Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

End of the five-day commute, rail passengers say

28 September 2021

Less than one in 10 rail commuters, who are able to work from home, say they expect to commute five days a week.

Transport Focus spoke to people who used to be regular commuters by rail, but whose jobs could be done without going to their place of work. These are the commuters who have a choice about how much they continue to work from home in future or get back on the train.

The number that commute five days a week has significantly declined from 42 per cent before the pandemic to just six per cent.

Just over two thirds (68 per cent) say they will commute by rail for the remainder of 2021. While 20 per cent say that they will not travel by rail at all, or that they don’t know about their future commuting patterns.

Prior to March 2020, 55 per cent of those who used to commute by rail, said that they worked from home some of the time. In future 91 per cent say they will continue to work from home some of the time.

Nearly eight out of ten surveyed say their employer is supportive of staff working from home.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:

“The traditional five days a week commute looks unlikely to return any time soon. A hybrid pattern of one to three office days a week is emerging.

“This will have significant effect on levels of demand, the frequency of services and ticket revenue. With this new flexibility for passengers, it is more important than ever that train operators focus on providing attractive, value for money services.”

This research surveyed regular commuters by rail whose jobs could be done without going to their place of work. This was not to ignore key workers or those who have to physically attend their place of work all the time and have little option but to continue as before. But focusing on those who may have a choice helped the watchdog understand how passenger behaviours may change.

Download report: Future rail commuting survey.

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