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Travel costs weigh most heavily on London’s low paid

Deniz Huseyin
09 December 2015

 

Low paid workers in the capital are being are 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. It states that while people on a low wage are excluded from central London due to the high cost of housing they commute to low-paid cleaning jobs and manual work in hotels and offices located in Zone 1.

One in five London workers, equaling 145,000 people, choose the cheapest route to work rather than the shortest or most convenient, the report reveals, adding that around the same number make sacrifices in other areas of their expenditure to pay for travel.

There is also a lack of knowledge about the transport discounts available to part-time workers and jobseekers, says the report.

The research found the average London worker spends around £100 a month on travel, equivalent to 7.3% of their monthly earnings. Higher earners spend 6.8% while the lower earning spend 9.2%.

The average London worker needs to work for 44 minutes per day to pay for daily commuting costs, the report estimates. This, it says, increases to 54 minutes for those earning £200 to £599 per month and 1 hour 56 minutes for those earning less than £200 per month.

As bus journeys are less expensive than taking London Underground and National Rail services “it comes as no surprise that people on a lower income are more likely to use this mode of transport”, says the report. “Despite this, the research did not confirm the hypothesis that a lot of low-paid workers are choosing longer ‘bus only’ commutes from outer boroughs to Zone 1 to save money, since the resulting journey time is seen as impractical, especially during peak hours.” 

In the 10 years up to 2013 the proportion living in poverty in outer London grew from 50% to 58% while the proportion in inner London fell from 50% to 42%, the report points out. 

It also notes that 21% of London residents are paid below the London Living Wage, which was £9.15 per hour in 2013/14. “The number of low-paid jobs increased for the fifth consecutive year to 690,000 in 2014, representing a 13% increase on 2013.”

Respondents who took part in the research were shown a list of potential improvements to help with travel costs for travelling to work. 

The most popular improvement selected was a discount card for people on low incomes, which was popular with 28% of skilled, semi skilled and unskilled manual workers, rising to 33% of semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers and 33% of those earning less than £1,250 per month.

Some 22% would like greater flexibility to work at home, or at off-peak times while 21% liked the idea of a part-time season ticket offering lower prices for workers travelling less than five days a week.

Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: “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.”

Living on the edge: The impact of travel costs on low paid workers living in outer London

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