The loneliness of the long-distance commuter
The housing crisis in the capital: Part Two
Part One can be found here. Part Three will be published tomorrow.
Everyone who has ever spent time in a London office will recognise the type; the hard-working, super-conscientious early-middle-aged man with two children who has moved his family out to the Home Counties to give them a garden, some space and better schools. He’ll commute in every day from Hampshire or East Anglia and, come Friday, he’ll be an empty shell, his eyes sunk deep in tiredness at the gruelling combination of work and travel.
It is not often discussed as a factor in the happiness debate but there is considerable evidence to show that commuting has a very negative impact on wellbeing, which is bad news when journey times to London have risen as the housing crisis has pushed prices up and people out.
This is partly why so many people found lockdown enjoyable, and the stress of commuting has surely influenced the reluctance to return to the office since; it’s hard not to empathise with civil servants who would rather work from home than take crowded, expensive trains in from the Home Counties. Yet one reason that so many have to commute long hours is that much of the property closer to the jobs has been reserved.