Most people hate commuting, a modern-day necessary evil. So why would anyone choose to build a lengthy commute into their lifestyle, asks Karen Gregor.
Marcus used to live in London, but moved to rural Suffolk to give his children a bucolic upbringing. In doing so, he created a commute of - on a good day - two hours and 45 minutes in one direction. On a bad day (snow on the line, the wrong kind of leaves) it can take him anything up to three and half hours from home to office.
The journey starts off by car - a quick spin through the lanes to the station. He hops on a single-engine train at 05:40 GMT, which rattles to Cambridge carrying exhausted-looking painter-decorators and builders - there are very few suits around at that unearthly hour. At Cambridge a speedy modern train takes him to King's Cross. From there, he has a 25-minute canal-side walk to his office.
According to Lizzie Crowley of the Work Foundation, Marcus is officially an "extreme commuter". Anyone whose return journey to work amounts to three hours and over fulfils this criterion. Crowley points out that a recent survey by the recruitment organisation, Randstad, showed that while the recession has led to a drop in the number of people commuting as people lost their jobs - there has been an increase in people travelling more than three hours a day. The survey, which looked at the commuting patterns of 2,000 workers between 2008 and 2013, found that almost one in 10 respondents were now travelling for that period a day - compared with one in 20 previously. "It's difficult to unpick the reasons why this is happening," says Crowley. "You could say it's a response of highly skilled earners to a tougher labour market. They've expanded their job search to areas further from their home."
Another, more reluctant, commuter who may fall into this bracket is James. He travels by car and train from Trowbridge in Wiltshire to Hook in Hampshire each morning - a door-to door journey of around two hours and 30 minutes. He works as a consultant and his main client, who used to be based 10 minutes from his home, moved their head offices to Hampshire. Instead of relocating - which wouldn't suit family life - he makes the journey almost daily. "If I had a choice," he says, " I'd like to not have such a long commute, but you just have to go where the work is in these tough times. The fact that I have a job is a good thing. I'd rather not do it, but it's required."
While many extreme commuters may find that the travelling time has no adverse impact on their health, Crowley warns of a "potential for extreme stress, chronic fatigue and an increased likelihood of developing indicators that might lead to a heart attack". Then there is the impact the commute can have on family life.
Jane and Doug live in the Midlands. When Doug was made redundant from a local job he found a new one over two hours' drive away. The commute, as such, wasn't a problem for him but it was proving very disruptive for family life. Inevitably, Doug would arrive home just as his young brood were in the middle of the crucial bedtime routine, and order would quickly turn to chaos. Between them Jane and Doug decided it might be more sensible for Doug to stay away two nights a week. This he does, and it's working well for the family.
Marion makes her five-hour-a-day return commute from Essex to central London by car and tube. The train is prohibitively expensive. She's not the only commuter in her single-parent family, though. Her daughter doesn't travel the same kind of distance but her daily routine involves being dropped at a friend's house, who then takes her to a child-minder, who delivers her to school.
A commuter in the making, perhaps?
a) is commonly accepted as part of our everyday life.
b) is disliked by a minority.
c) is largely enjoyed these days.
a) doesn’t spend the same time travelling every day.
b) spends around three hours travelling every day.
c) was transferred from London to Suffolk by his company.
2 On his journey to work Marcus
a) crosses a canal.
b) travels with blue-collar workers on the train to Cambridge.
c) has three different parts.
3 During the recession
a) the best qualified workers have shown a tendency to look for a job in the area where they live.
b) the number of extreme commuters has increased.
c) the number of workers commuting has increased.
a) didn’t want to move his family.
b) has his workplace very near the train station in Hook.
c) was made redundant and had to find a job somewhere else.
5 Extreme commuters
a) are unaware of the impact of travelling on their health.
b) generally feel tired and stressed out.
c) usually have problems at home.
6 Jane and Doug
a) have decided to separate.
b) have more than one child.
c) used to lead a chaotic life.
a) goes to work by train.
b) has a friend who is his daughter’s childminder.
c) isn’t married.
1A 2B 3B 4A 5A 6B 7C