Traffic chaos in London as people attempt to leave the capital before second lockdown

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3 min read
Traffic in Regent Street, London, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, as Britain prepares to join large swathes of Europe in a coronavirus lockdown designed to save its health care system from being overwhelmed. Pubs, along with restaurants, hairdressers and shops selling non-essential items will have to close Thursday until at least Dec. 2. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Traffic in Regent Street on Wednesday, one day before a second national lockdown began in England. (AP)

Traffic in London surged on Wednesday, one day before a second lockdown was imposed across England.

Congestion data published by TomTom showed there were 1,200 miles of queues across the city's roads at 6pm, while 2,624 traffic jams were recorded.

The company reported that hold-ups in London from 5pm to 6pm on Wednesday reached the highest level recorded in data going back to May 2018.

A congestion level of 104% was recorded as many people visited friends, family, shops and restaurants in the hours before the new lockdown came into force.

Former MP George Galloway posted pictures of scores of cars stuck in a line in London, which he described as “traffic chaos”.

Data from TomTom showed a spike in congestion on Wednesday evening. (TomTom)
Data from TomTom showed a spike in congestion on Wednesday evening. (TomTom)

Londoners on social media also reported high levels of traffic in the city as people attempted to leave before lockdown.

Mary Creagh, CEO at walking charity Living Streets tweeted: “Total traffic madness cycling home at 7pm.

Watch: Rush hour traffic sweeps London despite lockdown

“Tonight, everywhere is a high traffic neighbourhood.”

Others noted the unusually high levels of traffic in the capital, which one person was the worst they had seen in over 40 years.

Wednesday’s traffic came as figures from the Department of Transport showed that overall transport usage surged ahead of the new lockdown restrictions coming into force.

Car travel in Britain rose to 87% of pre-pandemic levels on Monday, compared with 83% a week earlier.

Bus use outside London increased from 33% to 37% over the same period, while demand for London Underground trains grew from 57% to 60%.

Van traffic jumped from 98% to 104%, while lorry journeys were up from 105% to 107%.

The figure for car traffic on Monday was the highest since late September.

Traffic levels in major English cities plummeted on Thursday as the second national lockdown began.

Traffic at 0755 on The Highway in east London at the start of a four week national lockdown for England. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Traffic at rush hour on The Highway in east London on the first day of England's second lockdown. (Getty)

The level of congestion on London’s roads between 11am and noon was at 19%, compared with 40% during the same period last week, according to TomTom.

Other cities to see a decline in traffic jams included Birmingham (from 27% to 17%), Manchester (from 24% to 15%), Newcastle (from 28% to 16%) and Bristol (from 31% to 15%).

On Wednesday evening, MPs voted by 516 to 38 for the new lockdown restrictions, which are due to expire on 2 December.

However, in a bigger-than-expected Commons rebellion, 32 Tory MPs defied the whips to vote against the measures, with two more acting as tellers for the noes.

Watch: Can you catch the coronavirus twice?

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