Congestion cuts major local roads speeds to just 25mph

Congestion cuts road speeds to just 25mph as experts suggest increasing estimated journey times by 66%

  • Average speed clocked up on major local roads has slipped below 25mph 
  • Figures highlight the daily battle millions of drivers face on gridlocked roads
  • So clogged up drivers need to add another two-thirds to expected journey time

The average speed clocked up by drivers on major local roads has slipped below 25mph as traffic hits record levels.

Figures published yesterday highlight the daily battle millions of drivers face on the country’s gridlocked roads.

According to the Department for Transport, delays on motorways and major A-roads rose by almost 4 per cent last year.

They are now so clogged up drivers need to add another two-thirds to their expected journey time, it said.

The average speed clocked up by drivers on major local roads has slipped below 25mph as traffic hits record levels

And the average speed clocked up by those who commute by car in towns and cities has dropped below 18mph.

The DfT report found the average speed on motorways and major national A-roads fell from 59.4mph to 59mph last year, while drivers on local A-roads reached an average of 24.9mph, down from 25.2mph. 

It said each mile takes 47.3 seconds longer than it would without traffic on local A-roads, rising to 80.5 seconds per mile in towns and cities.

The latest figures dismayed motoring campaigners.


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Edmund King, of the AA, said: ‘This reflects traffic on major roads at record levels. Drivers are more interested in journey time reliability than speed but unfortunately neither have improved. The key problem is that, with the billions raised from fuel duty and other motoring taxes, only a third gets re-invested in the road network.’

It comes after analysis in February by traffic specialists Inrix found it is faster to cycle than drive in some city centres, with average speeds of just 7mph in London and Edinburgh. The starkest illustration of the impact of rising traffic is the time it is adding to journeys on motorways and major A-roads.

Figures published yesterday highlight the daily battle millions of drivers face on the country’s gridlocked roads

The DfT now recommends that 68.4 per cent of the expected journey time without traffic should be added to trips – meaning a 35-mile journey that should take 30 minutes at the 70mph speed limit will take around 50 minutes on average. 

Journeys on motorways and major A-roads – managed by government-owned Highways England – took an average of 9.4 seconds per mile longer than if vehicles were able to drive at the speed limit. This is up from 9.0 seconds the previous year.

The RAC’s Nicholas Lyes said: ‘More congestion means more wasted time and money… But it may be a case of short-term pain for longer term gain. Much work is being carried out on our motorways to improve capacity by upgrading them to smart motorways, but this inevitably causes delays.’

He added: ‘Nonetheless, extra capacity is badly needed. Britain has around 38million vehicles registered, and in the ten years from 2007 more than four million extra came on to the road.’

The report comes after the DfT revealed that vehicles clocked up a record 327.1billion miles in the year to last September – with vans by far the fastest growing type of traffic. The boom in online shopping – causing a surge of delivery vans – is a key factor behind the rise.

The DfT said: ‘The Government is determined to improve journeys for all motorists, which is why we’re investing nearly £29billion to reduce congestion between 2020 and 2025.’

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