Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Why we just love going the distance for our work

A survey says a lengthy commute makes workers unhappy, but some disagree

Elena Aceves-Cully at Larne before her 90-minute commute to work
Suzie McDonald travels 35 miles to work each day
Michael Doran lives in Burnsfoot, Co Donegal but works in Belfast

Those who want to follow careers in big cities don't necessarily want to live in them. They might prefer the country idyll or simply prefer staying in their home towns with friends and family.

But according to a a survey on the well-being of workers carried out by the Office of National Statistics, the loneliness of the long distance commuters is a reality – particularly for those who travel between 60 and 90 minutes on their way into work.

The survey found that they were more likely to be anxious, unhappy and have a lower sense that their activities are worthwhile.

We talk to three commuters in Northern Ireland who live miles away from work about just how happy they are with their daily journey.

'I love watching out for wildlife on my train journey'

Elena Aceves-Cully (40) is a health and safety officer. She lives in Islandmagee with her husband Tim. She works in Bangor.

I've been in my current job for almost three years. In the mornings I walk to the train station at Ballycarry or, if the weather's bad, I drive to the station at Whitehead and park there before getting the train.

I do this Monday to Friday. The commute takes me an hour and a half from Ballycarry or an hour and 20 minutes from Whitehead. It would take me much longer by car.

It costs £172 a month for my train ticket, with another five pounds a week for petrol when I drive to Whitehead.

When I first started my job I did drive but I quickly realised there was no point. It takes so long and you get so stressed about it. Now on the train I can do anything; I read, listen to music, work on my laptop, chat to other colleagues who get the train and I also put my make-up on while I travel. I like to look out for wildlife so I've seen a few seals. I can also sleep!

I would prefer to take one train instead of two – I have to change in Belfast – but I think I would miss my train journey if I didn't have to do it anymore.

You occasionally get delays which can be frustrating, but otherwise it's very relaxing.

Because of my rail card I can take the train to Belfast or anywhere else and it doesn't cost me extra. I can go anywhere between Ballymena and Portadown.

I make a conscious effort not to use my car because it's better for the environment. If I have a meeting somewhere and I can take the train or bus instead of driving then I will. My walk to Ballycarry station in the mornings is a chance to get some exercise.

I think that survey would apply to people who drive to work or have a very long bus journey. On old trains it could be quite stressful but with new trains l think most people are very happy.

Most of my colleagues go out in Bangor as they live there but there has never been a problem with me getting the last train home. The only trouble is with the connections – there can be a 25-minute wait in Belfast to switch trains.

'Driving gives me some needed down time'

Suzie McDonald (24) is a communications executive. She lives in Portadown and works in Holywood

I'm from Tandragee but I now live in Portadown and I drive to work at a PR firm in Holywood every day. I went travelling when I left university and started working in Belfast when I came back. Now I'm in Holywood as that is where I found there were the best job opportunities in my line of work.

I leave for work at around 7.15am and get into the office about 8.30am on a good day. I get home at around 6.45 or 7pm most nights.

It depends on what time I leave work. I drive and don't car pool. It costs me about £60-£80 on petrol each week.

At the moment it works well for me, so I don't have any plans to move home or seek another job.

I really don't mind the commute and think it works really well for me. I'm used to getting up early and when you like going to your work it doesn't seem like a struggle.

In PR you're constantly on the phone or answering emails so the commute is actually like down time for me. I listen to the radio as I drive – Good Morning Ulster and other current affairs programmes – so I know what's going on in the news and in the world of business. It means I can stay up to date for my clients. You have to be aware of what's going on in PR. I can think about what I have ahead of me at the office.

As we're such a busy place it means I can hit the ground running when I come in. I'm wide awake by the time I arrive.

I'm enthusiastic about my job and a morning person so the early start doesn't bother me. I'm most productive first in thing in the morning. I do go to bed at around 10pm so there's no going out for me during the week.

I wouldn't rule out moving nearer to Belfast in the future but I don't feel the need at the moment.

I think I'm the opposite of those that the survey questioned. None of the findings apply to me and I have enough energy as I get plenty of sleep."

'I like being able to get work done without interruptions'

Michael Doran (58) is the managing director of Action Renewables in Belfast. He lives in Burnsfoot, Co Donegal with his wife Maura and they have four grown-up children. He says:

I used to work in Londonderry until an opportunity came up with Action Renewables in Belfast. We like living in Donegal so much we decided to stay there.

For the first four years of my working in Belfast I rented a house there. I would drive down each Monday morning and back home again on Friday night.

The train didn't run early enough in the morning to get me to work in Belfast on time.

However, in 2013 they upgraded the line from Derry to Belfast so I can now get into Belfast at 8.20am.

I leave the house at about 5.40am, drive to the train station in Derry and get the 6.00am train.

It's an early start but once you get used to it there's no problem.

I start my day on the train. There's Wifi on the train, so I get out my laptop and work the whole way into Belfast.

I then get the 3pm train home and work the whole way back. I get home at around 5.45pm and by the time I get home my work is done.

In total I get four and a half hours of work done on the computer with no interruptions.

I love the journey. Most people sleep but I like to work – I do my report writing and emails, so when I get into the office I have time to talk to people.

It's a really good service. Since I've been taking it last April, it's broken down just once and Translink put us on a bus that actually got us into Belfast faster than the train would have. As well, the Wifi on the train has only broken down once.

My commute costs me £15.50 a day. I don't use a monthly pass because I travel a lot for work.

On average I would be out of the country at least one day a month. It costs me around £1,200 a year but if I was driving the journey each day it would cost me at least £2,500 in petrol and I would not be able to get any work done.

Occasionally I have to go from Belfast to Enniskillen and then I will take the car to Belfast, then travel to Enniskillen and drive home from there. That drives me nuts because I can't get any work done and the drive itself is hassle.

My commute suits me because I'm a morning person. I don't have to be away from my family and it costs me half of what renting a house in Belfast used to cost.

I'm the complete opposite of the commuters in the survey. The train has sorted out my life and I actually get more work done now."

Travel time

In the UK most people – 67% – commute to work by car. Of the rest, 11% walk, 9% go by bus, 5% by overland train and 4% cycle.

On average it takes most people 28 minutes to get to work – a figure that is rising. It was 24 minutes during the mid-1990s.

Most commuters travel between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 7pm. Statistics from 2009 show that people in the UK have some of the longest journeys to work in Europe.

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