What mode of transport do you use to get to work? And while you’re en-route, do you use the time to catch up on emails, plan how you’ll tackle your to-do list, or even make a start on the day’s tasks? Chances are that, for most of you, the facilities on your daily commute aren’t fit for any of those tasks.
According to research from the Department for Transport, the average UK commute is 54 minutes, a 5% increase in less than 20 years and beating the world average of 40 minutes. Unsurprisingly, residents of our congested capital city beat this number again, with modern Londoners spending just four minutes shy of an hour getting to and from their workplaces, despite having on average the shortest distance to travel of all workers in the UK. Of these commuters, almost a quarter (24%) take advantage of London’s much-maligned but vast Tube network, with 40% preferring to rely on other forms of public transport such as buses and trains.
So what advantage do these travellers have over those who choose the freedom of a car or the health benefits of a bicycle? Firstly, the increasing number of mobile devices available means that working on the go is a viable option. A train passenger with a seat and table can opt for a laptop, whereas for tube commuters, a tablet or smartphone may be more practical.
Secondly, transport networks and providers are beginning to wise up to the massive amount of time commuters spend navigating Britain’s railways and are accommodating their needs for on-the-go work facilities. Both First Hull Trains and Grand Central trains have WiFi freely available, while many of ScotRail’s major routes have free WiFi in dedicated carriages throughout. Popular ‘mainline’ routes on other networks into London, such as the East Midlands routes from Nottingham, also offer this service, with First Great Western trialling free WiFi on their popular Paddington – Oxford/Worcester route. However, for smaller companies and commuters living at other locations along major commuting routes (including those not commuting into London), the ability to turn your seat into a mobile office is still a way off.
Are the stations themselves faring any better? Most of London’s major stations (and its Tube network stations) have public WiFi available, as do the major stations in Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Newcastle (and many of the London Overground stations), and several have dedicated waiting areas, accessible most commonly with a First Class ticket, to give you the chance to work in peace. But again, there’s still a way to go to bring these hubs up to the standard needed to conduct your work while you wait for your connection. A recent comprehensive test of the state of mobile connectivity on Britain’s busiest commuter routes revealed that much of the rail network still is a black spot for coverage.
So for now, it would seem that commuters are restricted to working on on-device documents while in transit (unless you have a particularly generous data plan on your phone and can create a hotspot with it). Thankfully, it looks like more and more commuter services are wising up to WiFi requirements – even certain London bus routes are testing WiFi this year. But given the crowded and noisy conditions on commuter trains, it might be worth considering whether you’d even want to turn your train carriage into a mobile office…
Can you get work done on the train, and what else do you think could be done to make trains better for business travellers? Let us know on Twitter!
And to help you plan a more work-friendly commute, we’ve created a checklist of the UK’s most work-friendly rail networks to help you stay online and productive on the move.
The UK’s most work-friendly train networks