Coming soon to a departures board near you
Well it seems that winter is well on the way. How do I know? Well it’s not so much the slightly colder/wetter weather than it is the fact that I got delayed on my commute to and from work nearly every day last week. Monday on the way home took 2.5 hours (that does include a stop at the pub as every train was cancelled for the next 45 minutes! Still…) and to top it off on Thursday I got the station a minute early only to find the stupid great lump of metal pulling off!!! So had to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. And yep you guessed it: that one turned up 5 minutes late just to rub salt in the wounds.
I admit this is all very First World Problems, but it is annoying nonetheless that a bit of rain and wind can seemingly cripple the public transport network with such ease. It doesn’t bode for the next few months does it!? It also annoys me that I could do my job from home practically every day if I really wanted to, yet this is still frowned upon by most companies. I would go into the office most of the time if I could choose, but 1 or 2 days at home per week would be much more palatable; especially when weather is bad and the roads / public transport networks are congested. Imagine if most companies who’s workers could work remotely were allowed to on this basis, it would take the pressure off the transport networks considerably, meaning a nicer commute for the rest of those that have to go in!*
Anyway, as if you didn’t know already, here are some more reasons why your commute can be totally toxic to your health and life:
1. Delays disrupt your plans.
You don’t get much time for “real life” as it is do you? A few hours each evening, if that, after cooking, eating and doing household bits n bobs. As mentioned above I was severely delayed on Monday so went to the pub to pass the time. OK, this was ultimately my decision but there is not much else to do apart from sit in the cold and wet at my station, so it seemed like the sensible option. My original plan was to go home, go for a run, and eat a healthy and cheap home cooked meal, so this delay was both detrimental to both my health, time and wallet! Likewise if you have plans for socialising, you will be late or have to cancel.
2. It lowers your effectively hourly rate
This should be fairly self explanatory so I’ll just show you a working out of how drastically it lowers my hourly rate.
Base Salary per hour: £18.90
Cost of Train Ticket: ~£3000
Extra hours “wasted”: Approx 2.5 per day (on a very good run!)
Hourly rate taking into cost and time of commuting: £13.02
Base salary is after tax based on 37.5 hours per week (I normally work more but it’s fine for this demonstration)
Commuting rate is calculated thus: ( £36,866 – £3,000 ) / ( (37.5 + ( 2.5 * 5) ) * 52)
So I could take a job with a zero commute for nearly £6/hour less and the trade off between time and money would work out the same. How crazy is that?! Of course you could well argue that if I wasn’t get up to commute at 6:30am, then I most probably would lay in bed for an extra hour rather than doing something productive, and you would almost certainly be correct, but I think you get the general point I’m trying to make! 🙂
3. You can’t be productive
You can try but you will never be as productive as if you were sitting at an office desk or dare I say even left to your own devices at home. If you are in the car the only thing you can do is maybe listen to a podcast? On the train your options are slightly more open, but really you are just making the best of a bad situation.
Want to read a book?
Well fuck you, I’m going to talk really loudly in my phone next to you.
Want to go on the laptop and do some blogging stuff?
Well fuck you, this train is unexpectedly* only formed of 4 coaches so you are crammed into an aisle standing up and no way are you going to be able to type anything on a laptop!
*a.k.a happens all the time!!!
You certainly can’t run errands or do anything else that isn’t “online” or book/paper related. And even online stuff is a pain with the signal dropping in and out due to tunnels and blackspots. I would say it takes me at least twice as long completing a blog post on the train (and that is when I get a seat, see below), due to the stop start nature of the journey, intermittent internet signal and other distracting factors.
4. It’s getting more crowded
I remember just a couple years ago when I got the 7:47 from Clapham Junction and it was pretty empty. Nowadays, although I still normally get a seat, it is noticeably busier and most seats are taken. In my limited experience in rush hour driving, I can see the same can be said for the roads. The trend is clear that this country (well, the South East for sure) is getting more and more crowded and either the travel network needs to rapidly expand or other measures need to be taken (enforced remote working or staggered work days to spread out rush hour?! Much better incentives to ride bikes to work for more local commuters?!)
5. You can’t relax
Trying to sleep on a train is not the same as lying in your bed. No further explanation needed here, apart from saying that even after 10 years of commuting and getting pretty good at sleeping on trains, I still can’t do it when there are loud people talking around me.
In conclusion, commuting sucks. I am sure many of you know this all too well. The solutions are really quite obvious yet many of us do it every day for years without really thinking of making a change. As a stop off on the way to FI it’s time for me to make a change, and one of the options is to look for work far more locally than I am right now.
Has anyone else out there got a worse commute than I have currently then?** What are you going to do about it, or are you happy with your commute? What is the maximum distance you would travel for a decent pay rise, or is money not so important to you?
*No doubt the train companies would just cut back on the rolling stock in operation if passenger numbers declined, keeping everyone crammed in like elephants in a mini, but you never know eh?
**As I mention it is about 2.5 hours including walking to the station, changing trains at least once. Even a slight delay on either train connection bumps this up by at least 20 minutes though, as it gets out of sync and then I have to change trains again, etc… Also I think you should get 10 extra “hell commute” points if you go through Clapham Junction or similar 🙂