A new report has revealed that drivers in the UK spend an average of 30 hours a year stuck in traffic. In London, Europe’s most congested city, the figure rises to 101 hours, while Greater Manchester is in second place with 51 hours. The report, by transport analytics organisation INRIX, places the UK sixth in Europe for traffic congestion, behind nations including Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.
In most areas, efforts to control traffic flow mean the figures have gone down since 2014. In London, however, the total time wasted in queues is still on the rise. This is despite the fact that car ownership, and car use, are falling in the capital, in contrast with the rest of the country. While the number of new and used cars on London’s roads has decreased, the congestion problem remains. Contributing factors include long periods of construction work, large delivery vehicles, and a reduction in the size of the congestion charge zone.
The cost to the economy is huge, with time wasted in traffic costing an estimated £5.5bn a year, to say nothing of the pollution generated by stationary vehicles and the enormous frustration experienced by their drivers. Taxis, buses, and motor trade vehicles on trade plates are snarled up alongside private vehicles, losing time and money. The problem is an important issue for London mayor Sadiq Khan, appointed in May 2016. The mayor and Transport for London are working closely with the London Assembly transport committee to find a solution, and Khan has recently unveiled a plan to rid the capital of HGVs with limited driver vision, a major cause of accidents in the city.
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For car drivers, there are a number of options. Some workers are able to use public transport, or arrange their working hours so they travel outside peak congestion hours. London drivers tend to pick smaller cars that take up less room on London’s streets, and can squeeze through gaps. Electric or hybrid cars are cheaper to run in the city, and carry other benefits, like a reduced private insurance policy. Modern cars that stop and start automatically in queueing traffic can also represent a saving. More and more people find commuting in central London, and the associated loss of time, so frustrating that they look outside the capital for work, accepting lower rates of pay in return for shorter journeys.
For many of us, traffic congestion is a daily reality, and we all have ways of coping with it. In Moscow, where the rules of the road are somewhat more relaxed, drivers spending several hours a day stuck in traffic get creative, knitting, doing exercises, even trying to arrange dates with other drivers.
In London, we’re better off using the time to catch up on audio books, listen to music, or simply organise our thoughts about the day to come.