The sunday debate – tell us about your commute to work…

In the bar last night I was talking with a guy who lives in Belfast but works in Swords in North County Dublin. He commutes around 3 hours 10mins a day, nearly 16 hours a week. He is up at 6am leaves the house at 6:30am and is in work for around 8am. He leaves work at 4 and is back home around 5:45pm. When I looked at him in amazement he said that is nothing, there is a guy in his firm commuting from Derry/Londonderry, a 5-6 hour commute every day!

I work for myself and work from home so my commute is a good bit less than most people. Just up the stairs to the attic and flick on the computer and I am there. I try to avoid the real world as much as possible so it is a real eye-opener to discover the time and hassle some people have in travelling to work. I know I am lucky and I am sure all you good people are not sitting in your cars for hours on end for the craic.

When I am out and about in Belfast in the mornings I am astonished at the traffic jams all over the city. On the way to an event in Queens the other day this was the queue on Stranmillis Road:

When you think of all the time wasted by people sitting in cars it really is the most bonkers state of affairs. Especially when you consider that most people are travelling to offices to sit in front of computers you do wonder why they could not just sit in front of their computer at home, even for a few days a week. Why do we all need to start at 9 and finish at 5? Long commutes have been shown to be extremely bad for your health. They make you fatter, less fit, more stressed, cause relationship difficulties with partners and children – the list goes on and on.

  • How do you get to work?
  • Do you take the car, bus, train, bike, walk?
  • If you take the car what would convince you to switch to public transport?
  • Could you work from home some days a week?
  • Would you prefer 10 hour days if it meant you could get a 3 day weekend?
  • If you work in Belfast why not live in Belfast? High house prices? Family?
  • We you be happy to take a salary cut in return for more flexible or reduced working hours?

So this is an open post, let us know your views in the comments.

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  • BigDish

    I live in Portrush and work in Belfast and have done for 7.5 years. My sister shared the commute with me for a number of years with us alternating the days we drove. We left at 6.45, were in work for 8.00 and left again at 4.00PM, arriving back in Portrush at 5.20.

    Because I’m now traveling alone I get the train. It adds about an extra 30 mins to the commute each way.

    It seems arduous and ideally i’d Work closer to home, but family and friends are in Portrush, my children are settled in school, we’ve a great childminder and my wife works close by. Not ideal but a sacrifice i’m willing to make.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Could you car pool? You would think there would be other people commuting from portrush.

  • Zig70

    Twice a week on the bike down the loughshore path, through the docks. Don’t like the cycle lane on the footpath through the docks. No maintaince, loads of glass and commuting across junctions on a cycle lane is hazardous. Once a week run in. Then the last 2 drive the kids to school and wife in out of duty but much rather be out in the fresh air. Should add, phone zombies on the loughshore are a nightmare, especially dressed in black on dark evenings.

  • I used to cycle from Ravenhill Road to Queens, across Ormeau Park then the Ormeau bridge. Only once was there a hold up, when someone opened their car door in front of me on University Street, buckling my front wheel. Now I cycle along the Thames in Oxford.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Get you Mr fit 😀

    You should report the glass to the council. They are surprisingly good at getting places cleaned up.

  • notimetoshine

    Warrenpoint to Belfast, formerly car, now I catch the excellent Rooney bus service. Stops right outside my front door, sit down and sleep until I get there. Noticed a real difference in my energy levels, tiredness and concentration since I have stopped driving the journey.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Having lived in Oxford some time ago but now settled in Belfast It’s almost amazing how enlightened Oxford was then and, presumably, may be even more so now. I didn’t own a car but many of acquantances and colleagues did and they rarely drove them. For many the car was for the weekend supermarket run. I shared a house with a woman who car shared so stangers appearing at the door requesting the car keys was a normal event.

    What alarms me here is how car dependent people convince themselves they are. It’s as if the Thatcherism “a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus, can count himself a failure” has been taken to heart by too many.

  • BigDish

    To be honest I’d prefer to use public transport. The nature of my job doesn’t lend itself to carpooling because I need to be flexible. My sister did the same job as me so there was no issue when we travelled together. It wouldn’t necessarily be the case with someone else.

  • Korhomme

    Commuting here has changed a lot over the years. In the early days of the NHS, consultants were required to live within four miles of their principle place of work. This was later relaxed to 12 miles, and then ‘within a reasonable distance’.

