London most congested city in Europe as growing economy drives up traffic in UK, report finds
Traffic congestion increased in more than three quarters of UK cities in 2014, according to a new report, which also names London as the most congested city in Europe.
Published this week (August 24), INRIX’s annual Traffic Scorecard Report found the UK had climbed to fifth for the worst traffic in Europe in 2014, with drivers wasting an average of around 30 hours running their engines in gridlock.
Within the UK, traffic congestion increased in 14 of 18 metropolitan areas last year, compared to nine of 18 the previous year, which INRIX puts down to economic growth of 2.8%, falling unemployment and an increase in consumer spending.
Real-time traffic information service INRIX also highlights nationwide roadwork and construction projects as having a “big impact on trafficâ€? along with an increase in private and commercial vehicles on the road and more people commuting to work by car.
The findings come as Defra readies its new UK air quality plan, which is expected to be launched for public consultation in the coming weeks. Traffic is regularly cited as a major contributor to air pollution in the UK, particularly nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
The Supreme Court ruled in April that a new plan to boost air quality in several UK areas currently breaching EU legal nitrogen dioxide limits – including London – must be completed before the end of the year (see AirQualityNews.com story).
The biggest traffic increases were seen in North Staffordshire (up 37%) and Greater Coventry (up 33%) where drivers sat in idle traffic for 26 and 28 hours on average respectively, although INRIX cites long-term roadwork schemes such as Tollbar Island for the congestion last year in the latter region.
However, the top five most congested roads were all in London – the A217, A215, A4 and the A23 – where mid-week, rush-hour traffic caused drivers to sit idling in traffic for up to 139 hours last year, making it Europe’s most congested city.
Population growth and urbanisation are key drivers of congestion, INRIX said, and the UK’s population grew by 491,100 last year, reaching a record high. London’s population also experienced high growth in 2014, increasing by 122,100 people.
Transport for London’s (TfL) chief operating officer for surface transport, Garrett Emmerson, said: “London’s continued success has made it one of the world’s most popular cities in which to live, work and visit, which also makes it one of the busiest. We are seeing unprecedented increases in population and this, combined with strong economic growth and the consequent increase in building and construction, creates more traffic. To tackle this, we need continued, sustained investment to boost capacity and modernise London’s road network.
“That’s why we invest every penny of our income in improving the capital’s transport network, including an unprecedented £4 billion pounds over the next few years to transform junctions, bridges, tunnels, cycling lanes and pedestrian areas.â€?
Bryan Mistele, president and chief executive of INRIX, said: “For the third year running, traffic in the UK is up. The strong growth of the UK economy and rise in urban populations have resulted in an increase in the demand for road travel, significantly driving levels of congestion up across the country.â€?