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Commuters using rat runs to escape jams actually making congestion worse, finds TomTom

The fourth annual Traffic Index from TomTom shows average journeys in 2013 took 27% longer than they would in free-flowing traffic – up from a 26% delay in 2012.

Traffic jams in 10 out of Britain’s 17 biggest cities have become worse over the past 12 months – in London, Brighton, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Belfast and Southampton. 

Congestion levels have also failed to improve in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow.

The only two local Councils who can congratulate themselves are Leeds-Bradford and Bristol where congestion is down.

The report also suggests that drivers using rat runs may actually be making their journeys slower.  The data shows that local roads have twice as much lost travel time (32%) as main roads (15%). 

And British commuters are now spending 10 working days a year stuck in traffic, up from nine days a year ago.

The TomTom Traffic Index shows that Belfast remains the most congested city in the UK, with journey times 36% slower than free-flow traffic throughout the day – peaking at 78% longer in the morning rush hour and 75% in the evening. 

Second is London with journey times 34% slower, rising to 63% in the evening peak.  Close behind is the Scottish capital Edinburgh, where travelling during the morning rush hour takes 60% longer than usual.

Despite the slight drop, Bristol is still the fourth worst UK city for congestion, with traffic 32% slower than free-flow.  Brighton (31%) is in fifth place.

Sheffield (8th place) and Leicester (11th) have recorded the biggest increases in congestion over the past year.

‘Traffic congestion is nothing new, and continues to be a global challenge,’ commented Harold Goddijn, CEO of TomTom. ‘The traditional responses to congestion – such as building new roads or widening existing ones – are no longer proving to be effective.

‘Real-time traffic information can help drivers find the quickest shortcut on their journey, and assist governments to make smarter decisions to improve traffic flow for their cities,' he said.

The UK TomTom Traffic index is available for download here.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.