Commuters spend five weeks every year travelling to work
Workers in the Westcountry are facing costlier and longer commutes as the recession bites, a new survey has shown.
According to the TUC, the equivalent of five working weeks is spent travelling to and from work every year by people in the region.
Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West TUC, said it was a worrying situation which needed tackling to turn the economy around.
"The average commuter spends the equivalent of more than five weeks a year just to get to work and back," he said.
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"With rising transport costs far outstripping pay rises, reducing the number of peak-time commutes would save both time and money for hard-pressed workers.
"Recent trends suggest there is a link between long commute times and longer hours in the office, with the growing number of men in part-time work having shorter journeys to work."
Mr Costley added that high travelling costs which ate into wages were acting as a barrier to people applying for jobs they would otherwise have considered.
"The cost of commuting is effectively stopping people from applying for certain types of jobs.
"It might be a job that suits their skills, but they can't afford to do it because of the travelling."
The TUC has analysed figures from the Labour Force Survey, which compares pre-recession commute times in 2006 with the most recent available figures 2012.
It demonstrates that men in the region spend an average of 53.4 minutes a day commuting, an increase of 1.6% over six years.
Meanwhile women spend an average of 41.2 minutes, an increase of 0.4%.
Mr Costley said this works out at 4.45 hours a week, or 195.8 hours a year – the equivalent of five working weeks.
Tim Jones, chief executive of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said the cost and distance faced by commuters had always been an issue in such a rural region.
He added that the recession had made it worse because even though more people were working from home, those who had to drive or take public transport into work usually had to travel further.
"We are a rural economy, for years we have had to cope with it," said Mr Jones.
"People want a quality place to live and often choose to go into the country but then they want to go into the city or the town to work."
He added part-time workers in particular faced a tough call about what they could earn and the cost of their commute and there were benefits to local enterprise hubs to cut commute times
"But I don't think that there's anything we can really deduce from this report that will tell us something that we don't already know and haven't known for a long time," he added.