Helping commuters travel 20 minutes further could open up 10,000 more job opportunities

Damian Hind

Economic & Social Policy Research Fellow

New report proposes tax incentives for car-sharing, new regional powers over rail franchises and free parking for car pool schemes as part of proposals to help people commute further

Making it easier for people to commute twenty minutes further would put them in touch of at least one major urban area and potentially 10,000 more job opportunities.

A new report, On the Move, by leading think tank Policy Exchange says that in a third of local authorities that make up the eight city regions no major employment sites (defined by having 5,000 or more jobs) are within a twenty minute commute by public transport and 80% of these Local Authorities have an unemployment rate above the national average.*

The report says that making it easier for people – especially those on low incomes – to commute a further twenty minutes each way would put them within touch of two or more major employment sites, and potentially 10,000 more jobs. An extra twenty minutes would double the average commute but the attraction of better jobs and higher wages, the report says, would be a reason to travel further. Someone living in Rochdale or Oldham, for example, would be in reach of thousands of more jobs if they extended their commuting time by just twenty minutes each way, reflecting their proximity to central Manchester.

The report puts forward a number of proposals for improving access to major cities:

  1. Offering tax benefits to commuters who use ride-sharing schemes and free parking in city centres for car sharing.
  2. The introduction of part-time rail tickets to reduce the fares for commuters who travel to work 3 or 4 days a week.
  3. The devolution of rail franchises to local transport bodies in city regions to encourage the spread of smart ticketing, and transferring responsibility for London’s suburban commuter services to Transport for London.
  4. Devolving the commercial bus subsidy to local government to improve routes and bring down fares.

The research also shows that smaller isolated cities and coastal towns, such as Blackpool, Hartlepool, Grimsby and Hastings cannot access any major employment centre within either a twenty or forty minute public transport journey. These places struggle with persistently high unemployment and are effectively cut off from opportunities elsewhere. Personalised welfare budgets and relocation packages to incentivise the best teachers to work in their schools, the report says, can help people who live in these areas access jobs further afield.

Damian Hind, author of the report, said:

“Commuting can be expensive and tiring but longer commutes can hugely increase people’s job prospects. The Government needs to make transport cheaper so people can commute further and more efficiently so that they can get to work faster.

“Reducing the costs associated with longer commutes is one of the best ways to boost employment and wages. Greater local control over public transport, flexible rail fares and tax incentives for car-sharing are among the many ways of encouraging people to travel a bit longer in search of better jobs.”


Notes to editors

1.    *These figures were calculated using the Department for Transport’s transport accessibility data and relate to the eight city regions outside of the South East that have or are soon to become regional Combined Authorities – Bristol, Nottingham, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, the West Midlands, and Tyneside.

2.    The average time spent commuting everyday for people living in these eight city regions ranges from thirty two to forty minutes every day.

3.    Part-time rail tickets have already been promised by the Government but are dependent on smart ticketing. The report therefore argues that the Government should instead try and obtain agreement with the Train Operating Companies on part-time tickets within existing franchises.

4.    The table below shows the additional employment centres and potential number of jobs within reach of people living in areas with an above average unemployment rate and not within 20 minute journey of a major employment centre. The potential additional jobs has been calculated using all additional employment centres (as defined by the DfT’s accessibility statistics) within reach by commuting 20 minutes further, not just major employment centres.

Local Authorities with higher than average unemployment and not within 20 minute journey of major employment centre Major employment centres within 40 minutes public transport journey (>5,000 jobs) Potential additional jobs by extending commute
Broxtowe (Nottingham City Region) 1 18,149
Gedling (Nottingham City Region) 2 11,577
Mansfield (Nottingham City Region) 0 16,124
Newark and Sherwood (Nottingham City Region) 0 12,236
Durham (North East Combined Authority) 1 10,950
South Tyneside (North East Combined Authority) 3 18,271
Oldham (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) 1 20,906
Rochdale (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) 1 18,143
Knowsley (Liverpool City Region) 2 18,829
Halton (Liverpool City Region) 2 16,800
Barnsley (Sheffield City Region) 1 10,762
Doncaster (Sheffield City Region) 1 9,712
Rotherham (Sheffield City Region) 1 11,776


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