Golden Ticket - Media Centre

“Britain is at a work/life balance tipping point” as it is revealed 124 million holiday days have been missed due to Covid-19

  • New research reveals that on average Brits skipped four days of annual leave last year due to the pandemic – amounting to over 124 million missed days as a nation, according to new research by the rail industry  
  • Approximately half (47%) of working adults in the UK have worked additional hours during the pandemic 
  • This work/life balance creep has left Britain at a tipping point, says psychologist Dr. Sarah Vohra, with two in five (40%) of those that have worked longer hours stating they’re experiencing feelings of burn out
  • Ahead of restrictions lifting next week, rail advocate and British adventurer Ben Fogle is supporting the rail industry’s ‘Life is back on track campaign’, by highlighting the importance of taking a day off to rediscover Britain by train and offering people the chance to win a year of free rail travel  

Covid-19 has had a detrimental effect on the nation’s work/life balance, according to new research by the rail industry, with many having sacrificed much needed time off during the pandemic, to the potential harm of their mental health.  

On average, people skipped four days of annual leave, which equates to a staggering 124 million lost holiday days across the working population. One in 10 people (10%) skipped 14 or more days of annual leave last year, which equates to over 43 million lost holiday days across the country.  

Worryingly, this pattern looks like it could be set to continue. At the mid-year mark, over a quarter of Brits (28%) are yet to take any annual leave this year, with 24% saying the main reason is they are waiting for UK restrictions to lift before they book any leave.  

This research is the first in a series of studies conducted by the rail industry to highlight the social and economic importance of train travel. The industry will shortly be launching a major national marketing campaign designed to restore confidence, drive awareness and reappraisal of rail whilst also contributing to the nation’s economic recovery.  

Today’s research highlights the impact that untaken leave has had on the nation’s wellbeing and calls to attention the importance of taking time off, even if it’s just the odd day mid-week, a visit to a relative, a little adventure or a mini-break, with trains being a more relaxing way to travel.  

As part of the research, Brits were asked which of 12 locations they’d most like to visit when restrictions lift, all of which are easily accessible by some of Britain’s most popular train stations. London took the top spot with a quarter of the votes (24%), followed by Bath with 10% of the votes. Respondents were also asked what they enjoyed most about travelling by rail, they cited the fact that it is relaxing as the top reason (29%), followed by not having to worry about getting stuck in traffic (24%). 

Britain at a Work/Life Balance Tipping Point 

As a nation of work-a-holics, our work/life balance is at an all-time low as approximately half (47%) of working adults in the UK have worked additional hours during the pandemic.  

On average Brits have worked an extra three hours a week and one in ten people (10%) have been found to be working an additional 10 hours a week since Covid-19 hit in March last year. This equates to an extra 40 hours a month, which is an entire extra work week. Over the course of a year, this equates to a further full three months of work.  

With a year of restrictions and less holiday being taken, it’s no surprise that energy is low for over half of Brits (52%) who are working longer hours, with two in five over-worked people (40%) stating they’re experiencing feelings of burn out. This is especially worrying in light of recent data published by the World Health Organisation*, which reported that working more than 55 hours a week can lead to an increased chance of dying from heart disease and stroke. 

Psychologist Dr. Sarah Vohra comments: “Even with restrictions easing there's still an element of wanting to hold holiday back for something better later, but regular breaks, even short ones, in a new environment, help reduce stress and boost our mood and energy levels. Whether you travel near or far, a day trip by train and time away from the day-to-day routine can really help with good mental wellbeing. Taking time to reconnect with loved ones after long periods without is also a crucial factor in helping reduce stress, it can even see us return to work more focused and increase our productivity. Getting out and about by train allows you to fully relax on that day out. Furthermore, your adventure starts from the moment you get to the station, you don't have to worry about traffic jams or parking and on-board facilities mean you don't have to stop at services. It's quicker, more efficient and affords you opportunity to sit back and relax.” 

