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Number of workers facing long commutes in NI has risen dramatically

Traffic chaos on the Westlink in Belfast earlier this week. Picture by Alan Lewis/PhotopressBelfast

THE number of workers enduring long commutes in Northern Ireland has risen dramatically.

A study has found that more than 50,000 people spent over two hours travelling to and from work every day last year.

And the figures, released today by the TUC (Trades Union Congress), show that Northern Ireland has suffered the biggest rise in long commuting in the UK - up 57 per cent since 2010.

Motorists experienced long delays in and out of Belfast earlier this week after a lorry shed part of its load on the Westlink during the evening rush-hour.

Massive tailbacks were reported for around four hours, with the delays compounded when another lorry broke down.

The study reveals that an estimated 3.7 million workers - one in seven - across Britain and Northern Ireland are now commuting for over two hours a day, an increase of almost a third over the past five years.

Women have experienced a sharper rise in long commutes, with employment sectors such as education and health among the worst hit.

However, workers in Northern Ireland have suffered the biggest increase in commuting times.

The figures show that 52,851 people in Northern Ireland spent more than two hours on their daily commute last year - up almost 20,000 from 2010.

This rise of 57 per cent was the biggest of any region of the UK.

The TUC said the increase in travelling times may be explained by a lack of investment in roads and railways as well as stagnant wages, which have left many workers unable to move to areas closer to their jobs.

General secretary Frances O'Grady said: "None of us like spending ages getting to and from work. Long commutes eat into our family time and can be bad for our working lives too.

"Employers cannot turn a blind eye to this problem. More home and flexible-working would allow people to cut their commutes and save money.

"But if we are to reduce the pain of traffic jams and train delays, ministers need to invest more in public transport and our roads."

Phil Flaton, from the campaign group Work Wise, said: "Long commutes have become a part of the UK's working culture. The excessive time spent commuting is one of the main factors contributing to work-life balance problems.

"Clearly the government, public transport providers and employers must do more in order to address the major negative impact on the UK's economy and lost productivity."

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