Lewisham commuters share their travel experiences

Overground Train. Pic: Transport for London

Overground Train. Pic: Transport for London

Londoners have the longest commutes of anyone in the United Kingdom, according to figures highlighted by the TUC last week.

According to the study, the average commuting time for those in the capital is 75.2 minutes of travel time per day.

EastLondonLines spoke to workers and residents travelling through Lewisham, a borough with the highest rate of commuters in the capital, about how their commuting habits and commuting times affect their everyday lives.

Mary Tamn, a 30-year-old volunteer fundraiser from Upton Park, who works in New Cross Gate station said her lengthy commute impacts heavily on her daily routine. She said: “I spend four hours a day travelling. I feel that I spend a lot of time on the Tube when I could be doing something else.”

London residents of all ages travel at least one hour on average to get to work, with 40-year olds topping the league with an average of 81.2 minutes, against the national overall average of 54.6 minutes.

Forty-four-year-old Taiwo Oyegunte, a security worker from Woolwich confirmed the figures: “I travel for one hour and a half on the bus, so my commute definitely affects my day. My job is in security, so I can’t work from home but I wouldn’t mind doing so.”

As average UK commuting times rise by 5 minutes compared to a decade ago, organisations like Work Wise UK want to encourage people to work from home for a few days a week over the winter months, when travel congestion and disruption is most likely to happen.

Gavin Karr, 42-year-old student from Orpington, lamented the effect of railway disruptions: “My journey should take one hour, but there seem to be lots of delays every day so I end up travelling around two, two and a half hours.”

Most interviewees confessed they would take up a job further away from home if it paid better, even if that meant travelling further away.

Unemployed Patrick Virgo, from New Cross, did not hesitate to answer ELL questions: “I don’t work anymore, but when I used to I’d have to travel between 30 minutes and one hour. I would definitely take up a well paid position even if it was further from home.”

According to the figures, men tend to travel longer than women, with a divide increasing sharply after they hit their thirties. In the UK, men in their fourties travel up to 20 minutes more than their female counterparts.

TUC General Secretary France O’Grady said: “Long commutes aren’t always practical for those doing the nursery and school run, which is why mums tend to work closer to home. The move often involves them taking a huge pay cut.”

Even if her son is a college student, teacher Sarah Whitelaw, 53, from Sidcup said: “I still have to be around.” In answer to Work Wise UK’s call to commute less and work from home, she added: “I teach, so it wouldn’t be possible to work from home.”

Mary Tamn added: “Being able to work from home depends on the job, sometimes you actually have to be physically there. Sometimes you have no choice.”

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