    Out here in the sticks, it used to take me about 8 minutes for a four mile journey. Over the years, increased traffic — specially around schools — and increased traffic lights extended this time to around 20 to 25 minutes. Similar journeys today are still much longer during the rush hours.

  • Ryan A

    Cairnshill P&R and duration of my commute to the City Centre depends on whether some buck ejit has left their car blocking the left lane of the Ormeau road!

  • William Kinmont

    Work from home but have to leave children to school in nearest town 4 miles away round trip at school time 50 to 60 min . Round trip at 10 am 15 /20 min. No bus children too small and too far to cycle. 3 KIDS so no room to legally share with neighbours making same trip. Regularly follow 2 neighbours making same journey ? Get horsebox or cattle trailer and take everyone’s kids!!

  • Korhomme

    We had the same problem; and there were no pavements on the roads between us and the school. We weren’t far enough away for a bus pass. When I asked the Board about the wisdom of making kids walk along such roads, I got no response.

  • Croiteir
  • Croiteir

    Wet suit and snorkel?

  • William Kinmont

    At least it is one of the times I get to spend with the kids at 5 mph we have variety of conversation. Once dropped off im stuck in the car with Stephen Nolan telling me how big his program is and our politicions childish conversations

  • Korhomme

    I remember reading that, Croiteir. It was in November when the days are short, and kids and others walk along in the dark. So many forget, if they ever knew, that much of the population of N Ireland (and the Republic) is very rural, scattered houses along almost all roads, and infrequent bus services.

  • Jack Hemsworth

    North
    Belfast to south Belfast, Monday to Friday 35 mins, weekends less than 20 mins.

    All is good until we get to Millfield then slow very slow. There is a bus lane
    in College Avenue leading to Wellington Place, that has reduced the number of
    lanes. However, the most irritating part of the journey is the Lisburn road entrance
    to Methodist College. All those nice middle-class types in their expensive makes
    of car, park in the zig zag road markings at the pedestrian crossing and the
    School Keep Clear area. As they drop their little darlings off, and have a chat
    as they do so.Blocking the inside lane and those cars turning right into Ulsterville Avenue then block the other lane, leading to gridlock. And the PSNI drive past heading into town oblivious to the situation. When I contacted the school about this they were as helpful as the PSNI.

  • Oggins

    Recently changed jobs, which requires me to be in Dublin 2/3 days a week. Job isn’t a 9-5 that needs me at the desk for that time. Usually set off between, 7.30 Dublin for 9.ish and leave Dublin about 3.30/4.

    Previously worked in Belfast and drove! Usually was at gym at crazy o clock for a 7.30am start at work, and finish up from 4/4.30/5. In the morning it was 15 minutes because I was up really early for gym. After work could be 25/35 minutes. That was going across the city.

  • babyface finlayson

    Pram into Cactus Gulch every day to pinch goodies. Not much traffic in the desert so the commute is fine. Just need to watch my speed as Sherrif Marsh Mallow is always on the prowl.
    I lived in BeanoTown for a while but the traffic was a nightmare especially for a baby in a pram.
    I pram-share with Googoo Mcgoo now and then but his conversation is very limited so I prefer not to.

  • Gopher

    The commute is fine during the school holidays, when the schools are on it just becomes a nightmare. Fridays in Belfast traffic wise are simply hellish.

    Belfast needs a ring road motorway from Conlig to Templepatrick passing through Sprucefield. It is lunacy that the M1, M2, A2, A2, A23 and A24 and Newtownards Road get funneled into 1 square mile.

  • hollandia

    I’m a ten year veteran of the Dublin commute. Formerly Belfast and latterly Monaghan. The only way to cope is to stay near Dublin mid week. Tried going daily, spending up to six hours a day in the car essentially driving, working and sleeping. It’s doable if you work North of, or on the Northside of Dublin, but not if you have to use the m50. That in itself had taken me three hours to dundrum if there’s any sort of rta. Total nightmare. The long and the short of it is that it costs a quarter of my salary just to go to work.

  • hollandia

    It’s a great idea, but will likely never happen, due to the sheer cost of road construction. Best that can be hoped for would be a high quality A road.

