The most obvious difference between the genders is apparent between the ages of 30-39, representing the period during which most children are raised.
Within this age bracket, women take an average of 188 commuting trips per year, while men take almost 100 more at 284.
According to our commuting statistics, UK travel times also vary between genders. As of 2018, men took an average of 32 minutes to get to work, while women typically took 26 minutes.
Primary difficulties with commuting
Of those travelling to work by car, van, motorbike or moped, 57% reported having no difficulty getting to or from work. 39% complained of traffic congestion and delays caused by roadworks, while 3% found it difficult to locate a parking space. Another 3% struggled with the cost of petrol.
Those using alternative methods of transport had fewer complaints. 69% didn’t struggle at all. However, 19% complained of unreliable public transport, 5% had trouble with traffic congestion or roadworks and 5% found the costs difficult to handle.