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Drivers increasingly wedded to cars, finds DfT data

Drivers are turning away from bus travel and increasingly resorting to using their cars, new Department for Transport data indicates.

Cars on motorway

327.1bn miles were driven on British roads in 2017; up 1.3%

The latest road traffic estimates from the DfT show vehicle miles driven on British roads rose 1.3% to 327.1bn miles last year as traffic rose across all vehicle types – with the exception of buses. Car and taxi traffic grew by 1.1% from 2016 to 254.4 billion vehicle miles (bvm); the highest annual car traffic estimate ever. Overall, car traffic was up 5.9% compared to five years ago, 2.9% on a decade ago and 11.9% on 20 years ago.

Van traffic continued to grow more quickly than any other motor vehicle type, rising 2.7% from 2016 to 50.5 bvm while lorry traffic increased by 1.2% from 2016, continuing a trend of steady growth for the past five years. Pedal cycle traffic was 3.3 bvm, 28.2% above the figure 10 years before.

However, bus traffic was down 3.4% to 2.4 bvm – and down 28.2% from a decade ago.

RAC roads policy spokesman Nicholas Lyes said: “The data reflects what motorists are telling us – that they are more dependent on their cars to get to work, visit family and friends and manage their daily lives than ever before and they are finding that public transport is failing to provide a reliable and effective alternative.”

Lyes also said that the drop in the number of miles driven by buses is a major cause for concern, and added that the UK should be increasing the number of services and their frequency at the same time as lowering fares in order to get motorists to see them as genuine alternatives.

He commented: “Despite drivers reporting that they are spending more on fuel and insurance, there is a genuine desire to use alternative transport options where practical.”

Lyes also said it’s vitally important that promised investment into the road network gives the extra capacity and increased journey reliability which were promised.

The DfT data shows motorway traffic rose 1.4% in 2017 to 68.7 bvm; 10% more than a decade ago. Use of the Strategic Road Network – the motorways and A roads in England that are managed by the Highways Agency – was up 2.1% last year to 94.1 bvm. ‘A’ roads saw a 1.1% rise in traffic from 2016 to 146.5 bvm while minor roads were up 1.4% to 112.0 bvm.

The largest share of car driver mileage in England was for commuting and business trips (38%) followed by 30% for seeing friends and other leisure pursuits, 16% for personal business, 12% for shopping and 3% for education.

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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.