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Has Congestion On UK Roads Got Worse?

When you are sat in a pile of traffic do you sit there thinking the traffic and traffic congestion is getting worse?

Did you know that Local ‘A’ roads account for around 9% of all roads in England, but carry around a third of all traffic around England.

Increase in Congestion in England in 2013


The Government measures a traffic speed using in-vehicle GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to record journey times and the number of vehicles using automatic traffic counters.

Peak period is officially classed as between 7am to 10am weekdays Monday to Friday and during peak periods in the 21 months ended December 2013 average speeds have fallen steadily which is an indication of increased congestions.

So is this due to an increase in the number of cars or vehicles on 'A' roads?

The downward trend in average traffic speed and increase in congestion over this period is at least partly due to the level of rainfall over the last 21 months. According to the Met Office 2012 was the wettest year on record in England and the first three months of 2013 were wetter than each of the same months in 2012. A good indicator that weather conditions are at least partly to blame with January 2013 particularly being affected by snow.

In more recent months more cars were reported to be using 'A' roads which also contributed to congestion and reductions in average speed. However this is perhaps as weather conditions were slightly better more drivers were prepared to venture out rather than during bad weather months.

Increase in Number of Vehicles on the Road

The DVLA reported that there were 35.0 Million vehicles registered and licensed on the road in Great Britain at the end of 2013 which is a 1.5% increase on 2012 and the biggest annual increase since 2007. Just of 29 Million of the licenced vehicles were cars or around 83%.

It would therefore be wrong to totally blame the weather due to the rise in number of vehicles licensed for road use.

The number of vehicles licensed each year rose at a faster rate between 1994 and 2005 and although increasing every year since 2005 is at a slower rate compared to pre 2005. The recession no doubt having an effect on this.

Conclusion and looking forward

It would perhaps be fair to conclude that a mixture of the increase number of cars and vehicles licensed to use the roads in Great Britain and the particularly bad weather conditions during 2012 and 2013 have both contributed to the increased level of congestion on UK roads and slower average traffic speeds in peak periods.

As the UK comes out of recession it is likely the number of vehicles licensed for road use will increase and this is unlikely to mean congestion is going to reduce and if weather conditions in 2014 and 2015 are wet or poor like 2012 and 2013 that will only make matters even worse.
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