Year-on-year congestion levels on UK roads fell by an average of 24 per cent year-on-year in 2020, a new report by TomTom has said.The review of the i
Year-on-year congestion levels on UK roads fell by an average of 24 per cent year-on-year in 2020, a new report by TomTom has said.
The review of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on traffic levels was conducted by the location technology specialist and shows the impact of lockdowns and restrictions in 57 countries and 400 cities – of which 25 are in the UK.
The data shows that average congestion levels during rush hour fell by over a third across the full year – with morning rush hour traffic plunging the most during the initial lockdown, falling a massive 78 per cent in April alone.
The UK’s deserted roads: Traffic volumes fell on average by 25% last year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, says TomTom. Pictured: The A64 motorway near York shortly after the first lockdown measures were implemented in March
After a ‘normal’ start to 2020 – with congestion levels consistent with 2019 – traffic levels plunged in the middle of March as the first national lockdown was declared.
Traffic volumes only began to recover around May.
And the data shows that subsequent lockdowns in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales had less of an impact on traffic volumes, though there were still far fewer motors on the road when they tougher restrictions were initiated closed to the end of the year.
On the day before the first national lockdown (22 March), the highest congestion rates were in Edinburgh (14 per cent), Brighton and Hove (12 per cent), and Reading (10 per cent).
By contrast, on the day before the second lockdown (4 November), London (58 per cent), Brighton and Hove (52 per cent), and Hull (47 per cent) saw their congestion rates skyrocket as the masses left the major cities or rushed to the shops for last-minute supplies.
In addition, TomTom Traffic Index data shows that the pandemic and widespread remote working has had a flattening effect on rush hour traffic.
Overall, the UK saw an astonishing 35 per cent average decrease in congestion during the rush hour.
Jams during rush hour were almost non existent when roads were at their quietest in April and, while original peak times slowly returned as the year progressed, travel patterns remained much flatter than they were throughout 2019.
While the interactive graph at the top of this page – which shows the difference in congestion levels in 25 major cities in 2020 compared to 2019 – is a clear indication of the scale of reduced traffic volumes, the data suggests that UK congestion levels may be returning to their pre-crisis levels – even despite the current third national lockdown being enforced.
However, whether they fully recover ‘depends largely on government action and the absence of wider social changes brought about by the pandemic – chiefly remote working – remaining permanent’, the report stated.
Pictured: Skipton, North Yorkshire on 11 May 2020: Warning signs were installed at roadsides earlier this year questioning if drivers’ journeys were essential during the coronavirus pandemic
Rush hour, once the bane of drivers and traffic planners, disappeared almost overnight as office workers set up their home offices
Stephanie Leonard, head of traffic innovation and policy at TomTom, said: ‘Early last year we announced that congestion levels were rising in the UK, and the country was moving in the wrong direction, but then everything changed in March 2020.
‘Driven by the global pandemic, the UK saw a massive drop in traffic levels.
‘From lockdowns to closed borders, people movement changed – and it changed very fast.
‘Rush hour, once the bane of drivers and traffic planners, disappeared almost overnight as office workers set up their home offices.’
TomTom’s data suggests that UK congestion levels may be returning to their pre-crisis levels – even despite the current third national lockdown being enforced
A return to pre-pandemic levels of congestion ‘depends largely on government action and the absence of wider social changes brought about by the pandemic – chiefly remote working – remaining permanent’, the year-in-review report stated
She added that motorists ‘shouldn’t expect UK roads to remain quiet forever’, continuing: ‘As Covid-19 vaccines continue to be created and industrialised, we may see traffic levels shoot up again – as people get back to work and back into old routines.
‘Unless there’s a concerted and deliberate change in driver behaviour, supported by policy makers and employers, we’re unlikely to see a permanent end to the rush hour.
‘That’s why we need action from UK city planners, policy makers, employers and drivers to ensure flexible working hours, working from home, and a smart approach to using traffic data to determine the best travel times.’
TomTom’s analysis found that congestion levels on average fell in 387 of the cities from around the world it reviewed.
That means 13 saw an increase in traffic levels.
These included: Wollongong (1 per cent higher) Australia; Leuven (1 per cent higher) Belgium; Changchung (4 per cent higher), Chongquing (1 per cent higher) China; Tauranga (1 per cent higher) New Zealand; Taichung (1 per cent higher), Tainan (1 per cent higher), Taipei (2 per cent higher), Taoyuan (4 per cent higher) Taiwan; Adana (1 per cent higher), Gaziantep (1 per cent higher), Izmir (1 per cent higher) Turkey; Dnipro, Ukraine (1 per cent higher).