Work where you live as rail fares increase
Rail users will be affected by the biggest fare increase in five years from 2018. The average ticket price across England, Scotland and Wales will go up by 3.4 per cent, meaning some passengers who purchase season tickets will be nearly £150 a year worse off.
As an invitation to tender for the South Wales Metro goes out, and ticket prices across the country rise, we’re asking why isn’t it the norm to work from the town you live in, wherever it may be.
Most of Urban Wales’ development was dictated by where the raw materials were, and these pockets were consequently also where the work was. Our original transport system wasn’t built to move people, it was to move resources - people were an afterthought. Inevitably, the nature of work and travel has changed, and the rail system is used by millions of people every day.
It’s understandable that another metro has appeared on the transport horizon for Swansea Bay, and the reduced travel time to Cardiff and London would certainly be brilliant news for those living in Swansea, but let’s try looking at it things differently for a moment. All these fantastic transport ideas are about getting large numbers of people to work and back again. Isn’t it about time we asked why spend so much time, energy and money moving people around the country? That’s a UK-wide question, but for the purpose of this article, let’s look at Wales.
A vast amount of modern, office-based city-centre work is done using a keyboard and a screen. Why are we moving people around the country, (often to work in increasingly built up and harder to get to city centres), to work at a screen they can have in their spare room!? Of course, we’d prefer them in a coworking site, but certainly in their home community at the very least.
Surely it would be more beneficial to start investing in the space infrastructure in our communities rather than spending billions in high-end engineering to move people around? Let’s get people working where they live again. Let’s get people walking or cycling - cycling to work is proven to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and early death by 40%, drastically cutting public health costs.
Let’s consider how those people working in their communities could benefit from being able to work in the towns where the live.
Take a typical valleys town like Aberdare. Someone travelling into Cardiff daily could could save nearly £60 a week in train fare alone. Yes, employees may need one day a week with the wider organisation or line manager, but that ticket saving adds up nonetheless. (We could look at office space costs here too, but we'll come to that.)
It’s a no brainer that less travel is better for the environment, carbon emissions and air quality, both locally and along the route of the journey. Trains and buses are better environmentally than cars, but the same issue of carbon production and air quality stands, even with electrification.
It’s not just better for the environment, it’s better for you on a personal level...
Along with health, it could be seen as our most precious commodity, and yet an employee’s time is all too frequently not a consideration for an employer. How much time would a Cardiff employee save by working locally rather than in the city? Potentially two hours a day (an hour each way is common practice for many in the UK.) Over a week, that’s ten hours spent sandwiched on a train, often stood in the aisle or squeezed against the baggage hold. Imagine what you could do with that ten hours every week if it were given back to you! Childcare, visiting elderly relatives and exercise would all become easier, not to mention the time you’d have for leisurely activities and other hobbies.
Much of the Indycube approach is to do with benefitting communities - our aim is to open coworking spaces in as many small, rural areas as possible, as well as in city-centres. Generally, when we work in a community, we spend our money in that community and the foundational economy benefits. Spending more time within our communities might also change our shopping habits - we’re more likely to buy from independent businesses, and take the time to source locally-produced items.
Of course, we can build brand new, but there’s always an opportunity to reuse the buildings we already have in our communities. Often these historical, cultural assets have been left to decay, but could be repurposed to house modern offices and workplaces. The Pryce Jones building in Newtown is an example of a prized historic asset that needs to be maintained which Indycube have repurposed as coworking space.
A 21st Century Workplace
HMRC have just taken a lease for 25 years on Wales’ most expensive real estate in central Cardiff attracted by a new build and an enterprise zone business rates relief programme. This city centre glass and steel edifice will house near 4000 staff, many of whom will be travelling from rural locations. Surely many of these could work from within their communities? The 21st century workplace has the tech to allow this to happen, so what is stopping it? Tech can allow an employer to see who has signed in, where, when, what they have done, even look at the office if need be. When it comes to remote working, trust in the employee should be there, but tech allows it to be managed also. As Ed Mayo pointed out on an earlier draft of this article, in the 1980s, James Roberston pointed to a future in which technology and a shift to personal control could re-localise work. Though his ideas are grounded in reality and we’ve made some progress, so much more could be done to embrace this lifestyle.
Our industrial communities were built on local employment which retained wealth locally. If that is how they developed and thrived, surely, we should be looking to that as part of the future, in Wales and further afield. Join us in our quest to bring an end to the soul-destroying and to facilitate a rebirth for the community.