Commuting by car could become unaffordable for many given recent rises in the price of fuel, new data suggests.
With petrol prices reaching £1.61 a litre on average in the UK and diesel around £1.70, according to the RAC, many workers have said that £2 a litre is the point at which the journey into work is no longer feasible.
Almost half (48%) of workers surveyed by Offices.co.uk said if the price of fuel goes past the £2 mark, they will no longer be able to afford to drive to work – a serious issue in many non-urban areas where public transport options are limited.
The study found also that nearly two-thirds (63%) of workers surveyed would ask employers to work from home full time if the price of fuel continued to rocket.
According to data from the RAC Foundation, about 67% of workers commute via car in England. In Wales the figure is 83% and in Scotland it is around 68%.
The the cost of filling up an average 55 litre tank, compared with this time last year, was now almost £18 more expensive, at almost £86 a tank. This will become £110 to fill up if the price goes to £2 a litre, representing a 60% increase in fuel costs in the 12-month period.
Cost of living
Coupled with an increase in rail fares by up to 3.8%, the biggest price hike in nine years, the increased cost of fuel for cars could be a major disincentive for employees to return to offices. One senior banking services HR figure told Personnel Today that their company was having difficulties persuading people to return, with the cost of commuting being regularly cited.
In addition, many rail services have not returned to pre-Covid levels and there is a desire from commuters not to return to the days of overcrowded trains and buses, as seen before the pandemic.
Offices.co.uk’s Johnny Ratcliffe said the rise in commuting costs played into fears over the wider increase in the cost of living: “Millions of households already facing the prospect of enormous price hikes in their home energy bills and rising food prices are now facing being unable to commute to their workplaces if the pump prices hit £2 per litre.
“Our data shows just how serious an implication this is for the UK economy if almost half of workers surveyed say they won’t be able to afford to get to work anymore. The government needs to step in urgently otherwise working from home will become the only option for millions of workers. The ones that are able to work from home that is. Everyone else? I dread to think”.
However, the latest movements in oil prices indicate that petrol prices will not rise as steeply in the weeks to come. According to the RAC, talk of reducing the reliance on energy from Russian sources following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, did push the price of oil to nearly $140 dollars a barrel earlier in the week. The price had settled back to around $120 dollars on 10 March.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Drivers will be wondering whether these record rises are ever going to stop. While prices may well continue to go up in the coming days, oil and wholesale fuel prices dropped for the second day in a row yesterday which should hopefully slow, or even halt, the cycle of escalating pump prices in the next week or so as retailers buy new stock at lower prices. There is, however, a concern they will be reluctant to lower their prices for fear of catching a cold if wholesale costs were to jump back up again.”
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