  • sparrow

    I’m one of the lucky ones. I walk 2 miles into Belfast city centre every day, and very pleasant it is too, especially the bit through Botanic gardens.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I use public transport to work and walk four miles home. Moving to public transport a few years ago was one up the best moves I ever made. I’m fitter, thinner, richer and quite enjoy overtaking cars stuck in traffic jams. Of course it makes the commute longer, but this is massively outweighed by the benefits. Once you ditch the car you start to reconnect with the world. Of course when I suggest this course of action to colleagues they look at me as if I’ve two heads. I’ve a colleague in her thirties who lives beside Adelaide station but drives into the city centre every morning to work and constantly complains about the traffic and the bus lanes. I never quite know what to say to her.

  • Gopher

    Put a toll on the A1 to reciprocate our Southern brothers. Integrate education and sell off all the surplus schools and you have plenty of money. There is a myth that funds are constantly lacking in Northern Ireland its just capacity to do anything practical that is non existant

  • Brian O’Neill

    So bus down dander home? I would have thought the other way around would be better or do you find the walk home clears your head?

  • ronanpeter

    Live and worked in Belfast for the past 7 years and the commute was 45mins door to door by bus. By bike I could get that down to 10 minutes. Office 4 days a week normally. I could actually run into work faster than the bus during the good weather (35 mins).

    This weekend I moved to just outside Derry and the commute goes up to around 2hrs by train, or slightly less by car. But the only reason the move has become manageable is due to my employer moving to a more relaxed attitude for home working. So 4 days of 5 in the office goes down to 2 of 5.

  • hollandia

    Somehow can’t see that running. SF would view it as a stealth tax, whilst the DUP would oppose it because their electorate would view it as a tax.

    Tolls work, provided the road in question has sufficient capacity. The two exceptions in the south are the m50, and to a lesser extent the m1. All the others are top quality roads with excellent traffic conditions.

  • NotNowJohnny

    That’s it. It’s a question of timing. i don’t have the luxury of an hour to get there but I do on the way home. Plus over heating or getting a soaking on the way home is less of an issue than gong into work. I suspect the walk home would clear my head if I didn’t tend to listen to the Radio Ulster news a lot.

  • Gary Da;ze;;

    The A55 outer ring should be completed between Turf Lodge and Ballysillan plus widening of Balmoral Avenue and perhaps Stockmans Lane by taking a slice of Musgrave Park or at least making it 3 lanes towards the M1 at its junction with Boucher Road. The outer ring has been on road plans since the 1960s and provisions have been left for it since then but it’s the old storey of the government finding money for all sorts of nonsense while ignoring infrastructure.

  • wild turkey

    Brian.

    As usual, anobservant & speculative post…. with no easy answers

    the photo, i take it is the Stranmillis Rd heading out of town?

    anyway, the photo does pose a possible question.

    what, if any, is the connection between our excessive use of motor vehicles and, ahem, vanity?

    just askin

    mahalo

  • Dexter

    I work in centre of Belfast most days but have to travel across the north now and again. My observations are;

    The air quality in Belfast city centre is horrible and I am surprised that we don’t get more warnings about same. The buses, cars, vans and topography of places such as May Street, Victoria Street etc. make the environment noticeably pollutant.

    Investment in an expanded, quality train system must be an obvious part of the answer- particularly if the trains are electrified.

    The huge numbers of civil servants who must work 9-5 not only descend on belfast city centre but do so at the same time. This is madness.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Bingo!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I only ever drive when I’m abroad (or a day trip, i just hire one, quite cheap if you have your own excess reduction insurance).

    When I’m driving so much I read less, exercise less and eat more junk and feel more lethargic

    Is anyone else the same?

    Give me a tram/train and I’ve got a book or a laptop and I can be productive (or gansh on slugger)

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Form a protest group, bring children and placards and shout ‘equality!’, that’ll solve everything apparently…

  • file

    Very cynical, Gob, and funny. Even better if the children can pretend to be gender fluid (which sounds icky and disgusting).

  • file

    Could all the people who live in Derry and work in Belfast swop jobs with all the people who live in Belfast and work in Derry? Or swop houses during the week? A proper decentralisation of civil service jobs away from north down to north west would help.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Raising the obvious question: why do most of us start work at the same time?

  • hollandia

    I would agree with that, though from my sporadic recent trips to Belfast, I would fear its not enough. If you’re coming from the south to East Belfast, Bangor etc, a lot of people come via the Hillhall Road and onto the A55 around Forsters Green, a road in itself which is not great until you get to the A55. Alternatives would be A26 to templepatrick and back onto the M2 if you’re heading into the north of the city.

