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UK’s congestion hotspots revealed

14th May 2007 Print
The nation’s worst congestion hotspot is the southern end of the M1, according to a new report launched this week by Trafficmaster and the RAC Foundation.

The first UK Congestion Report takes the theme of commuting and shows the extent of Britain’s congestion by identifying the UK’s top five congestion hotspots and assessing average journey times on the country’s major routes.

The top five UK congestion hotspots (May 2006- April 2007) were:

Road – Location - Trafficmaster congestion alerts
1. M1 - Home counties - J6a-J11 - 145,641
2. M25 - Western sector J9-J20 - 140,822
3. M25 - Northern sector J21-J28 - 110,521
4. M6 - West Midlands J3a-J11a - 98,671
5. M6 - North Mids/N. West J11-J21a - 78,453

The M25 and M6 both have two top five entries but were well beaten by the M1. Junction 6a to junction 11 on the M1 near Luton was worst of all over the past 12 months. Regular congestion in this area has been exacerbated by long-term road works due to widening. Trafficmaster data shows that in the year to April 2007, congestion on this particular stretch of the M1 was almost twice as bad as the M6 through Birmingham, making it the nation’s current traffic hotspot by some distance. The M1 is closely followed by the western sector of the M25, near Heathrow Airport.

Overall, Trafficmaster reports the UK has seen a 0.8% increase in congestion in the first quarter of 2007, compared to 2006. According to the CBI, congestion is estimated to cost the UK economy as much as £20 billion per year in resources and lost time, meaning an additional £160 million has already been added to this figure in the first three months of 2007 – around £74,000 every hour.

The report also highlights how using less obvious routes to get from A to B can save you hours simply by avoiding congestion. Trafficmaster conducted a ‘virtual study’ of some of the nation’s most popular journeys over a seven day period, comparing the typical route used by most drivers with another parallel, less obvious option. The study shows many of the supposed ‘faster’ routes actually meant arriving later, often because they are indirect, or run through congestion hotspots.

The top five Parallel Routes for weekly time-savings were:

1. Manchester to Leeds (M62 vs. A628/M1) Winner M62 weekly saving 2 hours, 25 minutes

2. London to Norwich (A12/A14/A140 vs. M11/A11) Winner M11 weekly saving 1 hour, 50 minutes

3. London to Exeter (M3/A303 vs. M4/M5) Winner A303 weekly saving 1 hour, 10 minutes

4. Edinburgh to Glasgow (M8/A8 vs. M9/M876) Winner M8 weekly saving 1 hour

5. York to Newcastle (A64/A1M vs. A19) Winner A19 weekly saving 20 minutes

Philip Hale, spokesman for Trafficmaster, said: “We all know where our local congestion black spots are – and many people have heard of some of the nation’s worst roads. The problem is we all continue to use these roads when they’re most congested, despite knowing we’re likely to hit a traffic jam.

“Our Congestion Report shows that congestion is a nationwide problem and is still on the increase. The first step in reducing the problem is identifying and avoiding it. In our experience, you can use alternative routes to literally save hours – and we’ve proved it in our virtual driver test.”

Further insight from the UK Congestion Report shows that while the majority of rush hour commuting happens between 7:30am and 8:30am, peak commuter hours get earlier as the week progresses – we get up earlier but also leave work earlier with the weekend on the horizon. On Fridays in the North East, for example, commuters leave for home as early as 2:40pm whereas in the North West workers are still driving home as late as 6pm. London has the longest spread of peak traffic and the concern is that other conurbations will soon be catching up as traffic grows.

Trafficmaster and the RAC Foundation believe the ability to navigate by real road speeds and around jams could help reduce congestion for all drivers. Trafficmaster’s Smartnav customers already save an average of four hours a month on the road, by avoiding jams and taking the best routes, equivalent to 300,000 working days each year.

RAC Foundation research for the Report found 20 per cent of company car drivers spend more than five hours a week in congestion, but half find their employers ‘not at all’ supportive over flexible work practices to avoid commuting.

Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “We must get smarter by using traffic information and in-car technology to avoid the worst congestion. We must also change the way we work and time when we commute to reduce congestion and pollution. Travelling out of the peak or working from home one day a week can have great benefits for the economy and environment.”