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Embargoed: Sunday, October 28, 2007

“As is seen every summer with schools closing and annual holidays, even a small fall in the number of people travelling alleviates road congestion and public transport overcrowding”

National Commute Smart Week, which started today (October 28), is encouraging smarter commuting. In the UK, 25 million people commute to and from work every day. Most use a car (71 per cent), with walking (11 per cent), buses (eight per cent), rail (six per cent) and cycling (three per cent) the next most popular forms of commuting, and motorcycles last at one per cent.

Workers in the UK have the second longest average daily commute in Europe: in many cases adding an entire working day each week. The average daily commute is 8.7 miles (a six per cent increase since 1995/97), taking on average a total of 54 minutes. One in ten commuters has a daily journey in excess of two hours, with three per cent of UK workers being ‘extreme commuters’, travelling at least three hours every day.

Many towns and cities around the country suffer from road congestion and public transport overcrowding, especially during the morning and afternoon peak periods.

Commute Smart Week, which is organised by Work Wise UK, the Government-backed not-for-profit campaigning body with members that include the TUC, CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, BT, Transport for London and the RAC Foundation, is encouraging employers to take steps such as introducing flexible working times (including flexitime, condensed hours and nine day fortnights), staggered journeys and part home working. These will reduce the overall need for their staff to travel and commute, with flexibility in the times when they have to travel allowing them to avoid peak times, impacting upon congestion, overcrowded public transport and road safety.

Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, said: “As is seen every summer with schools closing and annual holidays, even a small fall in the number of people travelling alleviates road congestion and public transport overcrowding. Wider adoption of smarter commuting will allow the levels of travel in the summer to happen all year round.

“If everyone travelled one day per week outside peak hours, commuters during peak hours would drop by 20 per cent, or if everyone worked just one day every other week from home, overall commuting would drop by 10 per cent. We have all seen what the impact could be on the roads and public transport.”

Transport for London (TfL) promotes smarter working to help manage demand on the Capital’s transport network. To support employers with practical guidance on creating, implementing and improving smarter working within their organisations, a new Smarter Working Guide for employers will be available from TfL from Monday October 29.

Ben Plowden, director of travel demand management at Transport for London said: “In the next 15 years or so, the Capital’s population is expected to grow by 800,000 people, which will greatly increase the demand on the transport network, particularly during peak hours. As London’s population continues to grow, it’s more important than ever for employers to take advantage of the opportunities smarter working practices can offer both their organisations and their employees. London already has one of the highest levels of teleworking in the country with 10% of workers teleworking all or part of the time. TfL’s new Smarter Working Guide is a really practical way to help more organisations put more flexible working practices into place. ”

Smarter commuting does not only impact on transport usage, there are quantifiable benefits to businesses. The CBI estimates that road congestion costs the UK economy some £20 billion per year. Even a limited take-up of smarter working could save £1.9 billion per year within five years.

BT’s home working policies have resulted in a 31 per cent increase in productivity; with savings of £69 million each year from reduced accommodation and overhead costs.

Apart from business and transport benefits, there are also environmental impacts of reducing the need to travel. The average commuter driving an average car, covering the average commute distance will produce almost one tonne of CO2 per person per year. With 25 million people in the UK commuting, that is the equivalent CO2 emissions that would fill almost 50 billion one litre water bottles every day, or enough to fill 89,000 typical three-bedroom homes, which is a city of some 200,000 inhabitants!

The Energy Saving Trust has calculated that if all commuters left the car at home one day a week this would save enough miles in a year to drive to the moon and back 35,000 times. This is the equivalent emissions reduction of taking over 1.7 million cars off the road and would reduce the UK’s total CO2 emissions by almost 1 per cent.

In the 2006 financial year, BT’s Workabout scheme reduced BT employees’ CO2 emissions from commuting by 7,691 tonnes, with flexible working saving BT people the equivalent of 1,800 years’ commuting every year.”

In addition, smarter commuting may help mitigate the significant increase in deaths and injuries that occur on our roads during the winter months, many of which are schoolchildren. Analysis of the Government statistics - 'Road Casualties Great Britain 2006' - reveals that there was an increase in the number of car users killed or seriously injured, from 1211 in October to 1340 in November - a 12 per cent increase. The number of pedestrians killed during the winter months showed a greater increase, being 20 per cent higher than in the summer: 339 were killed during BST, whereas 404 died during the winter (source: 'Road Casualties Great Britain 2006').

By working from home, workers are at less risk of an accident - 20 people are killed and 250 seriously injured every week in crashes involving someone who was driving, riding or otherwise using the road for work purposes (RoSPA).

Work Wise UK and the RAC Foundation have developed ten top tips for commuting smarter. These, and further details about Work Wise UK can be found on the website (www.workwiseuk.org).

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Issued on behalf of Work Wise UK by Chelgate Limited

Notes to editors:

· Hardcopy and electronic versions of the Smarter Working Guide are available from Transport for London from Monday 29 October. Please email worktp@tfl.gov.uk or call 020 7126 3229 to order a copy.

· Work Wise UK is organised by the IT Forum Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation.

· Supporters of the Work Wise UK campaign include the CBI, TUC, the British Chambers of Commerce, BT, Transport for London, Equal Opportunities Commission, Scope, the RAC Foundation, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Technology Means Business, Henley Management College and the Association for Commuter Transport.

· Further information about Work Wise UK can be found on the website www.workwiseuk.org.

· A dedicated electronic media centre has been established for journalists to obtain further information, to download print-quality materials, and to register for media updates about Work Wise UK. This can be accessed either through the main website or directly at www.workwiseuk.pressrooms.net.

For further information and images, please contact:

Roy Turner, Chelgate PR, 020 7939 7939 or 07970 522 232 or rt@chelgate.com

Michael Hardware, Chelgate PR, 020 7939 7939 or 07775 925 274 or meh@chelgate.com


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