    Ideally you want to find a way to keep as many people as possible from York St Interchange. I had a nightmare there a few weeks back trying to get from the Westlink to the M3. Easy enough you might think, just point the car straight, but if no one makes room for you to get off the onslip, you’re sitting at the oddysey before you know it.

    But its a problem not unique to belfast, where all the traffic is funneled into a small area as a result of the “bicycle spokes” road layout. The unfortunate thing is, most of the businesses tend to be in the centre of the city.

  • Reader

    Starting Bangor, 20 minute walk to train, 25-30 minutes train to Belfast, 10 minutes walk to office. Reverse the process on the way home. So I get 1 hour walking and 1 hour reading every day, minimum.
    I would be very, very reluctant to start using a car to commute instead.

  • Reader

    file: A proper decentralisation of civil service jobs away from north down to north west would help.
    Wouldn’t it just solve a different problem? My brother in law followed his civil service job from Bangor to Derry 20 years ago.
    (there aren’t actually many good jobs in North Down – it’s inhabited by commuters.)

  • Skibo

    I believe the Catholic schools are owned by the Catholic Church. Would you propose vesting them? Where would you find the funds? At the moment the Catholic schools must be accommodating approximately 45% of the overall school population (a guess).

  • Zorin001

    Fairly similar, 5 minutes walk to bus stop at Tesco Springhill, then around an hours bus journey to Belfast, 5 minutes to office. Occasional delay in traffic but if I leave early enough (7-7:30) I miss most of traffic.

    So about an hour reading/listening to podcasts/having a kip. Wouldn’t drive if you paid me.

  • Oggins

    So it has a physical and mental benefit to you as well as taking one car of the road!

  • Oggins

    With my 3 day commute to Dublin, I refuse to stay over (Belfast to north Dublin 1.30min), and ensure I leave at a decent time to allow me to do a gym workout, home make dinner and lunch and see the wife.

    If my office was in the city centre or near the train stations, yeah I would take the 🚆.

    My friends in London, use that hire car and can scheme. The one where you pay a monthly fee and then hire by the hour. Fantastic idea.

    I think we could do a lot more in Belfast with public transport.

  • Oggins

    What would it actually take for us to give up the car? Flexible work times? Cheaper public transport?

    How much would it cost to run the buses in the city and for it to be free, or a nominal payment yearly?

    I honestly believe if it was free or cheaper, people would use the transport more.
    Does the the current routes and buses have capacity ?

  • john millar

    “I believe the Catholic schools are owned by the Catholic Church. Would you propose vesting them? Where would you find the funds? At the moment the Catholic schools must be accommodating approximately 45% of the overall school population (a guess).”

    I believe there is some fudge on ownership = who owns all the new building erected ? Why would the Department of education repair buildings it does not own?
    (I have an FOI request answer which states that the Dept of education does not maintain any buildings it does not own)

  • Reader

    Oggins: So it has a physical and mental benefit to you as well as taking one car of the road!
    Well, I’m still thick as champ, but probably not as fat as I would be otherwise.

  • Oggins

    Haha

    Well if you didn’t, you would be a thick as an uncooked potato!

    Reading is something I keep wanting to do more, but by the time I sit down, it is too easy to switch on a box set or sport!

  • London. This is what might be considered a good commute.

  • Gareth Devlin

    Would it be wise to commute to south Belfast from Sion mills in Tyrone 5 days a week for a 9-5? commute time would be 1hr 40mins not including crazy traffic coming into Belfast. I’m sure there’s lots of people that do it even bus it. Thoughts?

  • Neil

    I’ve made the switch to public transport. Gawd help me. For a while after ditching the car I used the Blacks Road P&R into town, the only problem with that was that it dropped me off at Gt Vic St which is a touch inconvenient for work on the east side of the city centre. Switched to the train from Finaghy and that’s fine too, except in the evening there are no trains that fit my schedule from Central unless I wait til after six. So I still have to walk to Gt Vic St., but it’s still an improvement.

    The main thing that put me out of the car is the price of parking in town and Friday being a total nightmare to find a space. And actually it’s not that bad, it is cheaper and when the city grinds to a halt the train still runs at it’s usual pace. Could do with a few more carriages in the morning I would suggest, standing room only on the train and a squeeze at that.

