Lewisham: London’s most stressful commute

A survey has named Lewisham as one of the most stressful commutes in Britain. So how are commuters braving the journey?

It’s a crisp spring morning. The low sun emerges over the platform, dazzling commuters as they stare bleary-eyed at the platform display. The rare sunny morning seems to have had a positive effect on these commuters. One man taps his foot and mouths the words to a private song playing through his headphones. People are smiling, there’s no rush to board the train and people make room for others passing by. It’s a far cry from the stressful reputation Lewisham currently retains. 

In May 2022, research conducted by resume.io found that commuters in Lewisham had the most stressful journey in the capital with nearly 43 per cent reaching for the phone to angrily tweet their experiences. The tweets were used for a method of research known as sentiment analysis, the practice of measuring the negative, neutral or positive attitude in text. Researchers analysed millions of tweets from cities across the UK and US, to result in an average score of overall positivity towards people’s daily commutes. In Lewisham, it turned out, commuters are not feeling very positive at all.

On the social networking battlefield, one company repeatedly comes under fire. Once ranked one of the least reliable UK rail operators by passengers, Southeastern Railway further angered commuters after its controversial decision to reroute the Hayes line in December 2022. The move was heavily critised by local MPs and has resulted in a rise in the number of passengers changing at Lewisham. 

In a debate at Westminster Hall just days before the changes were due to take effect, Vicky Foxcroft MP for Lewisham Deptford said: “Lewisham already suffers with overcrowding at peak times and is woefully inaccessible. The situation will only get worse as large residential developments are completed. When the remaining peak time trains reach St. Johns (the next step on the line) they may be too full for passengers to access.”  

At Lewisham station, Monday morning commuters queue patiently for their trains into the city. “There are so many delays and cancellations, especially in the afternoon or evenings when I’m trying to get home,” commuter Ilda Sejdia said. “It usually takes me 50 minutes but at night it can take me over an hour.” 

Below ground, things aren’t any more tranquil. As one of the fastest ways to navigate the city, London’s Underground sees up to five million journeys made daily with 543 trains in operation during peak times. With many of us hybrid working, Tuesdays and Thursdays experience the highest volume of commuters.  

For many people, long expensive commutes are a daily feature in the capital with the average commute lasting an hour and 19 minutes.  Ed Holt, a student at Goldsmiths University in New Cross, spends nearly three hours a day commuting. “I’m travelling from Mortlake in southwest London,” says Holt. “To get to university for 10am I have to leave at around 8:35/40. But what I find more stressful is commuting back. I feel like I lose a lot of work time because it takes so long and when I get home I don’t necessarily want to do as much work because I’m so tired”.   

The amount of money Holt spends on transport has become a constant concern. “Prices have gone up, so I spend most of my money on transport which isn’t fun, but I’m used to it,” says Holt. He’s not alone. A survey conducted by Censuswide of 2,001 Londoners found that two-thirds pay more than £20 or more a week to commute, with the average cost at £64.19. Currently it costs £4.40 for an adult to travel from zone 4 to zone 1 with a weekly cap of £58.50, whilst buses are capped at £24.70.   

With so many factors impacting our morning before we even step into the office, is there a secret to busting the morning stress?  

Since the pandemic, there’s been a shift to hybrid working. According to Mind, it’s a favourite for reducing commuter stress. By splitting time between home and work, employees reported an improvement in work-life balance with less burnout and fatigue.  

But for the days when logging on in a blouse and sweatpants isn’t an option, many find solace in plugging in and transporting themselves away from crowded train carriage. Podcasts have risen dramatically in the past five years with around 465 million people tuning in as of February 2023. In 2016, a study from the University of California, Berkeley, found that listening to narrative stories, like podcasts, stimulates multiple parts of the brain. When these stories engage us, we absorb information activating our mesolimbic pathway, more commonly known as our “reward pathway”. This releases the “feel-good” chemical dopamine into our brain. 

Whether we like it or not, commuting is often an unavoidable start to our mornings, but it doesn’t have to be the stressful hell that we dread. Tomorrow morning, why not grab a flask of hot coffee, plug in a dopamine inducing podcast, and take back control of your commute. 

What is Eastlondonlines listening to on its commute?

Here are our top five podcast to help you keep your cool on the commute

Partners in Crime – Spotify Studios 

If you’re a fan of true crime, join real life partners in crime Laura Whitmore and Iain Stirling as they uncover the most infamous and bizarre cases in true crime history.

Off Menu – Plosive 

Comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster invite special guests into their magic restaurant to each choose their favourite starter, main course, side dish, dessert and drink. 

The High Low – Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton 

A weekly conversation between writers Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes covering highbrow and lowbrow culture.

ICRT – Jane Lee 

Improve your English with the ICRT News Team! With useful expressions and vocabulary from the news to help you better understand what’s happening around the world. 

I’m Not a Monster – Radio 5 Live/ BBC Sounds 

Josh Baker investigates the divisive story of Shamima Begum. 

Click here to see the rest of ELL’s article for Stress Awareness Month

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