Adventurer, explorer and rail advocate Ben Fogle comments: “Travelling by train is a great way to visit some completely new and wonderful locations away from your day-to-day routine, which is really important for your mental health. It’s also a stress-free way to travel, meaning you can plan your itinerary for your next adventure, or catch-up on some much-needed rest before you get there. Britain is full of some of the most beautiful and vibrant spots in the world, from country hikes to seaside strolls and bustling towns and cities, even a day trip to somewhere new can leave you feeling inspired for the future. And that’s something we could all do with a little of right now.”  

Robert Nisbet, Regional Director for the Rail Delivery Group and spokesperson for the rail industry comments: “As people get back on trains to reconnect with loved ones, places, and things they enjoy the most, rail companies are ready to welcome them onboard and get the economy moving again. We are helping people travel and book with confidence by providing better journey information, boosting cleaning and giving people to option to change a booked journey fee free should their circumstances change. To make sure everyone has the best experience possible we’d encourage passengers to travel at less busy times and book in advance where they can.” 

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “Rail is a fantastic way to explore our country in a green way, and operators are working incredibly hard to provide passengers with punctual, reliable and clean services.

“Some of the most scenic and beautiful spots in Britain are simply a train away and I would encourage people to use our remarkable railway to explore.”

Golden Ticket Giveaway 

As part of the rail industry’s ‘Life is back on track campaign’, 12 UK locations that Brits would most like to visit when restrictions lift, have been brought to life as unique train ticket works of art by artist Claire Rollet. These exclusive pieces will be available to win as part of the rail industry’s golden ticket giveaway. Alongside winning the bespoke works of art, each winner will receive a year’s worth of free train travel so that those fortunate enough to secure one can make the most of their time off, reconnecting with their loved ones and exploring Britain with ease. 

The golden ticket giveaway opens for entry from 19th July. To enter, submit your contact details at: 

 - ENDS – 

Contact Information

Notes to editors

Notes to Editors 

* This is a year’s worth of free train travel and can be used on as many train trips as desired within one year from when the winner’s ticket is issued. 


The full top 12 UK locations as voted for by the public: 

  1.  London 24% 
  2. Bath 10% 
  3. Manchester 9% 
  4. Brighton 9% 
  5. Liverpool 9% 
  6. Cambridge 8% 
  7. Glasgow 7% 
  8. Newcastle 6% 
  9. Cardiff 6% 
  10. Birmingham 5% 
  11. Leeds 5% 
  12. Nottingham 5% 

124 million missed holiday days: 

  • UK Population of working age (16-64) = 41.48M as of Feb 2021 (ONS) 
  • 75% of UK population is in employment (ONS 2021) 
  • 75% of 41.48M = 31,110,000 
  • 31,110,000 x 4 (average days of leave skipped last year) = 124,440,000 

43 million lost holiday days: 

  • 31,110,000 working people in the UK 
  • 10% (people who skipped 14 days or more of holiday last year) of 31,110,000 = 3,111,000  
  • 14 days x 3,111,000 people = 43,554,000 (cumulative total of holiday days skipped for the 10%)

About the research 
The research was carried out by Opinium, on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group. In total three surveys were conducted between the 21st May and the 25th June. Most data quoted is from the first survey (21st – 25th May) which surveyed 4001 UK Adults. The second survey (27th-28th May) asked 2004 UK Adults about their favourite UK travel destination. The final survey (22nd-25th June) asked 2781 workers how many days of annual leave they had taken so far this year. 

About the Golden Ticket giveaway 
The competition will launch on the 19th July and will close to entries on 8th October. There will be one winner announced every week starting from the 25th July. Winners will be selected at random. Customers can also win 100s of other spot prizes from Rail Travel Vouchers and attraction passes to free hotel stays and days out as part of a series on in-station and social media competitions.  

About the ‘Life is back on track campaign’ 
The Life is back on track campaign is at the heart of the rail industry recovery programme, developed by RDG in collaboration with TOCs with DfT’s consultation throughout the planning stages. This is the biggest consumer rail campaign since the pandemic with a significant media investment behind it, to allow the rail industry to reach key audiences and drive consideration of train travel. The campaign aims to launch on 19th July in line with Step 4 of the government roadmap via a broad mix of media channels to ensure national coverage.