  • Gary Da;ze;;

    I took completion of the York Street Interchange as a given, if they can’t do that in the next 3 years there is no hope for us. It is THE PRORITY for NI road infrastructure.

  • The Saint

    Newry to Dublin on train. slow train going down. takes 1h 40, enterprise back 1h 10. Dublin Bike scheme to cross from Connolly Stn to Stephen’s green.

  • hollandia

    I would agree with that, if there is no parallel process to get traffic AWAY from that area. If they wanted to do this properly there are two other things IMO that need to happen.

    A serious look at bringing in a Tram system (like the LUAS in Dublin – only one which is integrated – the new transport hub at Glengall Street could provide a focal point for this, bringing routes from the North and west of the city, whilst routes from the south and East could go to somewhere around Central Station) and:

    The re-opening of the Antrim-Lisburn Rail line, which was closed just as Crumlin and Glenavy started to take off as population centres. Reopening that line could potentially take a number of cars off the road, particularly with a tie in to the Airport as line runs feet from the fence. Ditto putting a rail halt at the George Best Airport.

  • Brian O’Neill

    If you are young, free and single just live in Belfast and go out and enjoy the nightlife. Comuting over 3 hours a day would be soul destroying.

  • Skibo

    Rather than fudge your question, why didn’t you use your FOI to ask who owns the Catholic schools?
    Perhaps because you wouldn’t like the answer.

  • john millar

    “Rather than fudge your question, why didn’t you use your FOI to ask who owns the Catholic schools?
    Perhaps because you wouldn’t like the answer.”

    I did
    The reply was that ownership was “vested in” the Department of Education

    Are you suggesting that the new schools and extensions to existing schools were built with public money and then given to the Catholic Church ?

  • john millar

    You have no Idea how lucky you are
    There is a train which gets you to work on time
    You get a seat
    With luck you read the paper
    The noise,vandalism, bad manners,drunks are usually absent at commuting
    Little stress

    No other choice -I commuted by car for circa 20 years
    It will kill you or drive you into early retirement/relocation

  • Skibo

    I would contest that argument and prove it simply by showing that any Catholic schools that closed, the building did not revert to the Education estate but back to the Catholic Church. This has happened a number of times in my own parish where small primary schools were closed and the children moved to larger schools. The parish owns the school grounds and disposed of them with agreement of the diocese.

  • john millar

    Repeats
    Are you suggesting that the new schools and extensions to existing schools were built with public money and then given to the Catholic Church ?

  • Skibo

    I am saying it is not all black and white. The Church still owns the grounds and the original building. There has been no official vesting of the grounds. It may just be the case that dept of Education would need to vest the grounds and the costs of the buildings that they have not built.
    I was always of the understanding that the Government did not fully finance CCMS anyway.

  • Skibo

    The state has a responsibility to provide education and educational facilities for all children. The schools can bid for funds to do extensions and indeed build new schools.

  • john millar

    As far as I can establish CCMS is wholly funded.
    I agree that there is some kind of fudge going on
    I look forward to some light being shined on the expenditure of state funds

  • Theelk11

    Portstewart to Coleraine via the promenade.
    Jimmy Dempsey’s van double parked outside his shop can be an occasional bottleneck.

  • Gopher

    As it is a tax on the Southern side of the border I cannot see the objection. Tolls on the A1 will enable an executive to borrow money on the strength of future income to build a ring road a motorway ring road, one without traffic lights or crossroads. Removing traffic from Belfast is enviromentally sound, creates employment, improves the connectivity of the international airport and helps large parts of the country bypass Belfast thus improving the traffic flow there.

  • hollandia

    Well, it’s viewed as a tax on this side of the border, and, when viewed in tandem with the “extension” of the M50 toll (which was due to disappear completely) at the end of the first PPP period, I can see exactly where the objections will come from. Just because something is done south of the border doesn’t necessarily make it right.

    Anyway, personally, I’d agree with you. I’ve no objections to tolls per se, but with certain caveats – particularly, if there is an incident which costs you time, that no toll should apply during that period. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been charged to be late for work along the M50.

    Strategically (there’s that word again) an outer “outer” ring road makes perfect sense, though I’d point out that there is one currently partially in place in the form of the A26 from Moira to Antrim and the A6 from Antrim to Templepatrick. There’s also the Hillhall road route onto the A55 if going East. It would make sense to upgrade these roads to at least dual standard, with sufficient Park and Ride facilities if the aim is to get people out of Belfast.