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Travel costs hitting outer London’s low-paid workers

  • By Jim Ranger

London’s low-paid workers, already struggling with high housing and living costs in the capital, are being disproportionately affected by rising transport costs according to a new report.

The report – ‘Living on the Edge’ – was commissioned by London Councils, London TravelWatch and Trust for London and reveals the group of Londoners most affected by the rising cost of travel and the overheated property market. This group is excluded from central London due to the high cost of housing, but still commute to low-paid cleaning jobs and manual work in hotels and offices located in Zone 1.

The report also found that travel costs are a problem for all Londoners, with one in five London workers choosing the cheapest route to work rather than the shortest or most convenient – in outer London this equates to around 145,000 people – while around the same number make sacrifices in other areas of their expenditure to pay for travel.

The findings also show that there is a lack of knowledge about the transport discounts available to part-time workers and jobseekers. The report makes a number of recommendations on how to help those struggling with travel costs.

Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: “On average, Londoners spend around seven per cent of their monthly earnings on travel to work – but low earners are spending almost 10 per cent (1). Combined with housing and living costs the odds are increasingly stacked against people on lower incomes.

“This report raises real concerns over how the quality of life of many thousands of Londoners is affected by the cost of travel. People have no choice but to put up with high travel costs if they want to access the jobs available in central London, but the cost of travel is the same if you’re earning £15K or £50K a year.

“What’s clear is that more needs to be done to inform low-paid and unemployed people of the travel discounts available to them currently and look at what can be done for this group.”

The average London worker needs to work for 44 minutes per day to pay for daily commuting costs – this increases sharply to 54 minutes for those earning £200 to £599 per month and 1 hour 56 minutes for those earning less than £200 per month.

Stephen Locke, Chair of London TravelWatch, said: “Public transport is a vital service for most Londoners, and especially for people travelling to work.  Many low-paid workers are now commuting long distances and spending a high proportion of their incomes in the process. While there are no easy answers to this problem, we hope this report will help to open up the debate on this important issue.”

ENDS

Notes to editor

  1. The research found the average London worker spends around £100 a month on travel, equivalent to 7.3 per cent of their monthly earnings. Higher earners spend 6.8 per cent, while lower earning spend 9.2 per cent.
  2. Download the executive summary and the full report from related documents (right).
  3. Recommendations in the report include:
    1. introducing a concessionary fare for low-income workers
    2. improving awareness of existing discounts
    3. making it easier to obtain season ticket loans
    4. reintroducing off-peak Travelcards to benefit flexible work schedules
    5. encouraging employers to cover travel costs to interviews for low-paid jobs
  4. The research was conducted by BDRC Continental, commissioned by London Councils, London Travel Watch and Trust for London.