Road congestion slashed during pandemic, figures show

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2 min read

The amount of time UK drivers lost stuck in traffic plummeted by 68% last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Drivers spent an average of 37 hours in queues in 2020 compared with 115 hours during the previous 12 months, transport analysts Inrix said.

Belfast saw the largest reduction in delays (73%) out of the top 10 most congested areas.

It was followed by Edinburgh (69%) and Bristol (64%).

Movement restrictions, school closures and a growth in homeworking all contributed to a reduction in car use.

London maintained its ranking as the UK’s worst city for traffic, although the average of 69 hours lost represents a 53% cut compared with 2019.

It slipped from eighth to 16th in the global ranking of congested cities, as it was overtaken by locations such as New York, Moscow and Bangkok which all experienced smaller declines.

Inrix found that travel into UK city centres has been most affected by Government restrictions and the spread of the virus.

There was a 75% reduction in these trips in April 2020 during the first national lockdown.

Researchers expect journeys to cities will continue to lag behind suburban and rural travel throughout 2021.

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: “These figures really hammer home the impact the pandemic has had on traffic volumes and congestion levels.

“Almost overnight, roads that seemed perpetually grid-locked became deserted as lockdowns were enforced and millions started working from home.

“Time spent in traffic is frustrating, costly and leads to localised air pollution.

“The million-pound questions now are when and will congestion return, and to what extent.

“The return of schools in many parts of the country this week will have an effect, but arguably it is the extent to which regular weekday commuting returns which is likely have to a greater impact on traffic levels.

“If a degree of homeworking becomes the norm, there’s a chance things won’t return to how they were pre-Covid.”

The analysis also suggested that the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 had an impact on traffic.

Average speeds on the A2 and A20 near the Port of Dover were down 71% and 23% respectively throughout December compared with the same month in 2020.

Since then, speeds have risen by around 9% year-on-year.

Many people and businesses stockpiled goods towards the end of 2019 due to fears of Brexit disruption.