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BAD TRIP

Think your commute is bad? Millions spend two hours traveling to work every day

A passenger is squeezed up against a door on the London tube.
Reuters/ Luke MacGregor
The joys of living in London.
  • Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Science reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

If you live in horror of your sweaty train/bus/bike ride to work, then spare a thought for the 3 million UK commuters who spend more than two hours a day traveling to and from work.

Over the past decade, there’s been a 72% increase in the number of people who commute two hours or more, round trip, according to analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). And an unlucky 880,000 people spend three hours or more commuting every day—a 75% increase since 2004.

TUC blamed a lack of spending on railways and roads for the long commutes, as well as rising home prices. Those who can’t afford soaring rents in the UK’s major cities have to travel from farther and farther away to reach their workplaces.

In London, housing prices are so expensive that it’s cheaper to live in Madrid and commute via plane four days a week than it is to live in the capital.

This isn’t an untested hypothesis: Londoner Sam Cookney similarly calculated that it made financial sense to live in Barcelona and commute to London four times a week, and so he made the move earlier this year. Cookney doesn’t commute quite so regularly, but several times a month he wakes at 4:30am to arrive in his London office by 9:30am.

Others working in the UK regularly commute from Toulouse, Majorca, and Malta. And while that at least has the glamorous benefits of a home in the sun, last year, UK papers told the tale of one unfortunate commuter who wakes up at 3:30am every day for a six-hour roundtrip commute from his home in Porthcawl, South Wales, to his job in Watford, Hertfordshire.

International commuting is less common in the United States, but the 2011 census showed that 8.1% of US commuters travel an hour or more to get to work, and millions of people crossed states on their journey to the office.

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