Monday 20 November 2017

Commuting times on the rise across every county

Many travelling more than an hour to work

Stock picture
Stock picture

Laura Lynott

Leo Varadkar wants a nation of "people who get up early in the morning" - and the pressures of work, housing and childcare mean he has got just that, according to the latest census.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures have highlighted the personal cost many Irish families are paying as they spend more time on the road and less time at home.

Commuting times rose in every county and the national average commuting time in April 2016 was 28.2 minutes, up from 26.6 minutes in 2011.

Questions are also being raised about the environmental impact of high volumes of traffic on clogged roads.

The research shows the number of 'early leavers' who set off to work before 7am increased by 34pc to 365,000 since 2011.

Some 25pc of male commuters and 13pc of female commuters leave before 7am.

Almost 200,000 commuters - one in 10 - spend an hour or more making their way to the office. The worst affected areas according to the Census 2016 figures are all on the Dublin commuter belt, where house prices are more affordable but many workers must travel into the city.

There has been a staggering 50,000 increase in the number of commuters travelling an hour or more since 2011. Though the statistics show there's been a vast improvement in the economy, experts fear the affect of a longer commute on Irish life.

Read More: 'I miss out on family events and won't see daylight at all some weeks,' says father

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, said: "These commutes are eating into time for family life. People have to be in work at a certain time, so they have less time to spend with their children. It impacts on the ability to make a good meal, and have family time. And a lot of parents are under enormous stress trying to get in and out to the city.

"Employers should assist with family life by ensuring parents can get back to spend time with their families and the work at home option should be made available."

Sprawl

The highest proportion (28pc) of workers in the country commuting for an hour or more to work was in the Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington area. This was followed by Skerries and Greystones-Delgany.

Meath and Wicklow also had the longest average commuting time, travelling for almost 35 minutes.

Commuters are unwilling, or unable, to give up their cars as 65.6pc (1,229,966) either drove or were passengers in a car, according to the figures.

Seven out of 10 drove to the office in rural areas, but this compared with just under half of working commuters living in Dublin city and the suburbs.

And 22pc more travelled by bus (111,436) than in 2011 while 19.7pc more (63,133) opted for a train journey.

Ronan Lyons, assistant professor of economics at Trinity College Dublin, said the lengthy commute had been caused by urban "sprawl" where Dublin workers had left the city to access affordable housing in lower-density areas.

Read More: Cycle to work numbers up 43pc - but this paints a 'false picture', says campaigner

"The key thing here is we live in a sprawled country affected by choice. We could live in higher density cities such as Dublin, but we didn't build enough apartments. We need to build centrally to alleviate this because one of the major cons of sprawl is people end up with a poorer quality of life," he said.

"They may not have mortgage debt but they have childcare, travel and time costs."

Sharon Tolan, Fine Gael councillor for Laytown-Bettystown, said: "It's difficult enough having a family life when spending most of the time trying to get to and from work. And it's three times more expensive for someone here to commute on a train to Dublin than it is for someone in Balbriggan, so that forces people on to the roads. The cost is crippling."

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said: "All that time in a car is time you're not doing sports or with family. The fact the commute time has gone up with the economy growing means it will again increase. When you get a 5pc increase in traffic it leads to a 20pc to 30pc rise in congestion. We have a major social and environmental problem here."

Irish Independent

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